In 2011, Google launched a new service, AdWords Express, aimed at providing the easiest way to advertise on Google. In this article, I will cover some pros and cons of the service, as well as clear up a few informational elements surrounding this new advertising channel and how it differs from traditional Google AdWords. Google developed AdWords Express primarily for local businesses seeking to advertise on the Internet. Because of this, users must have a mailing address for their business, although they have the option of hiding that address by making it private.
AdWords Express is local search advertising, only easier. It takes just a few minutes to set up an ad, and management is basically automated. This means there is no need to touch the account once it is up and running. Even targeting is automated. This makes it ideal for businesses that want to advertise to a local audience, without the time restraints of actually managing the account. For example, when a user searches for "flowers in Dallas," the ad will be displayed, including a little blue or red, pin with it that marks the location on Google Maps. Clicking the pin takes the searcher to the Google Maps page for that listing. If the listing does not have a website, it will be sent to the Google Places page instead. Google also walks you through the process of setting up a "Places" page.
I find the map listing especially useful for those searching through a mobile device. With the many Google apps available, including Places and Maps, and the ability to target location based on GPS, a searcher who finds your listing can, with just a few clicks, get full directions, and voice guided GPS navigation?again thanks to Google, to your store location. How's that for delivering them right to your doorstep?
Google AdWords Express vs. Google AdWords
You might be asking what the difference is between traditional AdWords and AdWords Express. I find the main difference is in ease of setup and management. With AdWords, you perform your own keyword research, write your own ads, place and manage your own bids, and target select locations. AdWords Express does all of this for you automatically, including the keyword research. It also targets local businesses looking for local customers. If you are looking to advertise to mass audiences across the country, stick with traditional AdWords. While you can perform local search advertising through Google AdWords as well, you must setup a number of variables, combined with geo-targeting, for this to occur. With AdWords Express, it is all done for you.
As with anything, there are some pros and cons of AdWords Express, and positives within AdWords Express can also be seen as negatives, depending on how you look at it. Let's start with the pros:
Pros of AdWords Express
1. Easy-Setup/Easy-Use. AdWords Express enables advertisers to start running ads live within ten minutes. Setup is an easy four-step process that walks you through everything necessary to get started. Unlike traditional AdWords, setup does not require the user to do any time consuming keyword research, and Google even assigns bid prices based on its bid auction model.
The last step is determining a budget, but even this is automated by Google. The system automatically recommends a monthly budget, based on the data it reviews on average search volume, for the type of service or product offered.
2. Local Targeting. If you want to geo-target customers on a local level with traditional Google AdWords, you need to manually select the countries, states, and regions you want your ads displayed in from a map. With AdWords Express, this is already done, as it pulls geographic search areas based on your physical location. In addition, Google will further target your ads to show only for the category you indicate. This removes the possibility of an ad for "flowers in Dallas" showing when a user types in "shoes in Dallas." This can be done with some work and likely a list of negative keywords in traditional AdWords, but it takes a lot of time to get it right. AdWords Express saves you that time.
3. Account Automation. AdWords Express does not require you to perform manual keyword bidding or analysis. In other words, you will not have to monitor your keyword bids and adjust them accordingly to maximize your advertising efforts and positioning. With AdWords Express, Google handles this for you, to ensure the ads are displayed only at the best possible time.
Cons of AdWords Express
1) Ease-Setup/Easy-Use. I know from experience that running an effective PPC campaign that produces a high ROI requires some human intervention. There are parts of the setup/management that you can automate, but you really need a human eye to get things moving in the proper direction. This is precisely why I find the automated management portion of AdWords Express to be a negative.
When you automate a campaign, you must make assumptions about your business. And this is where many PPC efforts run into trouble. When you let a software system make assumptions about your business, budget included, you miss out on vital human aspects such as intuition, reasoning, logic, experience, and research. No matter the system, these are things you cannot easily replace. For example, when setting a budget, I find it best to utilize knowledge of the business you are advertising to set a budget that meets both your needs and objectives. Whereas Google might recommend a budget based on number of clicks it could draw, I prefer to set budgets based upon the return they will provide me, based on historical data and the constraints of the business involved.
2) Local Targeting. Traditional Google AdWords allows for targeting at the local level down to the individual town or city, so only those searching in those areas will find the ad(s). On the contrary, if you let AdWords Express decide your reach, it may be too broad or too narrow. Yes, with AdWords Express you also have the opportunity to target based on category, but consider this: What happens if you run a "rose only" flower shop and a user searches for "flowers?" Let's say this might be the "category" in AdWords Express. Will your ad show? How are the searches divided? In traditional AdWords you can use negative keywords to eliminate searches for keywords such as "tulip," or "daisy," if you only sell roses. This is not available with AdWords Express.
In my testing of the "local" option for AdWords Express ads, versus those using traditional AdWords local targeting methods, I found that performing a search for "flowers in Dallas," despite the fact that I was not located near Dallas. These types of searches are inefficient and wasteful, because they are targeting local businesses on a broad search level. On the contrary, if you used the traditional AdWords targeting methods, the ad would not have showed at all, unless I was in the exact locations that were targeted manually when setting it up. This type of targeting results in more qualified traffic and higher sales.
3) Account Automation. Full account automation can be a scary thing and one that can get you into trouble, or at the very least, not produce the best returns. I am all for automation of some tasks, even ongoing ones, when managing PPC campaigns. However, I also believe the human touch is also necessary to maximize your effort.
AdWords Express automates your campaign based on categories, not keywords, as you do not have access to keywords during setup. For example, one particular category that is available from within AdWords Express is "Guitar Store." If you own a guitar store that sells only electric guitars, then this broad keyword might attract visitors looking for acoustic guitars; not what I would consider qualified traffic. In summary, account automation in moderation is good, and a big time saver. However, full account automation might not be best for your business.
My Take on AdWords Express
No doubt, AdWords Express has a place and can be a great method for those looking to quickly capitalize on localized search within Google. I would recommend giving it a try if you are considering entering the local search realm, have no experience in managing traditional AdWords campaigns, and do not have a budget to allow a professional to mange it for you.
However, for the experienced advertiser, AdWords Express might not be your best option. The traditional AdWords interface provides more selective targeting and also can help with attracting more qualified traffic through the use of keywords, instead of category groupings, leading to better performance and increased ROI.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion marketing expert and author of a leading Ecommerce blog at TheEcommerceExpert.com. He coaches store owners using his online coaching system, EcommerceAmplifier.com, teaching how to increase website sales using his proven six step process. Contact Eric at 1-866-602-2673.
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