Google Ads

“AdWords” redirects here. For the program that allows ads to be served, see AdSense.
online advertising platform owned by Google

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Google Ads (previously Google AdWords, before July 24, 2018)[2] is an online advertising platform developed by Google, where advertisers pay to display brief advertisements, service offerings, product listings, video content, and generate mobile application installs within the Google ad network to web users.[3]

Google Ads has evolved into Google‘s main source of revenue, contributing to Google’s total advertising revenues of US$95.4 billion in 2017.[4] Google Ads offers services under a pay-per-click (PPC) pricing model. Although an advanced bidding strategy can be used to automatically reach a predefined cost-per-acquisition (CPA), this should not be confused with a true CPA pricing model.[5]

Sales and support for Google’s AdWords division in the United States is based in Mountain View, California, with major secondary offices in Hyderabad, Dublin, Singapore, Ann Arbor[6] and New York City. The third-largest US facility is the Googleplex,[7] Google’s headquarters, which is located in Mountain View, California. Google AdWords engineering is based at the Googleplex, with major secondary offices in Los Angeles and New York.

As of June 2018, Google derives 86% of its total revenues from trading advertising inventory through AdWords, DoubleClick AdExchange, and DoubleClick Bid Manager, among others.[8]



Former logo of the service

Google launched AdWords in 2000.[1] At first, AdWords advertisers paid for the service monthly, and Google would set up and manage their campaign. To accommodate small businesses and those who wanted to manage their own campaigns, Google soon introduced the AdWords self-service portal. In 2005, Google started a campaign management service called Jumpstart.[9]

In 2005, Google launched the Google Advertising Professional (GAP) Program to certify individuals and companies who completed AdWords training and passed an exam.[citation needed]

In 2008, Google launched the Google Online Marketing Challenge,[10] an in-class academic exercise for tertiary students.[11] Over 8,000 students from 47 countries participated in the challenge in 2008, over 10,000 students from 58 countries took part in 2009, about 12,000 students in 2010, and almost 15,000 students from 70 countries in 2011. The Challenge runs annually, roughly from January to June.

In April 2013, Google announced plans to add enhanced campaigns for AdWords to aid with campaign management catered to multiple-device users. The enhanced campaigns aimed to include advanced reports about users. This move was controversial among advertisers.[12]

In July 2016, Google unveiled “Showcase Shopping” ads. With this format, retailers can choose to have a series of images appear in search results related to various search queries and keywords.[13]

In October 2017, Google revised AdWords daily budget caps, which were previously set at a maximum of 120% of preset daily budgets, to a maximum of 200%. This change was rolled out on the same day it was announced, prompting criticism from paid search professionals, though Google later clarified that this change would affect only short-term campaigns of less than 30 days and that for campaigns running more than 30 days, overage charges would be refunded.[14]

On June 27, 2018, Google announced[15] a rebranding of Google AdWords to become Google Ads as of July 24, 2018.[2] In addition to the full range of advertising capabilities on and across other Google’s properties, partner sites and apps, the new Google Ads will offer Smart Campaigns for small businesses who don’t have the time or resources to manage complex digital advertising campaigns.[16]

In December 2019, France fined Google with 150 million euros over advertiser suspensions on Google Ads.[17]

How it works[edit]

Google Ads’ system is based partly on cookies and partly on keywords determined by advertisers. Google uses these characteristics to place advertising copy on pages where they think it might be relevant. Advertisers pay when users divert their browsing to click on the advertising copy. Partner websites receive a portion of the generated income.[18]

The Google Ads program includes local, national, and international distribution. Google’s text advertisements are short, consisting of three headlines with a maximum of 30 characters each, 2 descriptions with a maximum of 90 characters, and a display two URLs of 15 characters each.[19] These are called AdWords expanded text Ads. These mimic what the average search result looks like on Google. Image ads can be one of the several different standardized sizes as designated by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). In May 2016, Google announced its reformatting of ads to help consumers and advertisers succeed in a mobile-first world. The new format, called Expanded Text Ads, allows 23% more text. This new format is available on both the Google Search Network and the Google Display network. It features two headlines with 30 characters each, replacing the standard of a single headline with 30 characters. The display URL has been replaced with two 15 character paths, not including the root domain.

