Google AdWords is an incredibly tough platform to adjust to, let alone to find success with.
The number of details that you have to be aware of to successfully run an AdWords account is mind-boggling.
There are countless metrics, tools, and graphs to use and analyze.
Enter: Google AdWords Express.
But what exactly is it? What can you do with it, and are the results as good as normal AdWords?
Here’s everything you need to know about AdWords Express, what it is, and who should be using it.
The number of details that you have to be aware of to successfully run an AdWords campaign is mind-boggling.
You have to master all kinds of things.
Keywords, negative keywords, targeting, custom audiences, ad extensions, geo-targeting, determining when to bid and when not to bid, etc.
I could go on and on and on.
But when you’re running a small business where your job description fits every role, it’s almost impossible to find the time.
And hiring an outside PPC agency can be expensive.
Google AdWords Express is here for you.
What is AdWords Express?
Google released AdWords Express to the public in 2011 with the goal of simplifying their original, complex platform into an easier way to advertise with Google.
Essentially, the idea was to automate and simplify everything.
With regular Google AdWords, you have countless factors to manage.
From bidding to keyword research, ad creation and more. It’s literally a full-time job to run a single account to its maximum potential.
Even the overall AdWords dashboard can be overwhelming to a new user:
And that’s where Google AdWords Express excels.
By simplifying the user experience, AdWords Express is much easier to navigate for someone who either (1) has limited time and resources or (2) little to no experience with pay per click advertising.
Beyond being simplified, Google AdWords Express is meant for businesses to take advantage of sales.
Meaning you have to be a local business with a brick-and-mortar shop or running an online store to advertise on AdWords Express.
With AdWords Express, you can get started in just 15 minutes and have live ads up and running.
Where do your ads show?
Using AdWords Express, you can showcase ads for your business on the search network, mobile device targeting, Google Maps, and even Google website partners.
So, what are the benefits? Why should you use it over AdWords?
Why Should You Use AdWords Express over AdWords?
AdWords Express often gets a bad rep. Many see it as pointless and a waste of time.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Express packs a diverse set of tools that you can find on regular AdWords accounts. But the upside is simply spending less time on the platform to ensure that it’s running smoothly.
The biggest benefit of AdWords Express is optimization and automation.
Google fully automates the experience, creating multiple ads for you that they consistently optimize and tweak based on best practices.
Once ads are developed, Google picks the best placements depending on your business type.
For example, if you are running ads for your local business, they will automatically target audiences searching in your area or show your ads directly on Google Maps listings.
The entire selling point of Express is #SimplifiedAcquisition.
Compared to AdWords, you don’t have to manage dozens of tools, reports, and bidding modifications to find success.
If ease of use is a concern to you, meaning you are relatively new to the PPC space, Express is a wonderful starting point.
It allows you to have some control over your account without overwhelming you with too many features.
Setting up your first campaign and ad takes only 15 minutes to do, whereas it could take you hours, if not days, to do it on a regular AdWords account.
Targeting is another amazing feature with Express.
Instead of fudging with custom audiences, IF functions, remarketing, and diverse targeting metrics, you can let Express do the work for you.
Based on your business’s location or category, Express targets users in your area who have the highest propensity to purchase.
You don’t even have to lift a finger to get accurate audience targeting – a task that normally takes months of refining to master.
If you still want control over which keywords you target, AdWords Express gives you the option to manage which search phrases you target or exclude from your campaigns:
Giving you control over the basics and automating the rest, Express is compelling, to say the least.
If you are looking for simplicity on your end with results for your bottom line, you should consider Express over the full AdWords experience.
But what about the potential downsides?
The Downsides of AdWords Express
AdWords Express is very compelling:
Spend less time to achieve great results and a return on investment.
Sounds promising right?
But not so fast.
Just because you spend less time, that doesn’t make it better.
When it comes to PPC, more information is almost always better.
Making informed decisions for your business requires data.
And unfortunately, Google AdWords Express doesn’t have as much data.
It’s meant to be simple and easy to use for any business owner looking to get a bit more recognition on local search.
But these upsides can become downsides fast.
First off, the platform is very easy to outgrow. Within just a few weeks, it likely won’t be enough for you to get maximum benefits from PPC.
AdWords Express is a great testing platform to see how well you can get by with PPC, but it’s nowhere near optimal.
In fact, in a recent study by BrightLocal, the majority of PPC marketers surveyed stated that AdWords was much more effective than Express:
Because simplicity can be effective for busy business owners, but it doesn’t provide them with tools that are integral to success on AdWords.
For instance, negative keywords.
Negative keywords help you filter out the junk keywords that you are getting clicks for. For example, if you were getting clicks for “used car dealership” but you really only lease new vehicles.
These clicks would likely result in almost no conversions and tons of wasted money.
Negative keywords allow you to filter those out.
