When promoting your business online, a crucial factor in your success is simply being discovered. Unsurprisingly, a common way people discover new businesses and services is through Google search.

Google uses many factors to provide relevant search results with an algorithm it calls “PageRank.” PageRank determines where your website will be displayed in an individual’s search results. While tactics like search engine optimization can help improve your PageRank score dramatically, many other factors remain outside of your control — making it hard to climb to the top. This is where Google AdWords comes in.

Google’s AdWords platform allows you to pick search terms that are relevant to your company and bid on them. This allows your page to appear prominently in Google’s search results as advertisements — essentially cutting the line and placing a link to your business in front of all the other organic search results. AdWords can be a very effective part of your online marketing strategy. Here’s what you need to know to deploy a Google AdWords campaign for your business.

Getting Started with Google AdWords

At first glance, Google AdWords might appear as if it’s not for the faint of heart; the site’s interface and terms can be intimidating. To offset this challenge, Google provides a lot of learning resources — more than it does for some other products. For example, the company provides a glossary and a tutorial video to help you get started and to explain many of the finer points of using AdWords. In addition, Google offers a phone number you can call for support and free consultation to determine if AdWords is right for you.

When you first log in, the system will walk you through setting up your first campaign. Take your time and read everything thoroughly. The first thing you’ll set up is what Google calls a “Campaign Group.” It’s here that you will determine more general information you’re targeting, such as location, language, devices, along with your budget. Next, you’ll create an “Ad Group” where you will get to choose the type of ad — Text, Image, Display or WAP mobile — and specify headlines, descriptions and links. After that you’ll choose your keywords and specify your bid for each. You can have multiple Ad Groups inside each Campaign Group.

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

Before you open your account, however, it’s a good idea to know what keywords you want to advertise for. Keywords are search terms or phrases that are commonly used when looking for something on Google. These can be very narrow or very broad.

One example would be the phrase, “used cars.” A phrase this general is likely searched for very often and is hotly contested by many different business owners. Subsequently, it is the focus of many AdWords ads. The more competition there is for a particular set of keywords, the more expensive it becomes to have your advertisements seen, as others may be bidding money to be seen ahead of you.

Alter your keywords to include other factors like location, and a specific brand such as “used toyota chicago.” Very different results and advertisements will appear. More specific phrases are usually better; they allow your ad to be shown to web searchers who are more likely to be interested in exactly what you’re advertising for. While the “used cars” phrase might be more commonly searched for, it won’t help you much if you sell Toyotas and the person searching wants to buy a Ford!

Focus And Patience Are Key

Learning to effectively bid and refine your keywords can take time and experience. If you’ve ever run an ad on Facebook the process is similar, but there are many more variables to consider. AdWords ads don’t just display in Google search results; they can also display on individual sites that run Google’s Adsense program. You may want to look into certain sites that many of your potential customers frequent to see if advertising on these sites makes sense for your brand.

You should also consider the fact that all your ads need to be approved on a case-by-case basis by someone at Google. This process can take days, and every change you make to your ad resets its position in the review queue. The more you have figured out before you launch your big campaign the better. You may want to play around with some small budget campaigns just to get a feel for things. In general the more you know about your customers and how to target them the better you’ll do.

[Image credits: DennisCHEN.me, Will Scullin, Mike Baird]