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Tutorial: Start an AdWords Campaign from Scratch

I need to get an account up and running

You can set up your Google AdWords account at: https://www.google.com/adwords/

They have a guided setup where you answer questions like your email address and website that you will be sending your ads to. You will also set your country, time zone, and currency.

The setup is pretty straightforward. There are some options and extensions for your ads that take a little more consideration, and we can walk you through that in the “Advanced” section on this page.

If your budget allows, take advantage of Google’s support.

01 Quality for Free
Note that once you have an AdWords account set up, you can import that into a Bing Ads account as well. That will post your ads on Bing, Yahoo, and AOL searches. bingads.microsoft.com.


Here’s What You’ll Need Before You Start:

  • A website (better: landing pages on your website)
  • Keywords — search terms you want to advertise on (better: organize those keywords into groups)
  • Ad copy and headlines — The messaging of your offer or service

Choosing Your Keywords

First, What are Keywords?

When you see “keywords” in reference to ads (or maybe “paid keywords” to be more precise,) think of these as the phrases people search in Google, and your ad would appear in front of them as a possible solution.


If a business sold balloons for special occasions, their keywords might include:

Helium balloons

Mylar balloons

Send a birthday gift

Kids party supplies


Keyword Match Types

Using the example above, their ads would work well for helium balloons and kids party supplies. If our seller wanted to cut corners and just go with any “balloon” search, that opens the door to bad matches.

Hot air balloon rides

This has nothing to do with their business, but they would end up losing money on any of their ads that people clicked. Choosing the right keyword match types is a major part of running an effective campaign.

Here’s a brief overview:

Exact Match: [helium balloons]

This should match searches with only this term as you typed it — without additional phrases tacked on before or after. The words have to stay in order.

Returns your ad on searches for: helium balloons

Special note: It also returns your ad on “close variants,” and that includes misspellings like helium baloons.


Phrase match: “helium balloons”

This keeps your phrase together as you entered it (and in order),  but other words can come before or after (just not between) your words.

Returns your ad on searches for: buy helium balloons, helium balloons delivered

Special note: Won’t return ads on helium filled balloons


Broad Match: helium balloons

This will return variations (similar to what you saw with exact match), but it doesn’t have the limitations of whatever comes before or after it.

Returns your ad on searches for: helium balloons for parties, inflatable balloons


Modified Broad Match: +inflatable +balloons

This adds a touch more control to broad match. Like exact match, it returns on variations (misspellings, abbreviations, plurals, and stems (like turning “inflate” to “inflated” or “inflatable”)

Returns your ad on searches for: balloons inflated with helium, best balloon inflation techniques

One of the important things to note about broad modified is that it does not trigger for synonyms like broad match does. This is often times misunderstood. Broad modified is more like using exact match with a wild-card.


Read more here about choosing the right match types.

Start with the Best Keywords for Your Campaign

Since you pay for any click that your ad gets, you want to match your ad to the most relevant searches possible.

You can brainstorm keyword ideas, but there’s a short cut. We recommend these steps to find the most profitable, effective keywords for your campaign.

Find the Best Keywords for Your Market 


Keywords aren’t case-sensitive, and it’s best to avoid non-standard characters like: ! @ % *

What to Run

Once you are ready to create your ads, follow these best practices for writing headlines and ad copy.


You have 25 characters to grab someone’s attention. Forget calling them “readers;” at this point they are “browsers,” skimming the page to see what might answer their search.

02 Headline


Your headline should be attention-getting (but not misleading), relevant, and clear. Every headline has the same single objective: make them read the next line.

Create headlines with the actual searches in mind. It’s tempting to use an umbrella term like “A wide selection of ink toner” for all ink toner products, but you’re missing out on feature that plays in your favor.

Google often bolds the words in a headline that match what the user searched. If the user searches HP cyan refill, a better headline is “Cyan refills for HP printers.”

Consider dynamic keyword insertion. It automatically drops the exact keyword into your headline, and it’s best used in your highly-specific ads for products or services that you offer.

When the ad on a “print your own t-shirts” search tells them that they can indeed print their own t-shirts, you can expect a qualified visitor clicking through to your site.

Ad Copy

Be enticing and clear about what you can do for the reader. You have 2 lines (of 35 characters each) to describe your offer.

03 Ad

Your ad copy is your shot at getting someone to understand what you offer and then click through to learn more or to take advantage of that offer. Anything vague or mysterious can only waste your money on clicks from  high bounce rate visitors.

When you are setting up your account, be prepared with ad variations for different keyword groups. This might be a product line or different services. For example, your ads for “print your own t-shirts” would be different from your ads for “custom kids t-shirts” since the reader has a specific product in mind.

Get more ideas about writing strong ad copy variations.


Landing Page

High-performing ads get customers to your site, and you pay for them whether or not the visitor buys (or signs up). That means to be successful overall, your ads need to point to a strong, relevant landing page that delivers on what the ad promised.

The great thing about the display URL is that it does not have to be the actual landing page URL. You can take advantage of this and use it to your marketing advantage, by creating a display URL like www.mysite.com/keyword-you-searched-for. (Any matching keywords in the URL usually get automatically bolded in the results, too!)

Most sites do keep the same domain in the display URL as in the actual destination URL. It’s a good practice.

