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Smart Google Ads campaigns are one of the easiest ways to dive into the world of PPC and digital marketing.
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If you’re a busy small business owner and want to know if Google Ads could work for your business, getting started is easy.
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Here’s everything you need to know about Smart Campaigns, how to use them, and whether you should be using them for your own business.
For example, you need to learn keywords, negative keywords, targeting, custom audiences, ad expansion, geo-targeting, determining when to bid and when not to bid, etc.
But when you’re running a small business where your job description fits every role, it’s nearly impossible to find the time.
To adequately explain what Smart Campaigns are and what role they play in the Google Ads suite, we need to start at the beginning.
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Google released AdWords Express in 2011 with the intention of simplifying their original sophisticated platform into a more intuitive way to advertise with Google.
From bidding to keyword research, creating ads and more. It’s like a full-time job to run one account to its maximum potential.
In 2019, Google integrated it into the Google Ads suite and renamed the section “Smart Campaigns”.
Instead of a separate panel and URL, you now need to create Smart campaigns by creating a new Google Ads campaign and selecting the “Smart” campaign type.
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Smart Campaigns still maintain a simple user experience and are much easier to navigate for someone with either (1) limited time and resources, or (2) little to no experience with pay-per-click advertising.
As with any advertising, in order to benefit from ads, you must be selling products or services, whether through a local brick-and-mortar store or an online store.
With Smart Campaigns, you can showcase your business’s ads on the search network, mobile targeting, Google Maps, and even Google website partners.
Smart campaigns are still a great advertising product for small businesses with small budgets who lack technical expertise.
Failed Google Ads Campaigns
Smart campaigns have a much, much simpler interface than regular campaigns. The campaign overview gives you everything a PPC beginner needs to know at a glance.
At the top, you can see a preview of the ad, a breakdown of information about your company and the goal of your campaign. You will then see impressions, clicks and amount spent.
The main report shows impressions, clicks, ad spend, conversions and actions on a map. Because this campaign had a “Calls” goal, it shows “Call Clicks” instead of regular conversions.
Here you can control your budget, geo-targeting and category and information about your business. (Business categories and information help Google automatically target keywords relevant to your business.)
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Smart campaigns are no more primitive in their targeting options than regular campaigns. The main difference is that Google’s algorithm handles most of the advanced decisions.
So with simplified options, you spend much less time on the platform to ensure it runs smoothly.
Google fully automates the work and creates ads based on your website and your Google My Business profile. They consistently optimize and tune based on best practices.
Of course, you can edit the text of these ads by clicking the “Edit Ad” link below the ad preview.
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For example, if you run ads for your local business, it will automatically target an audience searching in your area or display your ads directly in Google Maps listings.
Compared to regular campaigns, you don’t need to manage dozens of tools, reports, and bid adjustments to achieve success. (However, not having this access also has its drawbacks, more on that later.)
If ease of use is all you care about, meaning you’re relatively new to PPC, Smart Campaigns is a fantastic starting point.
It only takes 15 minutes to set up your first campaign and ad, while a regular Google Ads account can take you hours, if not days.
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Instead of wasting custom audiences, IFs, remarketing and various targeting metrics, you can let Google do it for you.
Based on the location or category of your business, Smart Campaigns target users in your area who are most likely to buy.
You don’t even have to lift a finger to achieve precise audience targeting – a task that usually takes months of refinement.
If you still want control over which keywords you target, you have the option to manage which search phrases or keywords you target or exclude from your campaigns:
Google Display Ads
You can access these options by clicking the “Manage All” link in the “Search Phrases” section of the overview.
Here you can enable or disable any search queries that Google’s algorithm deems relevant to your business. You can change this setting with the button in the “Status” column.
If you’re looking for simplicity with results for your bottom line, you should consider Smart Campaigns over the entire Google Ads experience.
At first glance, smart campaigns look incredibly convincing. It can even be hard to understand why everyone doesn’t use them.
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Unfortunately, the Google Ads Smart Campaigns interface doesn’t give you as much access and control over your data.
It’s meant to be simple and easy to use for small business owners who want to get a little more exposure in local search or Google Maps.
First, most advertisers will quickly outgrow the platform. In just a few weeks, this probably won’t be enough to get the maximum benefits from PPC.
Smart Campaigns is an excellent testing platform to see how well you can do with PPC, but it’s far from perfect.
Google Adwords Screenshots
In fact, in a recent BrightLocal study, the majority of PPC marketers surveyed said regular Google Ads campaigns were far more effective than Smart campaigns (in the AdWords Express chart):
Because simplicity can be helpful for busy business owners, but it doesn’t provide them with the tools that are integral to success in Google Ads.
With Smart Campaigns, you submit your targeting to the Google algorithm. This may not be a bad thing, but it gives you much less control over where your ads appear.
Negative keywords are a great feature that allows you to save money on showing ads for the wrong search queries.
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Negative keywords help you filter out the spam keywords that are costing you money. For example, let’s say you’re getting clicks on “car dealership” but you only rent new vehicles.
While you can do this to some extent in Smart Campaigns by checking and unchecking search phrases, it’s not specific enough because even simple match types can greatly affect negative keywords.
For example, if you want to exclude the word “free” from your keywords and nothing else, you must enter it with quotes (“free”) to ensure that searches with that word are not removed.
With a maximum radius of 40 miles for user targeting, there are also limited options for expanding your business. If you open a shop somewhere else in the city, you have to create a new campaign from scratch instead of just adding a location.
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Another problem is the placement of ads. While Smart Campaigns have most placements like regular campaigns, you don’t get to decide where to show your ads.
This means you have little control over tailoring your ads to each placement, which is likely to result in lower conversion rates. (And more money spent on advertising.)
Simplicity, automation and time saving features are great. No one objects to that. But they also limit your potential for optimization and success.
To start a smart campaign, you need to register your business on Google My Business and get registered on Google Maps.
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But why would you choose Smart Campaigns over the entire Google Ads landscape, even if you’re a local business?
The truth is that smart campaigns are tailor-made for a small business with a few employees. If you’re busy with day-to-day activities but could use a few extra customers, Smart Campaigns could be for you.
It’s designed for business owners who wear many hats and manage everything from sales, finance, marketing to deliveries.
If you don’t have three to five hours a week to devote to managing Google Ads, smart campaigns will generate traffic for your business (online and offline) without any problems.
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If you’re interested in building your PPC strategy to become a massive part of your customer acquisition strategy, then you’ll probably need to move away from smart campaigns in the long run.
Smart Campaigns is a great place to start if you’re new to PPC, but it shouldn’t be the way you run your campaigns forever.
If you decide to start a business with smart Google Ads campaigns, here are five essential tips to help you on your way.
If you don’t set a budget and stick to it, you can expect the budget to go quickly.
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And because you have limited access to information from the reports, it’s not as easy to track back your ROI.
Unless you’re using third-party conversion tracking software, which is unlikely if you’re using Smart Campaigns, it’s important to start small.
Smart campaigns are created
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