Features and services[edit]

Keyword Planner[edit]

Keyword Planner is a tool within Google Ads that provides data around the search queries that users have submitted in the Google search engine, and provides other data resources for planning a Google Ads specific advertising campaign.[20]

Keyword Planner[21] helps to build new Search Network campaigns or expand existing campaigns, providing keywords and ad group ideas, search volume trends (average monthly searches), historical statistics, keywords trend, competitions, and bidding.

AdWords Express[edit]

AdWords Express is a feature aimed at small businesses that attempts to reduce the difficulty of managing ad campaigns by automatically managing keywords and ad placement.[22] AdWords Express was previously known as Google Boost.[23]

AdWords Express also supports small businesses that do not have a website by allowing them to direct customers to their Google Place page.[24]

Google Ads Editor[edit]

Google Ads Editor allows users to make bulk changes to ads and edit ads offline. Google Ads Editor is a downloadable program that comes with Google Ads at no extra cost. The program also allows users to see ad performance, like the dashboard.[25]

Google Ads Manager Accounts[edit]

Google Ads Manager Accounts (previously known as My Client Centre (MCC)) allows users to manage multiple accounts from one login and dashboard.[26]

Reach Planner[edit]

Reach Planner is a tool that allows users to forecast the reach and extent of their video ads across YouTube and Google video partners.[27] The tool allows users to choose their audience. The tool then recommends a combination of video ads that help reach the users objectives. The tool also allows users to see the outcomes of the reach of their ads on a reach curve.[28]

IP address exclusion[edit]

In addition to controlling ad placements through targeting audiences based on location and language usage,[29] ad placements can be refined with Internet Protocol (IP) address exclusion. This feature enables advertisers to exclude specified IP address ranges if they do not want their ads to appear there. Advertisers can exclude up to 500 IP address ranges per campaign.

Google Partners[edit]

Google Partners, originally known as Google AdWords Certification Program or Google AdWords Certification, is a Google AdWords partner certification program. To become AdWords certified professional, clients need to pass the Google Ads Fundamentals exam and one of the other Advanced AdWords exams such as Search Advertising, Display Advertising, Video Advertising, Shopping Advertising, Google Analytics, and Mobile Advertising. From January 16, 2018, certification exams moved from Google Partners to Google Academy for Ads.[30]

It replaced Google Advertising Professionals in April 2010, with updates ranging from amended criteria for entries and changes to the exam requirements.[31] The program continues to certify consultants to help the increasing number of Google AdWords clients with AdWords campaigns. The program contains one fundamental exam and five advanced exams.

In order to be individually qualified, a person must pass the program exams. The AdWords qualifications received vary based on which advance exams the individual passes.[32] Google Partners must continue with their best practices by engaging with ongoing professional development. One accredited individual must be certified (two individuals for Google Premier Partners) and a minimum spend threshold of US$10,000 over 90 days must be maintained, with a higher spend threshold for Google Premier Partners.[33]

Placement-targeted advertisements[edit]

Placement-targeted advertisements (formerly Site-Targeted Advertisements) are a feature introduced in 2003 to the AdWords control panel. Using the AdWords control panel, advertisers can enter keywords, domain names, topics, and demographic targeting preferences. Based on this, Google places ads on relevant sites within the content network. If domain names are targeted, Google also provides a list of related sites for placement. Advertisers bid on a cost-per-impression (CPI/CPM) or cost-per-click (CPC) basis for site targeting.[34]

With placement targeting, it is possible for an ad to take up an entire ad block instead of splitting the ad into two to four ads. This leads to higher ad visibility for the advertiser.

