Until a few years ago, like many internet marketers, I was focused on search engine optimisation, the practice of priming a website?s content and link popularity for improved rankings. If I?d known then that a pay-as-you-go advertising system would soon become an indispensable resource for millions of businesses, heralding a new era in online marketing, I would have invested not only in Google?s sponsored advertising from the beginning, but in its stock. From the moment I created my first ad campaign and saw the almost instant results, I was hooked.

Whereas optimisation can take months to generate search engine prominence, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising offers the savvy advertiser immediate gains, with the potential to test new markets, promote special offers and create brand awareness at the click of a button. For some, it?s a compelling pursuit. For the less attentive and effective marketer, however, there?s a risk of wasted investment.

AdWords is Google?s flagship advertising system and is its chief source of revenue: its advertising network accounted for almost 99 per cent of total revenue ($2.66billion) in the third quarter of 2006. Launched in the US in 2000 and in the UK in 2002, AdWords covers 237 countries and 44 languages, enabling subscribers to attain a real-time geo-targeted global reach, engaging web users during the search process.

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