How Google Search Ads Work

Everyone who used Google Search sees Google Search ads, but few people understand exactly how they work.

To explain how Google Search Ads work, let’s pretend I’m searching for a plumber in Victoria BC…

I’ll open the Google Search Engine in a web browser and type in something like “Plumbers Victoria BC.” As you can see in this example, Google may “auto-suggest” searches that are related to what I’m searching for and I could select one of these if I saw something more relevant (this example is on a desktop computer):

Once I’ve typed in my “search query,” I then hit “enter/return” on my keyboard or click on the magnifying glass to launch the search:

It’s interesting to note that there is now the option to do a “voice search” by hitting the microphone icon (that’s a topic for another post)!

After I launch my search, Google goes to work and uses literally millions of potential data points to bring up my results. These data points include:

  • My search query (“Plumbers Victoria BC”)
  • My geographic location
  • The type of device I’m on (computer, tablet, phone)
  • My search history
  • My age and gender (if I use other Google Services)
  • Numerous other criteria

In the case where advertisers are “bidding” to have their ads appear in Search results, Google will look at my specific search query (what I typed in) and see how it matches with the “keywords” that advertisers are bidding on (advertisers bid on certain “key” words to trigger their ads).

Here’s what the desktop search results look like:

In the above example where I’ve highlighted the different sections visible on my screen, Google first shows 3 Google Search ads (Google Search ads are always in text format).

Because Google knows that location is important to my search, we see a Google Map showing central Victoria with several top results shown in it immediately below the ads. Just below that, Google shows the “Google My Business” Listing results and another Search Ad.

Interestingly, you have to scroll a fair ways down the page to find the “organic” search results (the regular listings, which are “free” although typically require quite a bit of work to rank for):

Doing the same search on a phone brings up interesting results – two Google ads are the ONLY thing you can see before you scroll down the screen.

This is particularly notable as Mobile searches now occur even more often than desktop searches.

As you can see from these examples, if you have a local business and want to show up prominently in Google Search:

  • You’ll want to ensure your Google My Business listing is claimed and filled out properly
  • You’ll want to consider a Google advertising strategy, even if your organic rankings are good.

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