Google Ads, formerly AdWords, is a self-serve advertising platform enabling businesses to advertise across the Google Network. The ads can be seen in search results, on YouTube, over the Google Display Network, in discovery feeds, on Google Maps, and in Gmail. Not only is the reach of Google Ads the largest of any ad platform on Earth, but it is also the most diverse. For example, advertising on the Google Display Network differs greatly from advertising on YouTube or discovery feeds. Search advertising is the most unique because the person searching essentially targets the ads to themselves based on the words they search. No other type of advertising anywhere is that focused for relevance and intent.

Your Google login

To create a Google Ads account, you must first be logged into Google. You only need one login to use all Google services, so if you have a Gmail account, you can just log in to that. If you don’t have a Gmail account, it would be a good idea to create one to have a Google login. You don’t need to use it for email if you don’t want to. Keep these two facts in mind:

  1. One login is all you need for all Google services
  2. The Gmail address is the identifier of the account – even if you don’t use it for email.

Don’t stress about which login you will use for Google Ads. You can always start with one and then share access with another. You can even transfer it completely.

Ways to get started

If you’re logged into a Google account, you can create a Google Ads account by going to and then clicking the Start Now button.

Another option is to start through a Google Business Profile. If your business has a Google Business Profile (which is not necessary for using Google Ads), you can go to the admin panel of the GBP and then click the Advertise option.

Starting through a Google Business Profile sometimes enables you to use a promotional offer. You might see a message that says, “Get $500 of ad credit on us.” If you go forward with the offer, you’ll need to pay the ad cost at first. Then, after about two months expires, Google will apply credit to your account to match what you’ve already paid – up to $500. (Be sure to pay attention to the precise details of any offer you choose to claim.)

Smart mode vs. expert mode

There are two modes in Google Ads – smart and expert. Smart mode is more automated and less flexible. It’s like riding a bike with training wheels: It’s more user-friendly. Expert mode has many more features and options available but also has a steeper learning curve.

Which should you use? It depends. Smart campaigns can be successful, but if yours isn’t, a new and more sophisticated approach through expert mode might be required. Advertising is about finding what works for your business. Testing and tracking are of key importance. There aren’t many absolute rights or wrongs. You can do everything “right,” aligning with all conventional wisdom and still be unprofitable. Or you can do everything “wrong,” aligning against all conventional wisdom, and be profitable. It just depends.

If you create a new ad account in smart mode, you can later switch it to expert mode, BUT you can never switch it back to smart mode after that. You CAN, however, create smart campaigns from within expert mode. So, don’t be too afraid of switching.

Sharing access to the account

You can share access to your Google ads account with anyone you want, including yourself, through other Google accounts you might have. You can choose what level of access to grant. The options are:

Admin — full access

Standard — can make account changes but can’t grant access to others

Read only — can view data, reports, and billing information

Billing — can view and edit billing information

Email-only–can receive notification emails and reports

To grant access to someone, go to Settings > Access and Security. Enter the email address of your invitee, then choose their account access level.

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To begin advertising, you need to add a payment method. The billing system is more complex than it used to be. Now, there’s a three-tiered system: Payment profile> Payment account> Payment user.

Payment profile – The payment profile is the main entity when it comes to billing with Google Ads. It contains information, such as the name and address of the person or company legally responsible for account costs, tax information, and stored payment methods.

Payment account – This is a subset of the payments profile, and is relevant only to businesses on a monthly invoicing system, which most are not.

Payment user — These are individuals who have access to the payment profile through their Google account login. To grant or remove someone’s access, click the Manage Payment Users link while in the billing panel.

Conversion tracking

Conversion tracking is a complicated subject, but it involves configuring specific actions and events you’d like to track as conversions on the Conversions page in your Google Ads account. Find it by clicking on the Goals icon and then clicking on conversions. Some types of conversions (such as phone calls from ads) can be tracked fairly easily because no outside tools or technology is required. Other types of conversions (such as actions on a website) require code applications so data can be sent from the website back to Google Ads.

Needless to say, it’s important to see if your advertising efforts are yielding results. Not only is tracking important for seeing events in the past. It’s also important to give the Google Ads system data that it can learn from. More data allows the system’s machine-learning capabilities to kick in for better optimization, which can mean better results.

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Creating a campaign

Once the account and payment profile are created, advertising begins with creating a campaign. If you created your account through your Google Business Profile, you may have needed to set up a campaign before doing anything else, with the system walking you through all the steps. I’m not a big fan of this forced process, so if I’m helping a client get started this way, I create the campaign (which is a “smart” campaign) as quickly as possible and then delete it immediately after. Then, I switch to expert mode in the top menu and then create the type of campaign I really want.

Campaigns in Google Ads are a three-tiered, nested structure: Campaign> Ad group> ad. You need to create at least one campaign (but can create as many as you want); Campaigns need to have at least one ad group (but can have as many as you want); Ad groups need to have a targeting method and at least one ad. This structure allows for great flexibility, so your advertising approach can fit the needs of your business.

Here’s a description of the basic purpose of each level:

Campaign – This level is where budget, location targeting, bid strategy, and language are set.

Ad group – This level is for your advertising theme. For example, a travel agent might have a single campaign but two different ad groups – one for cruises and another for all-inclusive resorts.

Ad + targeting method – Contained in the ad group are your ad creative(s) and chosen targeting method(s). There should be synchronization focusing on the ad group’s theme. For example, if the keyword “cruise deals” is targeted, the ad itself should be related to cruise ships and special promotions.

What’s next?

This guide is intended to help you get your Google Ads account started. Knowing how to use it well is a much deeper subject. Expertise comes with practice and study. Complete mastery is elusive because of the enormous size of the system and the frequent changes Google makes to it. But I hope this article helped you start your journey to Google Ads success on the right foot.