While you can somewhat do this on Express by checking and unchecking keywords, it’s not specific enough, as even simple match types can massively impact negative keywords.
For example, if you just want to eliminate the word free from your keywords and not anything else, you’d need to enter it with quotes (“free”) to ensure that any search with that word is eliminated.
With a maximum 40-mile radius for user-targeting, your options for expanding your business are limited, too.
Another issue is ad placements. While Express comes standard with most of the same placements as regular AdWords, you can’t decide where you showcase your ads.
Meaning you have little control over customizing ads to each placement, likely resulting in lower conversion rates.
Overall, AdWords Express downsides lie just beneath the surface of its upsides.
Simplicity, automation, and time-saving features are great for just that. But they also limit your potential for optimization and success.
Who Can Reap the Biggest Rewards from AdWords Express?
Google AdWords Express is meant for local businesses with a brick-and-mortar presence.
You have to register your business with Google My Business and get listed on Google Maps to advertise on Express.
So already, the pool of candidates is much more narrow for Express than for typical AdWords accounts.
But, why would you choose Express over the full AdWords even if you are a local business?
The group that can reap the biggest rewards from AdWords Express tends to hit these key factors:
- Small business with local presence
- Small budget
- Fewer employees
- No money for outside hires / agencies
The truth is:
Express is tailored for the small business with a lower number of employees. If you find yourself running your own business with just a few lower-level employees, Express is for you.
It’s meant for the business owner who wears multiple hats, running everything from sales to finance to marketing.
If you don’t have five or more hours a week to dedicate to AdWords management, Express will generate tons of traffic (both online and offline) for your business.
If you are interested in building up your PPC strategy to become a huge part of your customer acquisition strategy, then you’ll likely have to branch out from Express in the long run.
Express is a great place to start if you are new to the PPC world and can’t afford the time and money that typical AdWords account management can require.
3 Essential Tips for Success on AdWords Express
If you decide to start your venture on AdWords Express, here are three essential tips to guide your journey.
Tip #1: Start with a small budget.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Google AdWords Express is that it’s budget-based.
Because Google pretty much controls everything else.
If you don’t set a budget and stick to it, you can expect that budget to go fast.
And since you have less access to reporting information, tracking back your return on investment isn’t as easy.
Unless you are using outside conversion tracking software, which is unlikely if you are using Express, it’s critical to start small.
Express is built to test the waters of PPC, not to dump thousands into each month.
Start by creating a small budget and work your way up to a comfortable budget based on your reported success in the dashboard.
Once you’ve done that, you can either consider increasing that budget or making the jump to the full AdWords experience.
Tip #2: Schedule your ads with business hours.
Just recently, AdWords Express added new features to give users more control. Perhaps the best (and most impactful) one was ad scheduling.
For example, are your current business hours limited to 9-5? Do you only have people on phone lines from 1-5?
Depending on your business, ad scheduling can make a big impact on how well users convert.
If you are running ads that drive phone calls after hours, those calls cost you money that you aren’t capitalizing on.
Using the new ad scheduling feature, be sure to set your ads to business hours or customize them on a day-to-day basis depending on your needs:
Tip #3: Use outside call tracking software.
Call tracking is tough. It’s essentially taking an offline activity (phone calls) and turning it into online metrics.
And unfortunately for users, AdWords doesn’t provide detailed call tracking.
With Express, you can only see area codes, dates, times, and call durations:
While this can give you a generalized idea of conversions, it’s not foolproof.
Call length doesn’t necessarily ensure sales.
And just knowing the area code doesn’t help you track a conversion.
For instance, if you are a local business, the majority of your calls will be local.
Meaning all of those area codes in the verified calls report won’t tell you anything. You will have no clue which actual, full phone number converted and from what source or keyword.
This makes it nearly impossible to understand which calls were generated by ads and which weren’t.
Instead of banking on these vague reports, use an external call tracking software like CallRail. By connecting it directly to AdWords, you can start tracking full phone calls in just a few minutes with features like free call recording.
When someone calls your business, CallRail will log their information into your dashboard. This includes information like phone numbers, full names, locations, keywords, and sources:
This gives you a clear picture of who converted and where the lead was generated from.
Using an external call tracking software is essential to have better phone call tracking on AdWords Express.
Google AdWords Express is one of the easiest ways to launch your PPC strategy.
If you’re a small business owner who wears countless hats, it’s sometimes impossible to dedicate an extra five hours or more per week to AdWords.
And that’s why AdWords Express is successful.
By simplifying your options and automating the process, you barely have to touch the platform to drive customers and sales.
Express automatically targets ads to locals in your business area to drive website visits, online sales, and offline store visits.
It’s a great, cheap way to bring in more sales.
If you are a local business that can’t afford an outside agency to run your AdWords account, AdWords Express is for you.
What do you think? Are you using AdWords Express already? Is it working for you? Or you plan to give it a try? Let us know in the comments!