Google AdWords Express: The Pros and Cons

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Dan Slagen
Dan Slagen



Google launched AdWords Express earlier this year and coined it as “the easiest way to advertise on Google.” The sell was simple; everything is managed automatically, which ensures your ads are only being shown to people who are looking for what you have to offer. To explain the concept, Google AdWords Express uses the example of a flower business in Dallas, citing that if a user were to perform a search for “flowers in Dallas” or simply “flowers,” and that person happened to be located in Dallas, your ad would be displayed.

Google AdWords vs. Google AdWords Express: What's the Difference?

Google AdWords Express differs from traditional Google AdWords in the sense that it's specifically tailored to local business that don't have a lot of time to invest in PPC but see the value of advertising on Google. For instance, in traditional AdWords, users need to find their own keywords, set bids, and manage those bids. Within AdWords Express, Google does all of those things for you automatically...and more.

Since the launch of AdWords Express, public interest has steadily risen month over month, as shown in the graph below from Google Insights.

Google adwords express search volume via Google Trends

The big question we’ve been asking ourselves though, is whether or not this tool is truly beneficial for local marketers. As with anything, there are pros and cons, and we’ll outline the main areas of interest and concern below.

3 Pros of Google AdWords Express

1. Ease-of-Use: Your ads can be live within minutes of setting up AdWords Express. The setup process consists of 4 easy steps that take 5-10 minutes to complete, and BAM! you’re done. There's no need to even think about keywords or starting bid prices. This is a huge time saver, so you don’t have to wade through keyword tools and Excel spreadsheets with concatenations and keyword variations that can cause migraines. As for those starting bid prices, they will be assigned for you based on Google’s bid auction model. Finally, you know that budget you always worry about? Well Google will recommend a monthly budget based on average search volume so you don’t need to worry about market sizing.

2. Targeting: Google will automatically target your ads for you based on your geographical location. How easy is that?! No need to worry about segmenting by country, region, or state. Additionally, Google will target your ads to the category you specify, so if your category is musical instrument store, you’ll only show up for those categorized queries. This is another time saver; it employs Google’s algorithm to do the work so you don’t have to.

3. Automation: Say goodbye to manual keyword analysis. You won’t even need to worry about changing a bid from $1.75 to $2 or $2.25, because Google will automatically place your ad based on category selection and ensure that your ads are being displayed when relevant.

3 Cons of Google AdWords Express

1. Ease-of-Use: Most pay-per-click (PPC) managers would argue that PPC is not easy. In fact, PPC can be extremely complex and frustrating if you truly want to run an efficient campaign, especially when trying to localize. So why and how is Google making localized PPC so simple? The overarching issue is that assumptions are being made about your business, and that’s where a lot of paid search campaigns get into trouble. For instance, you shouldn't just agree to Google’s suggested budget; instead, you should decide yourself what you’d like to spend and, more importantly, conduct some research about your vertical to identify what an appropriate budget looks like on a monthly basis.

2. Targeting: How do you define your reach as a local business? Within traditional AdWords, you could literally draw your geographic targeting based on your town or city. But with AdWords Express, how will it decide your reach? Will it be too focused or too broad? Based on historical trends (broad search), it will be too broad, so be sure to follow your reach closely. As for search query targeting, Google has you select a category, which would be the equivalent of an ad group or campaign depending on the vertical. But what if you run a musical instrument shop, and searches for the word “bass” are divided among searchers interested in the shoe company, the fish, and the instrument? Will Google always show your ad on a query such as this? With negative keywords in traditional AdWords, you could ensure that your ad didn’t show for unwanted or inefficient terms, but with AdWords Express, this isn't an option and therefore, it's a concern.

3. Automation: Bid automation sounds like such a reassuring and comprehensive approach to running a search engine marketing campaign. But remember, Google is predicated upon keywords, and with Express, you don’t have access to keywords. Why is that? With Express, it’s all about time-saving via assumptions, hence the categories option. Be very careful here, because what if Google is optimizing your campaign based on search queries that actually aren't qualified for your business? For instance, with HubSpot, we cannot select 'marketing software' as a category. Our options are 'software' or 'marketing,' neither of which would be efficiently targeted ways of spending our ad dollars. Another example is acoustic guitars. The only option within categories is 'guitar store,' which is much too broad if your niche is acoustic guitars. Try your best to limit the amount of categories selected to segment out your campaigns as much as possible.

Is Google AdWords Express Right for Your Business?

As a PPC enthusiast, there are some significant concerns that local businesses need to take into consideration to ensure their budgets are being spent efficiently with Express.

There are some great benefits to using Adwords Express, but be sure to consider the pros and the cons as they relate to your specific business and industry. If you need to launch a PPC campaign within your local region quickly and are more concerned with reach and speed to market, then Express has the ability to drive local searches for your business without much time and effort. If you are concerned with quality, efficiency, and optimization though, ask yourself if traditional AdWords is the better option. In the end, it’s you who defines your business, so it should be you who defines your ad campaign, not an assumptive based algorithm.

Have you experimented with AdWords Express for pay-per-click marketing? What do you think?

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Topics: Google Ads

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