Buying and tracking ads

We take a look in this section at AdWords, Google’s online advertising system, and show you how you can buy and create online campaigns for both search and display advertising, and track their success.

Buying online ads through Google AdWords

Google AdWordsGoogle dominates online advertising so AdWords — its online system to buy and manage internet advertising — is a good place to start. Among the advertising options in AdWords are:

  • Search advertising on Google’s search engine
  • Display advertising on thousands of partner site, large and small, through the Google Display Network
  • Mobile advertising on phones and tablets

Getting started

Sign up for an AdWords account at It’s free and you can have your first campaign running in minutes.

From your AdWords account, these are the steps you take to start a campaign:

  1. Use Google’s keyword research tool to decide which keywords and phrases to use to trigger your advertising
  2. Estimate the amount of traffic each keyword will generate and its likely cost per click
  3. Create your ads — typically a short headline, sub-head, brief copy, small image (for some ad types) and URL to click to (for instance, a landing page)
  4. Set a daily budget and buy your ads
  5. Track their performance
  6. Pay for your advertising

You’ll find some video tutorials below to show you these steps in more detail.

Overview: What is AdWords?

VIDEO: What is AdWords? (3:53) — Google

Keyword research

As with search engine optimization that we looked at earlier, online advertising starts with keyword research. This is an area you should spend time doing the research into which keywords and phrases you’ll use to trigger your advertising.

VIDEOS: Access and learn about Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Writing copy for your online ad

Online advertising uses very little copy so every word and element must count and be carefully considered. A typical text ad consists of fewer than 100 words in four short lines: A headline, two lines of description, and the address you’ll be sent to if you click the ad.

#1 Make it relevant

The ad copy should be relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. In practice, this means you’ll create several versions of the ad, fine-tuning each version to particular keywords. There are no big production costs so there’s no need to have just a single, generic ad for all of the different keywords.

#2 Include a call to action

This is often in the second description line (the last line before the website address.) This gives the visitor a clear, specific reason to click the ad — but take care to avoid bland, non-specific phrases like ‘find out more’ or ‘visit our website’.

#3 Use the display URL

The final line of ad copy is for the address of the web page the visitor will be sent to. The display URL is the address that will be shown to the visitor and it doesn’t have to match the exact address of the web page, provided it’s not misleading. The display URL should reassure the visitor that this link will lead somewhere useful. For instance, the display URL can be even though the actual page address might be long or technical-looking.

Here’s a short video from Google that gives you a few copy writing pointers.

VIDEO: Writing online ads that attract customers (3:52) — Google

Monitoring advertising performance

AdWords includes extensive performance reporting for your advertising campaigns. You can use Google Analytics — which we encountered in the section on websites and search — to track your ad campaigns, from how many people clicked on the ad all the way to how many ended up buying.

VIDEO: Beginning Analytics: Interpreting and Acting on Your Data - Google (9:07)


Here’s a great article on writing Google AdWords ad copy9 Tips to Write Effective Google AdWords Copy (from Search Engine Journal)


Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.


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