The minimum cost-per-thousand impressions bid for placement-targeted campaigns is 25 cents. There is no minimum CPC bid.


Remarketing is an Google Ads feature that allows marketers to show advertisements to users that have previously visited their website. This feature also allows marketers to create different audience lists based on the behaviors of website visitors in order to serve relevant ads to these segmented audiences. Remarketing Lists for Search (RLSA) via Google Analytics became available in Google Ads in early June 2015, allowing for the use of standard GA remarketing lists to plan traditional text search ads.[35]

A more advanced subtype of remarketing is dynamic remarketing through which advertisers can show past visitors the specific products or services they viewed to further customize the ad experience. This subtype is especially used by e-commerce websites that foster a diverse range of products and services and need to have their remarketing messages relevant to users.[36]

While remarketing is a mainstream practice, it remains to be perceived as an intrusive one to many users as they might feel annoyingly stalked all over the internet. So, it is recommended for Google Ads advertisers to dive deep into optimization practices such as frequency capping so that their remarketing efforts won’t backfire and build customer dissatisfaction and distress instead of brand awareness and sales.

Smart Shopping Campaign[edit]

Google Ads Introduced ‘ ‘Smart Shopping’ ‘ Ads by early 2018. This is sub campaign type of shopping campaign, this combines Standard Shopping and Display remarketing features and uses only in Automated bid strategy to promote products listed in Google Merchant Center. Necessary website tracking code configurations are required before running this campaign.[37]

This campaign works with Google Machine Learning and serves responsive ad in Google’s Display Partner Websites, Google Network to drive the ROAS percent in the Campaign settings.

You need to follow certain best practices[38] in Feed file to deliver good results. This campaign type would take priority over standard Shopping and Dynamic Remarketing campaigns.

Ad extensions[edit]

Ad extensions allow advertisers to show extra information with their ads, such as a business address, phone number, or web page links. Ad extensions are created to improve ad visibility and attract clicks. They appear with the Search Network, above search results, and at time on the Display Network.

Google Ads shows extensions when it calculates that the extensions will improve the advertiser’s campaign performance, or when an ad is ranked high enough for it to appear.

Manual extensions[edit]

  • App extensions – Allow advertisers to provide a link below the ad text directing users to a mobile or tablet app.
  • Call extensions – Allow advertisers to include a clickable phone number in their ads.
  • Location extensions – Allow advertisers to show their business address, phone number, and map marker.
  • Affiliate Location extensions – Allows advertisers to show business information about retail chain stores that sell their products.
  • Review extensions – Allow advertisers to showcase positive, third-party reviews from reputable sources.
  • Sitelink extensions – Allow advertisers to add additional links below their ads.
  • Callout extensions – Allow advertisers to add additional descriptive text.
  • Structured Snippet extensions – Allow advertisers to add up to two predefined headers (product or service) like brands or degrees.
  • Price extensions – Allow advertisers to display prices for products or services.
  • Message extensions – Allows the ability to connect with advertisers via SMS apps.[39]
  • Promotion extensions – Allow advertisers to highlight sales and promotions that a business has to offer.

Automated Extensions[edit]

AdWords creates and displays automated extensions when the system predicts they will improve performance. Automated extensions include:

  • Consumer Ratings
  • Seller Ratings
  • Previous Visits
  • Dynamic Sitelink Extensions
  • Dynamic Structured Snippets

Google Click-to-Call[edit]

Google Click-to-Call was a service provided by Google which allowed users to call advertisers straight from Google search results pages. Users entered their phone numbers and Google would connect the call to the advertiser. Google paid for the calling charges. The service was discontinued in 2007.[40] For some time, similar click-to-call functionality was available for results in Google Maps. In the Froyo release of Google’s Android operating system, certain advertisements included a very similar functionality. In iOS, phone numbers are automatically recognized as such. Web developers can also provide direct links to the Phone application, providing similar functionality.

Google now offers a mobile click-to-call function which allows searchers to call a business directly rather than going to their website.

