AdWords Glossary for Beginners: The Top 20 Terms to Understand

Written by Heather Mueller on November 2, 2015

Posted in Lead Generation

Should you use phrase or broad match? Is the Search or Display Network better? And what the heck is a “quality score”?

The language of Google AdWords can get confusing.

If you’re intimidated by the thought of blowing your ad budget due to one misunderstood term, don’t panic. We’ve pulled together a list of the top 20 AdWords terms to understand so you can optimize your campaigns and get a solid return on your investments.


Setting up a new campaign is likely the first thing you’ll do with a new AdWords account. Each campaign can contain several ad groups.

Ad Groups
Ad groups let you organize groups of keywords based on your budget and objectives. For example, a sports retailer might set up a campaign for outdoor equipment and have ads groups to target fishing poles and camping gear.

Campaign Type
The campaign “type” determines where potential customers will see your ads. There are three types:

Search Network only ads will show up in Google search results only. This can include Google Maps and Google Shopping as well as primary search results.

Display Network only ads can show up anywhere within millions of placements that make up Google’s Display Network, such as YouTube and Gmail.

Search Network with Display Select ads can be shown, well, pretty much anywhere Google has a presence.


Most keywords aren’t actually words, but rather phrases that reflect the specific needs of your customers (for example, “fly fishing rods and reels” instead of just “fishing”). Keywords help determine where and when your ads will appear. You can choose from three match types to control when your ad is triggered:

Broad Match allows your ad to be shown when people search for phrases that are similar to your chosen keyword, including synonyms and variations. An ad for “cupcake” could show up when someone searches “cupcake recipes” or even “best bakeries.”

Phrase Match will trigger your ad for searches that include your exact keyword  with additional words before or after it. An ad for “fresh-caught fish” could appear when someone searches for “how to cook fresh-caught fish.”

Exact Match allows your ad to show only for searches that use your exact keyword.


This is the header of your ad copy. The headline is limited to 25 characters and should include your primary keyword. It generally shows up in blue when your ad is live.

The description area of each ad is limited to 70 characters spread across two lines. It should be used to describe what visitors will see after clicking your ad headline.

Destination URL
This is the actual URL for the landing page to which you want visitors directed after clicking your ad. It’s invisible to your audience.

Display URL
This is the URL people will see in your ad copy. For example, if your destination URL is “,” you could set your ad to display the more digestible “”


Bid Strategy
This is how you choose to pay for viewer interactions with your ads. Most beginners start with CPC bidding to drive traffic to a webpage where visitors can be converted through an online form.

Cost-per-click (also referred to as pay-per-click, or PPC) is the most common bid type on Google AdWords. It means you pay every time a person actually clicks on your ad. When you set your “maximum CPC” for an ad, you’re telling Google the max dollar amount you’re willing to pay for each click.

Daily Budget
Your daily budget is what you’re willing to spend (on average) per day, per ad. AdWords aims to show your ads as much as possible until your budget is met. It’s based on a daily average per month and can vary a little from day to day.


Quality Score
Google rates how relevant your keywords and ads are to users with what it calls a Quality Score. It’s calculated based on several factors, including your click through rate (CTR) and ad text. Generally speaking, a higher score can get you lower costs per click (CPC) and better placements.

Your CTR, or click through rate, measures how many times your ad has actually been clicked compared with the number of times it causes an “impression” by appearing in someone’s search results.

An impression is simply the number of times your ad appeared for viewing.


Now that you know the terminology, what should you do with it? The AdWords specialists at Formstack have put together a step-by-step guide you can use to quickly and easily maximize your AdWords spend. Get your free copy at the link below.