AdWords is Google's ad program.

A friend of mine was just given a free $25 coupon to use on AdWords when he signed up his site neurodudes for hosting. He gave me access to the AdWords account, and I was blown away when I realized how it works.

It seems to me that AdWords is an incredibly cheap and effective advertising medium for niche topics. It can really empower "the little guy". Even $15 can probably go a long way on AdWords. For the price of a MERE CD, even the smallest personal project can get hundreds of visitors. Let me explain my wild optimism. These three properties are the key to the system:

For example, in our site, neurodudes, we are targeting a tiny niche audience. We mainly want people who are actively involved in academic research of a certain sort. Our target audience makes up a small subset of the artificial intelligence and neuroscience research communities.

So, first, we choose keywords which only our precise target audience would ever search for in the first place. Terms like "neural computation", "neural coding", and "spike timing dependent plasticity" (PLEASE DON'T go search for these terms and then click on our ad – you'll cost us money! Just use the neurodudes links on this page if you want to visit the site).

Now, the only time we are charged1 is when someone searches for our terms AND also clicks through our ad. Furthermore, because our terms are rare, there are few other ads competing with us for those searches, so often the auction doesn't take place, and we get to place the ad for the minimum price of $.05 per clickthrough2.

So, for our $25, we buy 400 clickthroughs3. That's not 400 times that our ad is displayed, that's 400 times that our ad was displayed and someone actually clicked through. And each of these people were searching for these obscure terms that marks them as almost certainly exactly the sort of person that we want to reach. So, for a mere $25, 400 members of our target audience visit our site. It's practically guaranteed, because if no one clicks through for awhile, we aren't charged anything, and we just have to wait. 400 computational neurobiologists visit our site! For only $25! It's amazing!


1. after a $5 setup fee
2. in fact, we’ve told Google’s software that $.05 is the maximum that we are willing to pay, so we are never charged more than that; if there is a real auction, we just drop out
3. ($25 - $5 setup fee) / $.05