Year by Year: How Google AdWords Changed Online Marketing Forever

Let’s take things back to the year Y2K. That’s when Google launched the first version of AdWords and at the time, only had 350 customers.

To be honest, the idea wasn’t completely original. AdWords was a variation of an idea developed by Bill Gross: featuring PPC ads on his search engine on There was a legal dispute when Google launched their version, but it was settled outside of court and AdWords went on to become a very profitable entity for Google. The ads made more than $70 million in the first year.

Just like anything else Google does, it changed online marketing forever.

Within a couple of years, the platform made some improvements and launched AdWords Select. The new changes included CPC-based pricing, so advertisers could pay only when the ads are clicked instead of by impressions. There were several other benefits, as well:

  • A built-in “discounter” ensured that you paid the lowest amount possible and adjusted to the marketplace
  • It only took four steps to create a new campaign
  • There were tools to make sure the ads were shown to a targeted demographic
  • You could choose specific countries to target and it made ads in different languages

Things only got better from there. The display network came in 2005, as did conversion tracking. Up until that point advertisers couldn’t pinpoint what leads were coming from which keywords or ads. Google added a keyword tool and enhanced the display network, which enabled it to show more relevant and advanced ads.

Google’s account management service was also launched in 2005. Jump Start offered a service to set up your campaign for you, handling the first steps of the process, and then handed off the campaign management to you after the initial set up.  This was also the year that they finally offered a training program that taught you how to set up campaigns correctly.

The Google Online Marketing Challenge started in 2008 and is still held every year. More than 50,000 students have participated through the years and this opportunity gives students and professionals the chance to put their mark on the digital marketing landscape.

Last year, AdWords launched Enhanced Campaigns. In short, this update included the ability to match ads with context, meaning you can now optimize ads for mobile and desktop users and even make adjustments for time and location of search. Enhanced allows you to bid more or less depending on these specifications. Most importantly, there was an algorithm update last year—this is currently how Ad Rank determines your position in the live auction.

live auction

We already know 2014 will include AdWords changes because they are hosting a livestream on April 22 to announce new innovations.

Users Don’t Need to Be Pros

Sure, there are hundreds of online marketing firms that now specialize in PPC advertising. Heck, we are even one of them. But the average user doesn’t need to be a pro to start seeing success. The platform is inherently easy to use with Google’s guidance and you don’t need to hire someone to do your ads if you don’t want to.

  • Campaign creation only takes a few minutes
  • There’s no minimum buy
  • You can pay only for clicks
  • You can stop or pause the campaign whenever you want

Whether you want to use Jump Start or try to do it yourself, you have options. If you decide to go with the expert route, make sure to choose a company that is a Google AdWords Certified Partner.

Results-Based Advertising

AdWords takes a lot of guess work out of online marketing. Up until Bill Gross’ idea, there wasn’t any way to get your advertisements in search results. Now that thought is foreign because we are all very accustomed to seeing paid ads when we search.

AdWords allows companies and advertisers to see metrics and results from their advertising efforts. Whereas SEO strategies can take months to see results, advertisers can start seeing the fruit of their labors—ahem, money—very quickly.