How to Advertise on Google: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

Updated on December 17, 2019
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Have you ever run a Google search for a product, clicked through one of the first few listings, then found yourself seeing promotions for that same product or others like it for days or even weeks afterward, seemingly everywhere you turn?

Without even realizing it, you likely come into contact with Google advertising dozens—if not hundreds—of times per day. The top listings on the search engine results page when you enter a query, the video ads you see on YouTube, display advertising across virtually every page of the internet—even many of your favorite games on your mobile device—include advertising from Google’s network.

The combination of a massive reach and custom-tailored access to the perfect audience makes advertising on Google a no-brainer for any business owner who wants to invest in their small business marketing and see their sales to grow.

This being said, however, you’re probably wondering how to advertise on Google. With such a complex, seemingly endless array of possibilities available through the Google advertising platform, it can be intimidating even for the technologically savvy small business owner to know exactly where to start.

Therefore, to help you get the most out of this service, we’ll take you step-by-step through everything you need to know about how to advertise on Google and grow your small business, including how to get started, how to customize your Google Ads strategy, and how to manage your costs on this advertising platform.

How to Advertise on Google: Getting Started

Before we break down our step-by-step guide on how to advertise on Google, there are two important topics we should address. First, what is the Google Ads platform?

The Google Ads (formerly AdWords) platform is effectively the home base for any and all of the avenues you can use to advertise your business on Google. Through the Google Ads management system, advertisers bid on certain keywords to have their clickable ads appear in relevant Google search results, as well as YouTube videos and display ads within Google’s massive network.

There’s no denying the value of Google’s display, video, and other advertising options—but if you really want to know how to advertise on Google and grow your small business quickly, the search engine results page is where you’ll want to start. By this, of course, we mean the top few (up to four per search) sites listed in Google’s search engine results, denoted by a small “ad” symbol on the second line of each.

how to advertise on googleWhereas the posts lower down on the search results page are selected purely based on their relation to the searcher’s query, the ads at the top are chosen through the combination of scoring content relevance and an auction-style bidding system through Google Ads.

Why Small Businesses Should Learn How to Advertise on Google

With this overview in mind, the second important topic to address is why you should advertise on Google. After all, Google is not the only channel out there for advertising, and there are even ways you can advertise your business for free.

This being said, business owners use Google Ads for three main reasons:

  • First, the platform offers an unbeatable opportunity to customize your advertising messages to incredibly specific audiences.
  • Second, you get to connect with your specified audience at the exact moment that they are searching for a product or service like yours.
  • And finally, because Google Ads is designed around a cost-per-click model, you can preset your desired budget and only pay when a prospect actually clicks through to visit your website or calls your business.

Therefore, in comparison to other advertising platforms, Google Ads connects you with the right customer at the right time, and you only pay when a connection is made.

How to Advertise on Google in 11 Steps

All of this being said, figuring out how to advertise on Google, especially in the most effective way for your business, will likely take some time and practice. Nevertheless, by following these 11 steps, you can get started in the process, familiarizing yourself with Google Ads along the way, and hopefully, building and implementing an advertising strategy that drives leads for your business.

Let’s explain.

Step 1: Set up your “Google My Business” presence.

First, before we get too far down the rabbit hole of all that Google’s advertising platform has to offer, let’s start with the basics. This one quick and easy step will not only make it easy to start your business advertising on Google but it will also immediately improve how your business performs throughout the Google search network.

Using Google My Business, you can update your business’s location, hours of operation, contact information, website and social media links, and even add a logo and photos. Setting up your account takes only a few minutes—just go to the Google My Business homepage and click “Start Here” to follow the steps.

Best of all, if you’re wondering how to advertise on Google for free, this is going to be your only option. As we’ll discuss in greater detail later, utilizing the Google Ads program will require some kind of investment.

Not sure if you’ve already set up Google My Business? Take a moment to run a quick Google search for your business name. You’ll know you’re already set with a Google My Business listing if a box comes up on the right-hand side of the search results page with your business’s name, location, and contact information (see our example below). Even if this step is already complete, it’s a good idea to check that the information is up to date and see if you have any customer reviews.

how to advertise on google

Fundera’s Google My Business search result

Step 2: Set up your Google Ads account.