04 URL

Final Details Before you Start

We usually accept default settings as the easiest path when starting something new. In AdWords, they aren’t always in your campaign’s best interests and could cost you money. Review the default settings with a bit of scrutiny.

Read more about turning off default settings when you’re starting an AdWords campaign.


I’ve started an account, but where do I go from here?

Expand keywords by reviewing what works for your competitors

Your competitors have already road-tested an approach with the same audience you’re targeting. Learn what worked and also from what didn’t.

Watch for patterns and consistency. When a competitor runs an ad on a keyword, that’s notable. When that same competitor bids toward the upper range for this keyword and does so month after month, that tells you that the keyword is promising. Pay attention to the keywords they buy repeatedly–as well as the ad copy they run with it.

Advertise on long tail keywords

Once you establish core topics that work for you, it’s time to explore longer search phrases that stem from them. Use your more successful keywords and brainstorm ways that people would ask specific questions about them. Use locations and situations for inspiration.


Core Keyword Long Tail Suggestion
Find a plumber Licensed plumber for water heater install
Screenshot software Screenshot software for iPad
Photography Online digital photography course

Using long tail keywords gives you a 3-step boost:

  1. The visitor is already tuned in to what you’re offering.
  2. You can be ultra-specific with your landing page, giving your quality score a boost.
  3. Strong quality score leads to lower CPC and better ad position, which means more clicks for less money.
There are tools to help you find more effective long tail keywords for your campaign. We’ve listed a few.


Type a ”starter keyword” idea into SpyFu’s search bar, and select the Related Keywords tab. SpyFu finds the results from competitors who buy the core keyword and also looks at similar keywords those sites buy month after month.

Uber Suggest

If you start with a root word like “coffee” the tool serves up longer variations that might inspire new keyword ideas for you–“coffee shops near me.” You can ask the tool to suggest keywords tied to universal search types like images, shopping, YouTube, and news.


Similar to SpyFu, enter a keyword and get new ideas for expanded, similar terms. It tacks on the search volume with few other results to help limit distractions.

Google Auto Suggest

Type some of your keywords into Google, and note the phrases that Google suggests. These suggestions are updated in real time and sure to generate some traffic, since they are based off of actual user searches, and not a word bank.

Try new ad copy ideas

Have you updated your ad copy since you launched your campaign? If not, small tests can pay off big. Not only does optimized ad copy drive more people to your site (per ad), but a better click through rate leads to higher quality scores.

Let your current standings guide you:

  1. Set a benchmark with every version of your ad copy.
  2. Compete against yourself. Try to improve your performance over where you are now. Don’t worry about click rates that other businesses or industries get. Start with small wins and build from there.
  3. Come up with variations/changes that are still relevant to that ad group or keyword.

Measure more than just traffic counts.

Be sure to measure wins by their bottom line. In other words, just because ad variation A gets more clicks, ad variation B may get more conversions. And, just because ad variation B gets more conversions, ad variation C may account for higher-dollar sales.

When possible, always measure performance by ROI, or more common among advertisers: ROAS (return on ad spend). By doing this, you are guaranteed to identify the true winners and losers in your AdWords campaign.

Advanced Options


Extensions are optional features you can turn on that give your ad more options. They can give the reader your phone number or location. Or, they can show different site links that that you want searchers to see (like About Us, Schedule an Appointment, or Menu).

05 Extensions

There are also automated extensions that pull in site reviews and ratings.

Along with the cost per click for an ad, you might pay for a click on certain extensions like downloads and calls. Additionally, your ad must meet a minimum Ad Rank to qualify for extension use.

Your Ad Rank is the combination of your bid and the quality of your ad and landing page.

This lets you set your ads to run only during set times of the day. Dayparting, when done well, helps you target your customers when it makes the most sense, and it could drop your ad costs. This might be ads for a lunch special between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., or ads for a weekends-only promo that points to a time-sensitive landing page.

Find this in AdWords as a “custom schedule” or an “ad schedule” in the Settings tab.

A visitor comes to your site and browses your sunglasses page. They move on to other websites, and your ad for the same tortoise shell sunglasses that they saw appears while they’re reading a news article or scrolling through videos.

That’s remarketing in action. You can set it up for your display ad to appear on another site through the Google Display network or as a text ad through the Google Search Network.

06 Remarketing
You will need to get a snippet of code from AdWords and place it on your site. Then, set up lists so that Google knows exactly what the visitor has to see or do on your site before it triggers your ad on another page.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion

As mentioned before, using dynamic keyword insertion lets you instantly customize the ad to match what the visitor was searching.

07 Dynamic Insert

You can dynamically insert the search term into the headline or into the ad copy itself.

A word of caution: scour your match types on these keywords carefully, because if you don’t offer exactly what they searched, your ad ends up wasting you a click and frustrating a potential customer.

Example: Phrase matching “soccer cleats” with a dynamically inserted keyword can show up on a search for “youth soccer cleats.” If you have only adult sizes, this isn’t a good ad.

A Final Word: Start Small

Starting an AdWords campaign from scratch relies on just a few steps and some minor preparation. The level of detail that is available–through advanced options and techniques–can make it seem more complicated at first. Tackle the small steps first and slowly add on as you get more comfortable.


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