Small Business Resource Center


How to get started with Google Adwords

get started with google adwords
pro tip

Keep in mind: the more content you have on your site that matches the keywords you’re paying for the higher you will show up in rankings.

Investing money in advertising can be scary as a small business owner, especially when it feels like a complex process or unknown territory. Google AdWords is a tool that can seem intimidating, but for small business owners, the power it has to reach new customers and generate leads are worth overcoming the initial steps it takes to get a campaign started. And it’s easier than you might think.

Create an Account

As with most things these days, you need an account to use Google AdWords. If you already have a Google account (for Gmail or Google Analytics), you can log into that account and easily set up AdWords. If not, setting up an account is just as easy as creating an account on most shopping sites.

Set up google adwords account

However, Google does take one additional step to verify your contact info (via phone & email) to make sure you are really “you” before you get started. Choosing the phone option is the quickest route – just make sure you have your phone handy to receive a text or phone message with the verification code.

Craft Your Campaign

By filling out some basic details, you can have your first campaign set up and ready to go fairly quickly. This is outlined by Google, which guides you through the key areas of your first campaign.

Google adwords campaigns

Keep your budget small at first. Although it may not seem like much, a $100 per day budget can add up quickly. You can increase the budget at any time once you know things are working the way that you want.


Where do you want your ads to be seen? If you’re an online store, where do you ship? If you’re a local store or service company, what area do you cover? You can select one or more countries, states/provinces and/or cities; you can even narrow it down to one or more zip codes. It’s simple to select and add locations.


“Search” and “Display Network” are two different places where you can show your ads.

  • Search is what appears when someone searches for a keyword in Google search sites and search partners. Here, you pick the keywords you want your business to relate to (e.g., Des Moines pizza delivery).
  • Display Network ads show up on a collection of websites, including non-Google sites, that have Adwords enabled and have relevant text to the keyword(s) you chose (pizza delivery). Google expands more on these descriptions here. For those new to Google, try starting with just Search at first. Once you get comfortable, you can explore Display. We recommend never starting with only Display Network.

Which words do you want to bid on? Google uses your site to suggest 15-20 keywords to start – a bot combs your site for frequently used words. That’s usually plenty to launch a campaign, and you can increase or decrease as needed later. Keep the keywords as relevant as possible. If you’re a high-end women’s shoe store, don’t try bidding on “shoes” as that will be too generic. “Women’s shoes” and “women’s leather shoes” could work – or particular brands that you carry are better as well, especially if you target a specific location. Longer phrases will be more relevant but drive less traffic. That’s not a bad thing when you have a smaller budget – you’ll know you are recruiting a more qualified audience.


This is probably the trickiest part of the whole process… how much are you willing to pay for each person who clicks on your ad? This depends quite a bit on who you are, what you sell, how likely visitors are to buy it from you and your price. If you’re not sure, you can leave that as “automated” by Google, as long as you have your budget set above. Let it run that way for a couple of days to figure out the average cost per click, and then change your bid to suit your needs once the campaign has started. If this makes you nervous, you can set your own amount and adjust it later if you find you’re not getting clicks.


Your ad is three different parts stitched together:

  • Headline (25 Characters)
  • Display URL (Your Website Address)
  • 2 Lines of Text (35 Characters Each)

Note that these don’t always appear in separate lines, so try to write in such a way that it makes sense whatever way it appears. We recommend writing this ahead of time so it’s ready when you get to this step.

Display Example 1:
Google ad example

Display Example 2:
Google ad display example

Set up your payment method

With Google, you don’t pay upfront, rather, you pay after your ads run and will be charged automatically either when your balance reaches a set amount, or 30 days later… whichever comes first.

Review the ad(s)

The final step is the review process. You get another chance to make sure things are the way you want them to be, from all of the settings you have above.

However, you can always change things later, so even if you press start and you realize that you’ve made a mistake, you can pause the campaign quickly, fix and restart it at any time.

Was your campaign really successful?

One benefit to Google Adwords over other advertising methods is that you can easily track the impact of the campaign. Tracking clicks is automatically enabled and will generate within the campaign Reports section. But even if your ad is getting a lot of clicks, those clicks may not be leading to valuable actions on your website (e.g., a sale or completion of a lead form). You can enable Conversion Tracking to see which keywords and clicks lead to particular actions, telling you which keywords are most effective.

Follow these steps to enable this function:

  1. In your new Google AdWords account, click on Tools > Conversions.
  2. Identify a webpage users reach after completing a valuable action on your site.
  3. Click the “Add Conversion button” in Google Adwords and follow the instructions to generate a tracking code.
  4. Add the tracking code to the previously identified page on your site. If you manage the site yourself, this is easy to cut and paste in the HTML code. If not, Google provides this information in an easy-to-share format that you can send to your site administrator.

Once the campaign is live, check the Conversion Actions page frequently – at least twice a day – over the next few days to see how it’s doing, which keywords are working and which aren’t. Once you have a good sense of how it’s going, you can reduce how often you check it. A rough guideline for frequency of checking Conversion results is:

  • <$100 budget: 1x/month
  • $100-$499 budget: 2x/month
  • $500-$2,499 budget: 1x/week
  • $2,500-$4,999 budget: Daily
  • $5,000-$9,999 budget: 2x/day
  • $10,000-$24,999 budget: Frequently each day
  • >$25,000 budget: Hourly or more

Ready To Begin?

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