After you’ve set up your Google My Business page, the first thing you’ll need to do is to start advertising on Google is to actually register for a Google Ads account. To set up your account, you’ll go to the Google Ads homepage and click “Start Now.” You’ll then log in to your Google account (the same one you used to create your Google My Business page). Next, you’ll select your business—if you haven’t completed the Google My Business step, you’ll choose “Create a New Business.”

Then, you’ll be prompted to create your first ad. To begin, you won’t want to worry about the specifics of this ad, and you can stick with Google’s standard settings and complete the account setup process. After this point, you’ll be asked for your billing information, and you’ll be able to choose to issue payments through direct debit from your bank account or by inputting a credit or debit card number from Visa or MasterCard.

Once you’ve added your billing information, you’ll want to put your campaign on pause while you get acquainted with the Google Ads platform—this way you can save your advertising and marketing budget until you determine a strategy for how to advertise on Google for your business.

Step 3: Decide if you want to use Smart Campaigns.

As you’re learning more about how to advertise on Google and grow your small business, you should keep in mind that the Google Ads platform is designed for every type of organization, from small mom-and-pop shops to huge Fortune 500 companies. This being said, in order to serve the needs of those larger companies, the Google Ads platform offers an almost never-ending lineup of settings and custom options that your small business might not necessarily need.

Luckily, Google has a solution for small businesses: Smart Campaigns—a simpler, more user-friendly way to advertise on Google without a significant amount of ongoing management. 

Whereas managing a typical Google Ads campaign takes at least an hour a week (and can even be a full-time, multi-person job) you can make Smart Campaigns work for your small business in just 15 minutes per week with a very minimal learning curve.

Smart Campaigns are a great way to dip your toes into learning how to advertise on Google, particularly if you’re juggling a long to-do list and you don’t plan to seek outside assistance to help your online marketing and advertising efforts. This being said, Smart Campaigns does have some limitations—so, before you jump on the express route to Google advertising for your small business, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of choosing to use Smart Campaigns

Pros of Smart Campaigns

  • Quick and easy setup: Create your account and launch your first ad within minutes.
  • No keyword research: Choosing the right keywords for your ads is an art, a science, and very often time-consuming. In Smart Campaigns, the Google algorithm does that work for you, coming up with a list of related search phrases based on the information you provide on your business.
  • Easy learning curve: With streamlined options and more automation, Smart Campaigns are accessible no matter your digital skill level.
  • Website not required: Don’t have a business website yet? Smart Campaigns can direct clicks to your Google My Business page instead.

Cons of Smart Campaigns

  • Search network only: Display, in-app, and YouTube advertising options are available only in the full Google Ads platform.
  • Potential for higher cost-per-click: Manual Google Ads professionals maximize budgets with creative keyword tricks that aren’t available in Smart Campaigns, meaning you could wind up with a higher cost-per-click.
  • Limited options: Although reduced options can be a good thing, you may find that you could benefit from a feature or setting not available in Smart Campaigns.
  • Harder to grow with your business: If your business expands to rely more on the full Google Ads platform, you may outgrow the limitations of Smart Campaigns
how to advertise on google

Example of Smart Campaigns. Photo: Google

How to Advertise on Google With Smart Campaigns

If you do decide you want to start advertising on Google with Smart Campaigns, you can get set up pretty quickly and easily. These steps will walk you through how to advertise on Google and promote your small business using Smart Campaigns.

  • Log in to your Google Ads account. If you haven’t yet created your account, you can follow the steps we described above.
  • Create your first ad. Once you’re logged in, you can create your first ad by providing a headline, brief description, and webpage link. (If you don’t have a business website, use your Google My Business page instead.)
  • Choose your geographic location(s). To make sure your ad appears only in the places that your business actually serves, target your audience’s location either by distance from your business (for brick and mortar stores) or by city, state, or country for companies with a wider reach.
  • Choose your products or services. Select the specific product or service that your ad is promoting to help Google match it to relevant search phrases.
  • Set your monthly budget. As you follow the prompts for your first ad, Smart Campaigns will recommend a monthly budget based on the average number of clicks for your location and business type. From there, you can use the slider function to start with a more conservative budget or make your ad more competitive.
  • Run your ad. With all of these steps completed, you’ll be able to review and run your ad.


