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AdWords Express Is Dead, Long Live Smart Campaigns

AdWords Express

RIP AdWords Express. Not a surprise to anyone, it has been officially subsumed by Google Smart Campaigns.

Smart Campaigns were introduced in July of last year, with the intention of simplifying the ad-creation experience for small business owners. Smart Campaigns is built on the same technology platform used to power AdWords Express but it offers more features and capabilities and improved performance.

Smart Campaigns don’t require a website; ads are goal based and optimization is handled by Google:

For 90 percent of small business owners, the main goal of advertising online is to get customers to call, visit a store, or make a purchase. When you use Smart campaigns, we’ll ask how it’s working for your goals, so we can fine-tune your ads to get the results you care about most.

Early tests last year, according to Google, showed that Smart Campaigns had 3X better performance than AdWords Express.

AdWords Express was formally rolled out in 2011, the successor to a product called “boost.” Google never publicly released SMB adoption metrics and the conventional wisdom was that it wasn’t particularly effective — although, in the recent past, performance was reportedly improving.

In a 2017 LSA survey of roughly 100 SMB marketing services providers (newspapers, yp publishers, agencies, tech companies) we found that the most common tool being used (57%) to manage paid-search programs for SMBs was AdWords Express. While this was a small sample, it came as a shock to me that AdWords Express was dominant vs. Kenshoo, Acquisio, Matchcraft, etc.

It’s very likely that we’ll see Smart Campaigns similarly used by third parties for campaign management — perhaps much more frequently than self-service adoption by SMBs. But the language and presentation of Smart Campaigns (and related Local Campaigns) is aimed at convincing SMBs that paid-search is now easier to do.

At LSA19, there’s a panel on Ads and AI, exploring issues of ad performance and how automation will likely affect agency staffing and related issues. Will automation bring more self-service; will it improve SMB churn; will it bring more margin to third party sellers?

The Future of Ads Will Be Automated

Responsive search ads, universal app campaigns, smart campaigns: the future of digital advertising will be automated. How well will these ads perform and what are the staffing implications for agencies and media companies in the next 3 to 5 years?

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