Adwords 101: What are the different types of Google Adwords?

When Adwords launched in 2000, there were only text ads above and to the side of Google’s search results. While those text ads are still available, there are now many different types of ads available for businesses of all types and sizes.  Here’s a brief introduction to the various options Google has to offer.


Search ads are the most familiar to people. They are the ads that appear at the top or along the sides of the Google search results page based on your search query.  These text ads can also appear in Google Shopping, or Google Maps when someone searches on your keywords.

Search ads can also appear on other search sites that are part of the Search Network. Other search sites have partnered with Google to show AdWords ads, such as AOL. So your ads might appear alongside or above search results on other relevant search pages.

There are many ways to target these ads based on keywords (what people are looking for), such as time of day, location, device, and so on.  There are also a variety of ad extensions that can include locations, sitelinks, phone calls, reviews, and more.

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) are an ad format that includes an image, title, price, your business name, etc. There needs to be a data feed in place to a Google Merchant Center account, which is then connected to Adwords.  PLAs are usually used for e-commerce sites, but there are options for “available near me” which combines a local store’s inventory and the location of the person looking for that product.


Everyone is familiar with banner ads on news sites, forums, and blogs, but did you know that many of the banner ads you see are part of Google Adwords? And not just banner ads, but text ads and rich media ads too.  Ads on the Google Display Network reach people across all types of content on over 2 million sites—from small niche blogs to sites with millions of daily views.

  1. Text Ads on the Google Display Network give you access to the largest pool of text inventory available. These are the ads you see in gmail, on blogs, and many other sites.
  2. Image Ads are the large graphic ads across the top, side, or bottom of a webpage. These are ever present on news sites, forums, and all around the web. Many people refer to them as “banner ads.”
  3. Rich Media Ads allow people to interact with an image or video.  Interactions in these ads can range from hovering the mouse pointer over an ad to expand the unit, to playing a video, or tapping for content.

One amazing feature the Display Network offers is remarketing. Remarketing shows ads to people who have visited your website before. When people leave your website without buying anything, remarketing helps you reconnect with them by showing relevant ads as they browse the web, as they use mobile apps, or as they search on Google. Remarketing campaigns can be extraordinarily successful at driving sales activity, increasing registrations, or promoting brand awareness.


YouTube advertising is technically considered part of the display network, but there are many types of advertising within YouTube, so we’re giving it its own section. As with all AdWords advertising, these ads can be targeted to specific geographic areas.  They can also be targeted to certain video topics.

  1. Display ads appear to the right of the feature video and above the video suggestions list. For larger players, this ad may appear below the player. These ads only show on desktop computers or laptops.
  2. Overlay ads (previously called in-video ads) are semi-transparent overlay ads that appear on the lower 20% portion of your video. These ads only show on desktop computers or laptops as well.
  3. Skippable video ads (previously called TrueView in-stream ads, or sometimes called pre-roll) allow viewers to skip ads after 5 seconds, if they choose. They are inserted before, during, or after the main video. These ads show on mobile, desktop, SmartTVs, and game consoles.
  4. Non-skippable video ads and long, non-skippable video ads (formerly called non-skippable in-stream ads) must be watched before your video can be viewed. Long non-skippable video ads may be up to 30 seconds long. These ads can appear before, during, or after the main video and appear on mobile and desktop.

While each type of ad has ideal applications, our favorite format is the “skippable video ad” because they display on all platforms.

The Primm Company is a Google Partner Agency

Not sure which Adwords options are right for your business? We can help.  As a Google Partner Agency we’re experts in using Adwords to drive customers to our client’s businesses.  Call or email us anytime. We’d love to help!

*Please note that the terminology used is current as of February 2015.