With these simple steps, you’ll be all set up with Smart Campaigns. You can have your first ad up and running within minutes, then go back as often as you want to track your results, make changes to improve your ad’s performance, or create additional ads for other products, services, or audiences.

Step 4: Prepare your business website.

All of this being said, you may very well find that using Smart Campaigns is sufficient enough for your business. However, with the limitations of Smart Campaigns, you might ultimately decide, now or in the future, that you’d like to use Google Ads to the fullest extent. In this case, you’d continue following the remainder of our steps.

Therefore, once you’ve decided to learn how to advertise on Google using the entirety of the platform, the first thing you’ll need to do is prepare your business website. One of the biggest differences between Smart Campaigns and Google Ads, as a whole, is that Google Ads requires that you direct clicks to your website, instead of your Google My Business page. With this in mind, then, you’ll want to make sure your business website is adequately prepared to accept leads from Google and quickly direct customers to the information they’re looking for. If your business website is not ready, you’re going to wind up paying for a whole lot of clicks that don’t generate any revenue.

For design tips on how to prepare your business’s website for accepting leads from Google Ads, you can check out this video:

Step 5: Select your campaign type.

Once you’ve prepped your business website, it’s time to start developing your Google Ads strategy. To do this, you’ll want to begin your new ad campaign by choosing one of six campaign types. This selection denotes where and in what form your ads will be displayed across Google’s advertising network. Here’s a quick review of the six campaign types, starting with the two main networks that we’ll be focusing on:

  • Search Network only: Shows ads exclusively on the Google search engine results page and on results pages for search partner sites. This type typically provides the highest ROI for small business advertisers.
  • Search Network With Display Select: Shows ads primarily on the results pages for Google and its search partner sites, plus selectively on relevant pages in the Google Display Network when budget limits allow.

The vast majority of small businesses are best served by focusing almost exclusively on the two campaign types above, considering other campaign types only as secondary objectives once you’ve mastered the first two. This being said, to give you a full understanding of your options, here’s a quick description of the other campaign types you’ll come across:

  • Display Network only: This campaign type shows display ads on websites and apps within the Google Display Network when ad keywords are relevant to the site’s content.
  • Shopping: Boutique retailers can use the Shopping campaign function to market products that are available online or in your local store.
  • Video: Use this campaign type to show video ads in a variety of formats alongside YouTube and other video platforms in the Google display network.
  • Universal App Campaign: Designed specifically for the promotion of Android or iOS apps, this campaign streamlines the process of advertising your app across various devices throughout the Google advertising network.

Step 6: Organize your audience with ad groups.

Once you’ve chosen a campaign type, you’re ready to start designing your Google advertising campaign, starting with creating your first ad group. These ad groups give you the opportunity to segment your audience into specific personas based on product or service themes. For example, a bookseller could organize her ad groups by book genre to help her reach the right audience.

This next video tutorial from the Google Ads team will guide you through the best way to organize your campaigns, ad groups, and individual ads to maximize the potential of your ad group segmentation.

As we move into keyword choices and bidding, you’ll start to better understand why it’s so important to segment your audience into finite ad groups that allow for very specific keyword usage.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting your content in front of the right audience on Google, it’s that keywords are the key. Your ability to identify the search terms your audience is using and match those to the ads and products they most want to see will make or break the success of your Google advertising campaign. So, if you’re going to study up on any particular part of the customized Google Ads interface, always start with your keywords.

