The Evolution of Google AdWords Over the Years

A new year often causes many of us to pause and reflect on the past before diving into the future. I recently stumbled down the memory lane path when my youngest child asked me more about my job. Since it’s easier to show than explain, I did a Google search for his favorite toy and showed him the ads that came up. I elaborated that I help ads like those “pop up” for to help people find the products and services that my clients offer.

My college-shopping niece was nearby and asked if that’s what I went to college to do. I had to explain that Google started while I was in college and didn’t offer advertising until after I graduated. (I know, I’m showing my age.)

However, this really got me thinking. At my first job after college graduation, having an “internet strategy” meant posting your website on your printed materials.  Phone strategies included using vanity numbers and/or source codes to track inbound calls and having outbound calls built into your prospective and existing customer touch points.  Most people didn’t have cell phones yet to consider a mobile strategy.

Continue with me on the stroll down memory lane to take a look back on at Adwords over the years, taking note of when you entered on your own PPC journey.

October 2000: AdWords began with ads only showing on the right side with prices starting at $10 CPM for the bottom, $12 for the middle and $15 for the top unit.

May 2003: Content Network launched with over 100,000 sites saying “Google AdSense improves the overall web user experience by bringing relevant, unobtrusive, text ads to web pages rather than disruptive, unrelated ads such as pop-ups and animations.”

August 2005: Hello, Quality Score. Keywords previously held the status of normal, in trial, on hold, or disabled. Quality score introduced a new minimum bid to make your keywords active or inactive.

November 2005Content Network Bids. Previously, your bids had to be the same for the Search and Content Networks, which left many advertisers uninterested due to the high pricing.

March 2006: Content network demographics.  You could now target based on a whopping 22 demographic options such as age, gender and household income (the stuff we take for granted now).

October 2006: AdWords Editor rolls out to the masses.  (If you think Bing Ads Editor is slow, this was worse. However, we didn’t know better at the time because it was so amazing. Gone were crazy excel spreadsheets for campaign creation or mass changes. It was my new best friend.)

January 2008: CPA Bidding rolled out. It was limited to accounts with 200 conversions in the last 30 days (300 in the beta version) if you used Conversion Optimizer for the search and content network.

November 2008: The first iteration of Keyword Planner is released. (This really helped take the guesswork out of keyword research.)

September 2009: The Opportunities Tab rolls out to all English-language accounts.

November 2009: The first Ad Extensions. Sitelinks looked the same way at the start as they do today. These were followed in the same month with Product Listing Ads.

March 2010Remarketing is released to the masses, but is limited to the content network. (Many of my clients at the time were too hesitant and reserved to try this. They didn’t want to come across too strong to their target audiences.)

May 2010: The beta version of Broad Match Modifier launched in just the UK and Canada. (I remember when it rolled out in the US and the scramble to try it out. It was really exciting to those of us who felt “stuck” in the exact and phrase match world.)

August 2010: Enhanced CPC is introduced.

January 2011: Negative Keyword Lists were introduced. (I loved this change.)

October 2011: Dynamic Search Ads entered the scene.

October 2012:  The ability to link Google Analytics and AdWords. (Oh man did this make PPC management easier and better).

June 2013: Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) rolls out after being in beta for a year.

August 2013: Compare Dates option added. (I totally remember toggling dates back and forth as I look at results for trends.  This was such a welcome feature that really hasn’t been around all that long).

October 2013: Ad Rank evolves again to now include ad extension impact.

July 2014: Product Ratings added to Product Listing Ads.

February 2015: Call-Only Campaigns introduced in response to the rise of smartphones.

September 2015: Gmail Ads are available for all advertisers with keywords, affinity audiences, demographics, and topics targeting available.

February 2016: Google quietly moves forward with removing right-hand search ads.

June 2016: The official shift to mobile happens with the introduction of Expanded Text Ads, Responsive Ads for Display, and the ability to Adjust Bids by Device.

December 2016: You can now add and make bid adjustments to Audience Lists at the campaign level.

February 2017: Automation continues with the addition of automatic call extensions.

November 2017Promotion Extensions rollout in the new interface just in time for the holidays (These are one of my favorite new features in the new interface).

Let’s face it, digital marketing is constantly evolving and it’s just not going to stop. For the New Year, I hope you can look back and remember just how far Adwords has come and get ready for what’s coming in 2018.

Which Adwords innovation have you loved the most?  Did I miss yours?  Comment below to share your memories before and after that change!