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Smart TVs, smart watches, smartphones; putting the intelligence of a technology right there in the name subtly sends consumers a signal that they’ve made a smart choice.

So it is with Google Ads Smart Campaigns, the simplest way to advertise on the world’s most popular search engine.

But exactly how smart is this self-proclaimed smart tool?

To find out, let’s conduct a bit of a Google Ads Smart Campaigns review.

Let’s find out exactly what Smart Campaigns are, who they’re built for, and what they can do.

And along the way you’ll discover the best way to advertise on Google for your business.

What are Google Ads Smart Campaigns?

Running a Google Ads campaign is a complex task. You need to conduct keyword research. You need to build custom audiences. You need to learn geo-targeting, ad extensions, and the most efficient and effective bid strategies.

If this sounds like it’s a full-time job, that’s because it is, which is why running a Google Ads campaign is best left to professionals like Traction.

But there’s another, simpler way: Google Ads Smart Campaigns.

In 2011 Google recognised that its Ads platform, while offering endless capability and adaptability to those in the know, could feel a little overwhelming to beginners.

They subsequently released Google AdWords Express, a simplified version that automated and simplified much of the complexity.

Rather than being greeted with endless buttons and options, it streamlined the Google Ads experience.

Campaigns could be set up in 15 minutes or less, and monitoring their progress was simple.

In 2019 Google renamed AdWords Express to Smart Campaigns and integrated it into the Google Ads Suite.

It now comes up as a campaign type labeled ‘Smart’ when you create a new campaign.

Google Smart Campaign PC

How do I create a Smart Campaign in Google Ads?

The next question: how to create a smart campaign in Google Ads. The answer: the tool almost does it itself.

When you sign up to Google Ads, Smart Campaigns will be set as the default campaign type.

Once you sign into your Google Ads account it’s then a simple matter of clicking the ‘+ New Campaign’ button at the top of the page, under the heading ‘All Smart Campaigns’.

At this point Google will guide you through the process of setting up your first campaign. If you’ve dipped your toe in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising before, you might be surprised at how simple it is.

Follow the step-by-step instructions and your campaign will be ready to launch in no time.

Why should I use Google Smart Campaigns?

Smart Campaigns is designed with a very specific user in mind: the one who wants to make the most of Google Ads, but who doesn’t have the knowledge to run a fully-fledged campaign themselves, nor the budget to pay a professional marketer to do it.

There are two main advantages to using Smart Campaigns:

1. Usability

Smart Campaigns features a far simpler user interface than regular Google Ads. It offers up the only most critical KPIs, such as impressions, clicks, conversions and spend, and greatly simplifies the settings page so you can make basic adjustments to your campaign with a few quick clicks.

2. Savings

The simplicity of the user interface can give the impression that Smart Campaigns are a primitive version of Google Ads. That, however, is not the case – advanced decisions are still made, the algorithm just takes care of them.

With Smart Campaigns targeting and optimising themselves, you save both the time of doing this yourself, and the money of paying someone else to do it.

At this point it’s perhaps wise to ask ourselves: are Google Ads Smart Campaigns all sunshine and lollipops?

Why should I use Google Ads instead of Smart Campaigns?

Why should I use Google Ads instead of Smart Campaigns?

The use of Smart Campaigns represents a trade-off: you gain simplicity, you lose control. Google Smart Campaigns open Google Ads up to a wealth of people who wouldn’t have otherwise used the tool.

For many of these new users, Smart Campaigns will be the stepping stone to bigger and better marketing. That said, the tool itself is inherently limited.

The full Google Ads experience offers a number of benefits that lay far beyond the capabilities of Smart Campaigns:

1. More targeting options

Using Smart Campaigns means you relinquish almost all control over the targeting of your ads. This can be a great thing for those who don’t have the time or knowledge, but it’s not so great for campaign efficacy.

Those familiar with Google Ads will know a slight targeting tweak here and there can make all the difference. Adjusting the age, location, gender, and economic status of your preferred audience allows you to focus in on the most relevant people possible.

Google Ads also offers awesome reporting functionality in which you can create and track custom metrics. This is an invaluable feature for those looking to squeeze all the juice they possibly can from their campaign.

2. Access to more campaign types

Smart Campaigns offers up a limited suite of ad campaign types. Switching to Google Ads grants you access to the entire Google suite: search, display, video, shopping, apps, and more.

You can get your brand in front of a larger number of more relevant eyes, in more places, and focus on the channels that work best.

3. More control over your marketing budget

Unlike Smart Campaigns, Google Ads facilitates exact keyword matching. Let’s say you’re an emergency plumber in Christchurch.

Ideally, you’ll want your ad to be displayed when someone types in ‘emergency plumber Christchurch’.

The limitations of Smart Campaigns mean that you might come up when someone simply types in ‘plumber’, even if they aren’t in your area.

Setting exact keyword parameters in Google Ads allows you to focus your budget on only the most relevant keywords, ensuring you get in front of only the most relevant eyes.

It also allows you to set maximum keyword bid limits, ensuring cost-effectiveness.

4. Greater return on investment (ROI)

The result of the increased control described above? A greater return on your marketing investment!

The ability to monitor, test and tweak every aspect of your campaign means that you will ultimately get more bang for your marketing buck.

You’ll be able to create cost-effective and highly targeted advertising campaigns that truly resonate with your audience. All it takes is a little extra effort and knowledge…

… unless you get a team of experts to do it for you.

Should I use a Google Ads expert?

Digital marketing is a deep and complex field. Every business worth its salt is now investing in marketing, which makes it incredibly difficult to gain traction.

There’s a science to standing out amongst all the noise – that’s where digital marketing specialists come in.

Digital marketing specialists can capitalise on the wealth of functionality offered by Google Ads.

They can ensure that the best channels are used, the most relevant keywords and audiences are targeted, and that the return on your marketing spend is maximised.

By choosing the right team of experts you can be confident that they will quickly pay for themselves.

Using Smart Campaigns is to some degree about crossing your fingers and hoping you get lucky.

Expert digital marketers take the luck out of the equation, replacing it with knowledge, experience, and highly effective strategy.

When you pay for this expertise you’ll generally enjoy a return that exceeds your investment.

As a marketing tool, Smart Campaigns pales in comparison to Google Ads. It’s easy to use, sure, but only because it hands control over your marketing to bots.

While automated algorithms are smart, they still lack the nuance that a truly successful campaign requires.

It’s also worth pointing out that if every business is using the same tool, the likelihood of standing out is low.

Google Ads vs Smart Campaigns: which is right for me?

Don’t get us wrong – Smart Campaigns certainly have their place. They are a fantastic way for beginners to familiarise themselves with the basics of advertising on Google.

You might also find the resulting campaigns to be quite effective, despite the simplicity of the tool.

So if you don’t have the time to learn the intricacies of Google Ads, nor the budget to hire an expert, Smart Campaigns are a great place to start.

But Smart Campaigns should always be treated as the stepping stone that they are. Your ultimate goal should be to use the fully-featured version – Google Ads – to its incredible potential.

You could train yourself up and do it yourself, but most business owners simply don’t have the time.

That’s where the friendly, expert Traction team come in.

We bring the Google Ads knowledge that your business might lack, which we use to create the most effective campaigns possible.

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