Google AdWords Customer Match[edit]

Due to the influence of brand messaging on consumer purchasing habits, Google expanded AdWords to include a Customer Match service. Customer Match allows advertisers to show ads to customers based on data they share with Google, as well as allowing advertisers to bid and create ads tailored to customers.

Google Ad Grants[edit]

Google Ad Grants provide $10,000 USD to eligible nonprofit organizations.[41] The NGO can either use AdWords express or their Google Ads account to advertise their cause on the Google Search platform.

Google Universal App Campaigns (UAC)

Google launched a new style of campaign aimed at app developers looking to advertise their app on Google’s vast ad network. On this campaign type advertisers don’t get to pick who sees their ad and what their ad looks like. Rather the options are to chooses some text, images, a destination and a target bid and Google will do the rest for you. Using machine learning Google will try and figure out the best audiences for you using the budget set.


The AdWords system was initially implemented on top of the MySQL database engine. After the system had been launched, management decided to use Oracle instead. The system became much slower, and eventually, it was reverted to MySQL.[42] Eventually, Google developed a custom distributed Relational database management system (RDBMS) known as Google F1 specifically for the needs of the Ad business, which requires strong consistency, high scalability across data centers, and powerful SQL queries.

The interface has also been revamped to offer better workflow with additional new features, such as Spreadsheet Editing, Search Query Reports, and better conversion metrics.


All ads on AdWords are eligible to be shown on Google’s search engine. Advertisers also have the option of enabling their ads to show on Google’s partner networks. This “search network” includes AOL search,, and Netscape.

The Google Display Network (GDN), formerly referred to as the “content network”, shows AdWords ads on sites that are not search engines. These GDN sites use AdSense and DoubleClick, the other side of the Google advertising model. AdSense is used by website owners who wish to make money by displaying ads on their websites. Click-through rates on the display network are typically much lower than those on the search network and quality score for Display Network is calculated separately from Search network.[43]

Further, Google automatically determines the subject of pages and displays relevant ads based on the advertisers’ keyword lists. AdSense publishers may select channels to help direct Google’s ad placements on pages to increase the performance of their ad units. There are many different types of ads that run across Google’s network including text ads, image or banner ads, mobile text ads, and in-page video ads. In February 2016, Google began removing right-hand side ads from AdWords on a desktop in favor of only showing text ads above and below organic search results. Product Listing Ads and the Google Knowledge Graph were unaffected, and can still appear on the right-hand side.

Account management[edit]

Google’s headquarters in Ireland where all EU Google Ads account management takes place.

To help clients with the complexity of building and managing AdWords accounts, search engine marketing agencies and consultants offer account management services. This allowed organizations without advertising expertise to reach a global online audience. To help regulate Best Practices for AdWords Management, Google implemented the Google Partner Program and the Google Individual Qualification Program, both of which require individuals and agencies to meet benchmarks and pass exams.[44] Google also has its own in-house team of account managers who are assigned to clients to help optimize campaigns, increase returns and keep customers engaged in the platform. Smaller accounts will be assigned to a pool of account managers, whereas larger spending Google Ads users are given a dedicated account manager.

Google also provides an offline account management software, AdWords Editor.

The My Client Center feature is available to Google Professionals, regardless if they have passed the exam or budget parameters yet. With this feature, a Google professional has access to a dashboard summary of several accounts and can move between those accounts without logging into each account.

The Google AdWords Keyword Planner, formerly the Keyword Tool, is a free AdWords tool which gives estimated traffic-per-month for the mentioned keywords. It provides a list of related keywords expected to be equally successful for a specific website or keyword.

The Google Display Planner is an AdWords tool to identify display network keywords, placements, and topics. It helps in expanding the reach of display campaigns while targeting relevant users for a business.[45]

Costs calculation methodology[edit]

The cost of a Google AdWords campaign depends on a variety of factors which include bidding strategies and organization goals. As a result, the amount that an organization needs to spend varies based on industry and the keywords on which they bid. Whenever a user conducts a search on Google, AdWords runs an auction to determine which search ads are displayed on the search results page as well as the ad’s position.[46]


There are three main factors that affect the cost and bidding factors of a Google AdWords campaign.

