Adwords at 15 – a look back


Adwords at 15 – a look back ...

Last week Google AdWords celebrated its 15th birthday. The official launch date was the 23rd of October, 2000, but Google has never been one for exact birthdays and decided to celebrate it last week. As we acknowledge this milestone, we look back into a brief history of Google’s paid search advertising platform and how it has changed over the years.

Did you know that Google AdWords was not Google’s first advertising platform? Its first platform was in fact called Premium Sponsorships, in which advertisers would bid to appear at the very top of search results on a CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) basis, launched just months before AdWords. The AdWords listing would appear down the right hand side of the Search results.

In 2000 when AdWords launched, Google said users were conducting 20 million searches per day. This figure has now reached 3 billion, with half of these coming from Mobile devices.

When AdWords first launched, it had just 350 advertisers. Today, over a million businesses are actively using the platform and bringing in tens of billions of dollars of revenue for Google. Google reported $16.8 billion in ad revenues across its platforms in Q3 2015. This is up 13% year on year.

At equimedia we have used Google AdWords since its inception, continuously adapting our Paid Search activity to cover all the different features that Google have introduced over the years.

Below is a brief history of major changes Google has made to AdWords over the last 15 years:


  • 2000 – Google AdWords launches 2 months after Premium Sponsorships was launched 
  • 2003 – AdWords expands globally – across 218 countries
  • 2004 – Premium Sponsorships discontinued – Top positions made available as part of the AdWords platform
  • 2005/2006 – Quality Score is introduced – advertisers now have to have relevance between keywords, copy and landing pages
  • 2010 – YouTube TrueView ads
  • 2012 – Google Shopping – product search
  • 2013 – Enhanced campaigns – forces advertisers to think more about their Mobile strategy
  • 2015 – More ways than ever to find businesses and apps on the go as the world goes Mobile

Sponsored links make their first appearance in the Google Search results in 2000 – the top listing is a “premium sponsorship” listing and the ad on the right is an AdWords ad:

google search first sponsored link in 2000

Image source:

Example of Google Search results for “credit card” in 2010. The top paid search listings contain Sitelink extensions. The search results page itself also looks neater:

2010 Google search for credit card

Today, the search results page for the same search query has changed significantly – notice all the different features that Google has added such as Location extensions, seller reviews, callout extensions and sitelinks:

2015 Google search for credit card

At equimedia we expect to see usage grow even further in the next 15 years’! 


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