Types of Keywords

In Google Ads, keywords are broken into a few different subtypes based on how they interact with Google’s algorithm. Here are the types of keywords you should know about:

  • Exact matches: As the name implies, an exact match happens when a customer’s search query matches your keyword bid letter for letter with nothing added or changed. This means the exact match for “black shoes” is purely and simply “black shoes.” Not “formal black shoes.” Not “buy black shoes online.” Just “black shoes.”
  • Broad matches: Though the examples above don’t qualify as exact matches for “black shoes,” they do qualify as broad matches—meaning they are similar to terms included in your bid. Placing your ad based on broad matches will cost you more per click than exact match placements, so it’s in your best interest to think like your customer. Predict exactly what they are most likely to be searching for.
  • Negative keywords: Just as you may have guessed, negative keywords are your opportunity to prevent your ad from appearing in the results for searches that include those terms. So, if your store sells black shoes but not black sandals, you might input “sandals” and “flip flops” as negative keywords to avoid paying for click-throughs on users’ “black sandals” searches.
  • Broad match modifiers: By adding a “+” sign before one or more words in your search phrase, you can create an exact match for those specific words while simultaneously bidding on broad matches to the other words in your phrase.


This keywording feature might sound unnecessarily technical, but it has the potential to be a very powerful part of your keywording strategy. Broad match modifiers let you bid on keyword phrases that are a hybrid of broad and exact matches.

Step 7: Find the perfect terms with the Google Ads Keyword Planner.

The very best way to learn how keywords work and choose the right keywords for your Google ads is by experimenting with the Google Ads Keyword Planner

You can watch the video tutorial below for a step-by-step guide for using the Keyword Planner to find all the perfect search terms for every ad you write.

Step 8: Craft an effective ad on Google.

Finally, we’ve reached the creative part of learning how to advertise on Google. The text of your ad is your golden opportunity to tell your customers a little bit about your business at the exact moment that they’re searching for what you offer. To attract clicks, you need to write copy that’s engaging and relevant to your potential customers.

For now, let’s focus on the most common and standardized type of ad on the Google network: the text ad. This ad follows a clear, standardized format with three components:

  • The headline: Two short phrases—separated by a dash—which can appear together or be separated into two lines (depending on the device and ad format).
  • The display URL: This is the web address that is shown with your ad.
  • The description: Use this line to get specific about your product or service and give your customers a call to action.

The most effective text ads on Google are ones that show off the business’s most unique value to customers, match the product’s relevant keywords and phrases, and give customers a specific action step for how to interact with the business. Active verbs and specific sale or discount language are other great tools to make your ad stand out. Google also recommends using title case (Capitalizing the First Letter of Each Word) for maximum visual appeal.

Another digital marketing tip: Finding the right language for your ads is a lot like using the scientific method—you just have to try some things out and see what works. To maximize your results, create two to three different ads in each ad group to find the language that performs best for your offer. The Google Ads algorithm automatically defers to the highest performing ad within each group to help you maximize performance.

Step 9: Set your Google advertising bids and budget.

Two components determine the financial parameters of your Google Ads campaign: your bid and your budget.

Simply put, your overall Google Ads budget dictates the maximum total amount you’re willing to spend on advertising through Google in a given billing period. Your bidding strategy determines how that overall budget gets distributed to individual campaigns ads.

As we mentioned, the Google advertising platform works through cost-per-click (or CPC) bidding, meaning that you pay only when a user clicks on your ad. Through this system, the strength of your bid—along with the relevance of your ads and keywords—determines where your ad is shown on the search engine results page.

This being said, it’s important to remember that advertising on Google isn’t free. If you want to learn how to advertise on Google for free, you’ll need to invest in an organic SEO strategy—a free way to have your website show right below Google’s ads, on the search engine’s first page.

Step 10: Target specific locations.

If you are a location-based small business, you’ll want to make absolutely sure that you’re only advertising in the location where it matters. Location targeting helps your ads appear higher on the results page at a lower cost and saves you from paying for clicks from faraway customers.

Even if you’re an ecommerce business that can ship all over the country, you might employ local marketing to target areas where you find you receive the most business.

Step 11: Schedule your ads.

