Google AdWords: What is it and How Does it Work?

It’s Thursday evening, and you want to go to the theater, but you don't know where to go or what to to see.

So what do you do? Most people would say to go on the Internet and just “Google it”. This is where Google AdWords comes in. Many have heard of it, some understand what it is, and few actually know how to use it.

Google AdWords is an online advertising service that generates sponsored ads displayed on search results based on keywords, which are predefined by the advertiser, and cookies.

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It is common knowledge that Google is the largest and most used search engine worldwide. What most people don’t know is that nearly all of its revenue comes from business advertising (around 97%). Additionally, it dominates mobile search advertisement and owns the biggest online advertising network (with Google AdSense), such as Gmail, YouTube and Blogger.

Also, known to some as “Pay-Per-Click Online Advertising”, Google promotes AdWords with three main arguments: it will help you attract more customers, help you reach the right people at the right time, and you only pay for results. As great as it sounds, it is easy to fall into a number of traps when using Google AdWords prematurely. John Wanamaker, who was a merchant and US public figure considered by some to be the “pioneer of modern marketing”, once said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is to know which half.” The web provides a large number of examples and personal stories about what can go wrong when using Google AdWords without enough user knowledge.  Unfortunately, instead of saving money with this tool or attracting more customers, some experience the opposite.

For example, a lot of mistakes occur when choosing key words for your AdWords campaign. If your keywords are too broad, e.g. dance, theater or opera, your marketing budget will not last very long. Since AdWords is a pay-per-click service, every time someone searches for “dance” and clicks on your ad, you will lose money. The problem here is that most people probably didn't search for your specific dance performance, but rather, other information. On the other hand, having key words that are too specified may get you no or very few clicks, because most people do not search using precise terms. This is why defining your key words properly is very important for the success of your Google AdWords campaign.

Over the next few months, I will research how arts and cultural organizations can use Google AdWords as a beneficial marketing tool in order to target their audience at the right time and receive the best return on investment. Additionally, I will share lessons learned from others’ mistakes with Google AdWords with a step-by-step user guide on how to use Google AdWords most effectively. I will also share some insights with you regarding why and when to use AdWords, as well as for whom it is the right marketing tool. Lastly, I hope that through my research, you can navigate your Google AdWords campaign, allowing a better outcome for your business and deeper understanding of the mechanics behind how it functions.