This article is the first in a series dedicated to AdWords, that we are going to publish this year discussing its evolution, the benefits that it brings to your business and the constant new developments in this field. Let’s start our journey with a short history …

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Google AdWords launch

The advertising system with contextual ads created by Google went through many stages before achieving the form that we are familiar with right now.  In 1999, Google started testing an advertising system. Instead of using ads in the form of banners, according to the trends that were current at the time, the company decided to sell contextual ads, based on keywords, that were going to be displayed separately from the normal search results. 

In January 2000, Google launched the first advertising system called Premium Sponsorships, at which time the ads were sold by a direct sale team based on a CPM (cost per mille) system, that did not generate very good numbers. In October of the same year, Google launched AdWords with the following ad: “Have a credit card and 5 minutes? Get your ad on Google today!”. It proved to be a successful system and was used by 350 companies upon its launch. At that time, approx. 20 million daily searches were performed using Google each day. 

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Pay Per Click and the Click-Through Rate revolutionize AdWords

In February 2002, Google introduced a new version of AdWords, that was the first to use the PPC (Pay Per Click) system and a revolutionary innovation called the Click-Through Rate (CTR) used to measure the performance of the keywords used and of the ads. The CTR, calculated as the ratio between the number of ad clicks and the number of times the ad was displayed, could influence the cost and positioning of the ad.

Thus, Google’s decision to introduce this concept determined those using AdWords to focus on the relevance of the ad within the new Advertising system and this is one of the factors which led to the impressive expansion of Google and the entire Internet ecosystem in the following years. 

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AdSense, Google Analytics and the first YouTube ads

2003 is another important year, that saw the global expansion of AdWords to over 218 countries. In the spring of the same year, Google launched the AdSense service, through which content creators and website owners were remunerated for allowing the placement of ads on their websites and blogs. 

Late 2005 saw another revolutionary launch: Google Analytics. Connecting an AdWords account to a Google Analytics account provided much more data regarding audiences and demographics. In mid-2007, Google introduced the first video ads on Youtube – a platform that it had brought one year before and that was growing at an impressive rate.

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Remarketing for Google’s Display network and other developments

Starting with 2010, Google offered a new approach to the users of the Display Advertising network – Remarketing. Remarketing is a very efficient technique that allows persons who own an AdWords account to display specific messages to people that have already visited their website, but did not complete the desired action (conversion) – they see ads with convincing messages on other websites, that help increase brand awareness and determine people to return to the website that they visited to complete the process that they had previously started. 

2010 also saw the introduction of the TrueView-type video ads for YouTube, that offer the persons visiting the website the possibility to choose the ad that they wish to view. YouTube is constantly on the rise, from 15 hours in 2008 to over 400 hours of video content uploaded each minute.

Another important development came in early 2011, when the Google service for NGOs was launched, to support the activity of social entrepreneurs and international relief organizations through grants (budgets of 10,000 $) for Non-Governmental Organizations that promote their social projects through AdWords.

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Searches have moved to mobile phones

2015 is the year when Google confirmed speculations that searches on mobile devices exceeded those on desktops. This information was officially confirmed one year later, when over 50% of global searches were performed on mobile phones – optimizations were created and mechanisms were launched through Universal App facilitating the promotion of mobile phone apps through the search network, on YouTube and in the virtual shop Google Play. 

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Google launches Customer Match

In 2015, Google also announced a new targeting concept that was extremely efficient for AdWords accounts and became one of the most important innovations in the history of AdWords so far, offering the possibility of displaying campaigns with a very exact target, those with data uploaded to AdWords accounts (e.g.: newsletter subscribers, clients, etc.), switching advertisers’ dogma from: ‘who do we show the ads to?’, to ‘what data do we have on the people that have interacted with the business?’.

Thus, marketers spend more time analysing digital micro-moments (traces), matching the audiences obtained from AdWords, Email Marketing, social networks or offline, and slowly, slowly…companies are ceasing to compete with other companies and are competing to offer the best experience for clients, based on their interests. 

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Mobile phones have changed our behaviour, as well as our expectations, forever. People turn to Google for their searches billions of times a day and the results displayed based on the searches are chosen from amongst relevant results, while the experience offered on the website and the speed with which the need of the client is satisfied become the main factors that generate conversions. Actually, the latest studies performed by Google show that over 53% of visitors give up on websites that take more than 3 seconds to load.   

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this incursion in the history of Google AdWords. The next episode shall discuss the AdWords nucleus that got everything started – Google Search.