Unless you run a 24/7 ecommerce website, you most likely want to adjust your settings so that you’re advertising on Google only during the days and times that your small business is actually open. After all, if a customer sees your ad online and decides to call or stop by, you want to be sure someone is available to help them.

Once you’ve scheduled your ads, you’ve done it—you’re successfully advertising on Google.

Ultimately, finding success with this type of advertising will require trial and error, practice, and dedication. This being said, although experienced, full-time advertisers opt for manual cost-per-click bidding to maximize their ad’s return on investment, most small business owners don’t have the time or interest to mess with manual CPC. Therefore, you might instead follow Google’s recommendation and selecting the “maximize clicks” automated bidding system, which lets Google Ads help you get as many clicks as possible within your predetermined daily budget.

When Should You Use Professionals to Help You Advertise on Google?

As we’ve mentioned, learning how to advertise on Google is not the easiest or quickest process. Therefore, if you’re looking for assistance with your advertising, you might consider bringing in a professional. How do you know when it’s time for professional help? You can ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Do you plan to make advertising on Google a cornerstone of your business’s marketing strategy?
  • Have you run out of time, energy, or expertise to further improve your Google Ads campaigns?
  • Are you having trouble making the most of your campaigns?
  • Are you actually seeing lead generations from your campaigns?

If your answer to the first three questions is “yes” and your answer to the last question is “no” it may be worth bringing in a marketing agency or freelance online advertising professional to take your small business’s strategy to the next level.

The Google Partners directory—found within your Google Ads account—is a great place to search for a certified professional or agency that can help you achieve your Google advertising goals. In the directory, you can filter qualified third-party professionals by service need, location, and monthly advertising budget to find your perfect professional match. Most agencies calculate their fees as a percentage of your monthly ad spend, so the price of services will correlate to your total ad budget.

how to advertise on google

Google Ads signup page. Photo: Google

How Much Does It Cost to Advertise on Google?

Although we’ve explained how the cost-per-click and bid process works when advertising on Google, many small business owners still wonder: “How much does it cost to advertise on Google?”

Ultimately, it depends—but, it depends on you—how much you’re willing to spend on a daily or monthly basis on your Google Ads campaigns. This being said, although there is no minimum daily budget you must set when you start your ad campaigns, it’s worth considering that when you first start out, you’ll want to monitor your ads and see how much, on average, it costs for you to get a click. Once you have this information, you’ll be able to better establish what a reasonable budget is for your Google Ads campaigns, based on how many leads you’re trying to get, or whether Google Ads is worth using for your business at all.

On the whole, the average cost per click varies, especially by industry—but according to a report on Statista, the average cost per click can be as low as $1.16 and as high as $6.75. Therefore, you’ll want to see how your ads perform to get a sense of what kind of budget makes sense—if you find that you’ll need to spend too much on Google Ads every month to get results, you might then decide to explore other ways of advertising online.

With this in mind, a report from Manifest states that 37% of small business owners spend under $10,000 per year on advertising. This same report also states, however, that most business owners anticipate spending more on advertising in the following year, increasing their spend in social media and online advertising.

This being said, in determining, overall, how much it costs to advertise on Google for your business, you’ll also want to consider your overarching advertising budget, how much you’re willing to spend on Google specifically, and which channels perform best for your business.

The Final Word

Now that we’ve reached the conclusion of our guide, you’re armed with the information you need to start reaching new and highly qualified leads through the Google Ads network. And yet, as hard as it may be to believe, this overview only scratches the surface of everything the Google Ads platform can do. With this in mind, the best thing you can do is learn by doing—set up those ad groups, write some incredible starting ads, test, review your results, and repeat.

With practice, you’ll figure out how to advertise on Google and grow your small business in a way that’s effective for both you and your new customers. And—when in doubt, you can consult online guides (like this one) as well as freelance marketing or advertising professionals for any assistance you may need.

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. She launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014 and has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending. She is a monthly columnist for AllBusiness, and her advice has appeared in the SBA, SCORE, Yahoo, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, American Banker, Small Business Trends, MyCorporation, Small Biz Daily, StartupNation, and more. Email: meredith@fundera.com.
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