  • Your Bid – The maximum amount you are willing to pay for a click to your ad.
  • The Quality of Your Ads – The relevancy and usefulness of your ad in contrast to the website it links to.
  • Extensions & Other Ad Formats – The relevance of your ad extensions or call outs and how frequently they are clicked.

Legal context[edit]

AdWords has generated lawsuits in the area of trademark law (see Google, Inc. v. Am. Blind & Wallpaper Factory and Rescuecom Corp. v. Google Inc.), fraud (see Goddard v. Google, Inc.), and click fraud. In 2006, Google settled a click fraud lawsuit for US$90 million.[47] March 2010, Google was involved with a trademark infringement case involving three French companies that own Louis Vuitton trademarks. The lawsuit concerned if Google was responsible if the advertisers purchasing keywords violate trademark infringement. Ultimately, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Google AdWords were “not a breach of EU trade mark law, but that the content of some advertisements that are linked by Google keywords may well be in breach depending upon the particular facts of the case.” [48] Additionally, in some American jurisdictions, the use of a person’s name as a keyword for advertising or trade purposes without the person’s consent[49] has raised Right to Privacy concerns.[50]

Overture Services, Inc. sued Google for patent infringement in April 2002 in relation to the AdWords service. The suit was settled in 2004 after Yahoo! acquired Overture; Google agreed to issue 2.7 million shares of common stock to Yahoo! in exchange for a perpetual license under the patent.[51]

In May 2011, Google cancelled the AdWord advertisement purchased by a Dublin sex worker rights group named “Turn Off the Blue Light” (TOBL),[52] claiming that it represented an “egregious violation” of company ad policy by “selling adult sexual services”. However, TOBL is a nonprofit campaign for sex worker rights and is not advertising or selling adult sexual services.[53] After TOBL members held a protest outside Google’s European headquarters in Dublin and sent in written complaints, Google reviewed the group’s website. Google found the website content to be advocating a political position, and restored the AdWord advertisement.[54]

In June 2012, Google rejected the Australian Sex Party‘s ads for AdWords and sponsored search results for the July 12 by-election for the state seat of Melbourne, saying the Australian Sex Party breached its rules which prevent solicitation of donations by a website that did not display tax exempt status. Although the Australian Sex Party amended its website to display tax deductibility information, Google continued to ban the ads. The ads were reinstated on election eve after it was reported in the media that the Australian Sex Party was considering suing Google. On September 13, 2012, the Australian Sex Party lodged formal complaints against Google with the US Department of Justice and the Australian competition watchdog, accusing Google of “unlawful interference in the conduct of a state election in Victoria with corrupt intent” in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.[55]

In 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held in, Inc. v. 1-800 Contacts, Inc. that online contact lens seller did not commit trademark infringement when it purchased AdWords and other search advertisements using competitor 1-800 Contacts‘ federally registered 1800 CONTACTS trademark as a keyword. In August 2016, the Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint against 1-800 Contacts alleging that its search advertising trademark enforcement practices have unreasonably restrained competition in violation of the FTC Act. 1-800 Contacts has denied all wrongdoing and is scheduled to appear before an FTC administrative law judge in April 2017.[56]

Ad content restrictions[edit]

As of April 2008, Google AdWords no longer allows for the display URL to deviate from that of the destination URL. Prior to this, paid advertisements could feature different landing page URLs to that of what was being displayed on the search network. Google explained that this policy change stems from both user and advertiser feedback. The concern prompting the restriction change is believed to be the premise on which users clicked advertisements. In some cases, users were being misled and further targeted by AdWords advertisers prior to this change.[57]

As of December 2010, Google AdWords decreased restrictions over sales of hard alcohol.[58] It now allows ads that promote the sale of hard alcohol and liquor. This is an extension of a policy change that was made in December 2008, which permitted ads that promote the branding of hard alcohol and liquor.

