Getting started with Google Adwords for (y)our bootstrapped startup

The Problem

We recently re-designed the web-site of our little startup, ParrotPolls. (Update 2023: I founded Crunchmetric, which is the perfect tool to improve your team.
It’s for the teams themselves, not the HR-department.) Anyhow: Now we’re ready to launch our first1 AdWords-campaign. The problem is: how to do that?

From our real first attempt, we already know that simply creating an Adwords campaign and expecting people to signup for a trial account is not a good goal, it’s just not feasible.

The real problem is, that we don’t know what people are searching for, or rather, we don’t know what people, who are potential customers, are searching for. For example, our most popular blog-post as of this writing is one about, a browser-based video chat tool. That doesn’t help.

The Solution

Luckily, I had previously found the Paid Search Podcast, and as luck has it, episode 177 walks you through setting up a campaign that is a good starting point to figure out which keywords to use. The actual setup starts roughly 18 minutes in, here is a link to that position in the episode.

The whole idea of this approach, as understand it: We will try to appear on a large amount of searches across a variety of keywords in the beginning. After a while we will be able to narrow down the campaign to a more narrow set of keywords. If you already know the keywords that your target audience is searching for, this is probably not the right approach for you.

We will be targeting the “top of the funnel”, i.e. people who are looking for information, looking for tips. My concrete goal is to get new subscribers to the ParrotPolls-newsletter.

I’ll jot down the steps, in case you (or I) don’t want to listen to it (again)

  • Create a new campaign of type “No goals, custom”
  • Turn off “Search Partners” and “Display Targeting”
  • (Something I do, which is not in the podcast: specify to limit to certain locations/languages, because ParrotPolls is currently only available in German.)
  • “Audience”:
    • Pick one (or more) audiences
    • Choose the option “Target” (not “Observation”)
  • “Budget”: Pick a daily budget which you are comfortable to loose
  • “Bid”: Do not choose an automated bidding-strategy. Instead, choose “Manual CPC” and disable “auto-optimize CPC”.
  • Keywords:
    • use broad keywords, 2-4 words
    • if you want to try a very, very broad keyword (like “teamwork”), limit your risk by putting a low bid limit on it, like 5 cents.
    • match type: start with broad match (unmodified), because we want to find relevant keywords

Next step: Wait, then refine.

Some things to refine

  • combine two (or more) audiences
  • use different broad keywords (if you didn’t find any good ones)
  • narrow down the keywords (using “modified broad” etc.)
  • use different landing pages (maybe add some of that juicy “premium content” everybody is talking about)


  1. Actually, this is our second run at Adwords. We already tried a couple of months before, but quickly realized that we didn’t really know enough about our target audience to create effective campaigns. ↩︎

See also