You’ve heard the term, want to find out more, but don’t have time to read a War and Peace-style tutorial in order to decide whether it’s for you or not. No problem, you’ve come to the right place. Let me give you a very quick overview.

First of all, there are no trade secrets here. Google does a great job at providing every last sinew of information about the services it offers, so I am not going to try to reinvent the wheel here. But many of us have very limited time, and a lot like Denzel Washington’s character Joe Miller in the film Philadelphia, we like things ‘explained to us like we are a four-year-old’. So, let me try to simplify and sum up what Google can offer you.

As you will probably be aware, Google offers a range of paid-for services to help companies promote themselves to both new and existing customers. I will give a quick overview of these, but first I’d like to say that in my humble opinion, these services are cost-effective, targeted and especially useful if your website is failing to appear on the first page of Google for a specific search – which we all want, of course. For companies with a diverse range of products or services, it can be almost impossible to get a first page listing on Google for all of them. If that is the case, then Google Adwords presents a reasonable alternative.

So, here is that overview I promised, which covers three main services. The first of those is the paid-for text adverts and URL link that appear top and bottom of ‘popular’ Google searches. You will almost certainly have seen these and possibly clicked on one of them instead of the website that appears ‘organically’.

You probably knew these were paid-for listings – the little green box with ‘AD’ inscribed on it being the giveaway – but if not, that’s what they are: paid-for entries that position websites such as yours to the top of the page for a particular Google search. Or in other words, you can jump right to the front of the queue without having to spend any time or money trying to demystify the latest SEO criteria. I bet you like the sound of that?

I say popular, because if a search for a word, term or phrase is rarely performed, let’s say something like “blue, white and green shell suits” for the sake of argument, then Google simply doesn’t allow/offer text adverts to appear for that search. Why? Well I’m not sure, but probably because they want you to place your text adverts to appear on more popular searches, increasing the potential for someone to click your advert and the revenue they earn. But you wanted a quick overview, so this is neither the time nor the place to go into that.

If you weren’t aware of these text adverts then run a search now, for say ‘printer ink’, and you’ll probably find at least three adverts that appear at the top and three at the bottom of a page too.

Now you are probably going to ask how do you get your website to be the top one of those three? Well, your text advert, which includes a URL link to your website, will appear based on its relevance to the search and the amount you are willing to pay for a click. The greater the relevance and amount you are willing to pay, the more likely your advert will appear first or indeed at all if lots of companies are all ‘bidding’. Importantly you are only charged every time someone clicks the advert. What that means is impressions are free – not something you hear very often in the world of digital advertising. It’s that which makes the advertising very cost-effective, not to mention targeted.

OK, so that’s Google Adwords, but what else does Google offer? Well, the second option is to create a digital banner advert promoting your company or service and then have this appear on relevant websites that are part of Google’s Display Network (GDN). I’m sure you have seen and probably placed a banner advert on a relevant website. What Google offers is the opportunity to buy advertising space on hundreds of thousands of websites. This enables companies like yours to place a banner advert on many websites, whilst only having to deal with one company – them. You simply select which websites you would like your banner to appear on – a process that can take some time as the search facility isn’t great, strangely. Again, you pay every time someone clicks your banner rather than the number of times the banner is viewed. More free impressions! The negative aspect of the GDN is that a lot of the high-quality websites (trade magazines, for example) in your market often don’t rent their digital advertising space to Google. Instead they sell the space directly to you charging for a period of time or per quantity of views/impressions, cutting the middle man (i.e. Google) out of the equation.

Before I move swiftly onto the third and final service, I must tell you that there is an additional option to having you advert appear on some of the websites within the GDN. Not only can you select the sites you know about or feel might be relevant, but Google offers the opportunity to have your banner appear on lots of websites that maybe don’t have any relevance to the subject matter you are focused on, but are being visited by someone that has shown an interest in that subject in the recent past. Google knows exactly who has searched for what and this is when it uses that knowledge to help you reach possible customers (and of course to make itself more income).

The third service is called retargeting, which even if you weren’t aware of before, you will probably have encountered during your web surfing travels. Ever looked at a website, perhaps thought about buying a pair of shoes, and then whilst visiting a range of other websites there is a banner advert promoting that exact same pair of shoes? That’s retargeting and it is an excellent way of reminding visitors to your website of the product or service they showed an interest in.

To use retargeting you must again create a digital banner advert (in multiple shapes and sizes) promoting your company, product or service. Google then provides you with some code that you need to apply to your UK website. It’s extremely easy, even I managed to do it and having visited our website you may well now see our banner adverts following you around the web. The code attaches a cookie to anyone that visits your website. The banner you have created will then appear on any of the GDN websites they subsequently visit. Effectively your banner will follow them around for a period of time (which you set) and you will only be charged if they click on the banner. Again, yet more free impressions.

And that’s my simple guide. Note that you need to set up a Google Adwords account to do any of this type of advertising. You can then set up and administer campaigns yourself or, if you prefer, grant a third party (such as an advertising agency, hint hint) secure access to your account and let them spend the time configuring and managing the campaign. Please be aware that although you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to do that, from experience it does take some time.

Written by Cherie

Cherie is the finance director and co-owner of HHC Lewis. As well as overseeing advertisement bookings for all our clients, Cherie pays our wages each month, so we think she is the greatest.
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