Types of Keyword[edit]

There are five major types of keywords:[59]
BROAD MATCH (BM) – This type of keyword match will allow ads to show with: synonyms, variants, related terms, different words, and different concepts.
BROAD MATCH MODIFIED (BMM) – This type of keyword match will allow ads to show with: modified terms established, and in any order.
PHRASE MATCH (PM) – This type of keyword match will allow ads to show with: the enclosed phrase as written, and appended words before or after.
EXACT MATCH (EM) – This type of keyword match will allow ads to show with: the exact term or phrase established. Google still retains some freedom here in terms of misspellings, etc.
NEGATIVE (N) -This type of keyword match will Not allow ads to show with: the negative keywords established.

Example of Keyword Notation[edit]

Keyword: Taco Shells

  • BM – Taco Shells
  • BMM – +Taco +Shells
  • PM – “Taco Shells”
  • EM – [Taco Shells]
  • N – -[Taco Shells]

Allowed keywords[edit]

Google has come under fire for allowing AdWords advertisers to bid on trademarked keywords.[60] In 2004, Google started allowing advertisers to bid on a wide variety of search terms in the US and Canada, including trademarks of their competitors[61] and in May 2008 expanded this policy to the UK and Ireland. Advertisers are restricted from using other companies’ trademarks in their advertisement text if the trademark has been registered with Advertising Legal Support team. Google requires certification to run regulated keywords, such as those related to pharmaceuticals keywords.

Prohibited keywords[edit]

Some keywords, such as those related to hacking, are not allowed at all. From June 2007, Google banned AdWords adverts for student essay-writing services, a move which received positive feedback from universities.[62] Google has a variety of specific keywords and categories that it prohibits that vary by type and by country.[63] For example, use of keywords for alcohol related products are prohibited in Thailand[64] and Turkey;[65] keywords for gambling and casinos are prohibited in Poland;[66] keywords for abortion services are prohibited in Russia and Ukraine;[67] and keywords for adult related services or products are prohibited worldwide as of June 2014.[68][69]

Third-party consumer technical support[edit]

In October 2018, Google implemented a policy change which restricts the advertising of consumer technical support, including, “troubleshooting, security, virus removal, internet connectivity, online accounts (for example, password resets or login support), or software installation”.[70][71] The policy was announced a month earlier on the Google Ads Blog by Google’s Director of Global Product Policy, David Graff:

We’ve seen a rise in misleading ad experiences stemming from third-party technical support providers and have decided to begin restricting ads in this category globally. For many years, we’ve consulted and worked with law enforcement and government agencies to address abuse in this area. As the fraudulent activity takes place off our platform, it’s increasingly difficult to separate the bad actors from the legitimate providers. That’s why in the coming months, we will roll out a verification program to ensure that only legitimate providers of third-party tech support can use our platform to reach consumers.[72]

It is unclear when enforcement of the policy began, but the number of reports of ads being disapproved appeared to increase in May 2019.[73] Despite nine months having passed since the announcement of the policy change, no verification program exists for legitimate businesses to regain approval, resulting in an effective ban on all IT support and repair related services on the Google Ads platform.

Commentators have expressed concerns that this is an attempt by Google to stifle consumers’ right to repair electronic devices.[73][74]

Family status[edit]

Google gives a status to all ads to indicate what “audiences the ad and website are appropriate for”. Ad status’s affect when and where ads can appear.

Google reviews every ad to make sure that they comply with their advertising policies. A reviewed ad will be given a family status depending on the content of the ad and website.

The statuses are: family safe, non-family safe, and adult.[75]

The family status assigned to your ad can affect which countries it can appear in. Some countries prevent adults and only permit family safe and non-family, while other countries only permit family safe ads.

See also[edit]


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