Understanding Google Ads Smart Campaigns

Google developed a great tool with Google Ads but they realised a number of years back that in order to keep growing their market share they need to make it more accessible to small business owners that may not necessarily be marketing professionals.

After playing around with trying to simplify the platform wholesale they came up with the idea of specific campaign types that are much simpler to set up and manage – Smart Campaigns.

These campaigns are a streamlined method to advertise on Google, utilising advanced AI technology to manage much of the process on your behalf. Particularly suited to small businesses or those with limited time or expertise in complex advertising strategies, Smart Campaigns offer a practical solution. Essentially, Smart Campaigns are a category of Google Ads that employ AI automation to expedite and simplify the management of your pay-per-click campaigns.

With the ease of use there is the pay-off that you have to put a lot of trust in Google and inevitably the performance lags behind what an expert can do with the more complicated campaign types but if you are not skilled in marketing and are keen to give Google Ads a go yourself then they can be a good starting point.

Google started this idea with an earlier tool called ‘Adwords Express’ but then it became part of Google Ads when it was rebranded as the “Smart” campaign type.

Benefits of Smart Campaigns

  1. Simplicity: Smart Campaigns are like the easy button for ads. If you’re new to advertising or just want something quick, they’re perfect.
  2. Time Saver: Setting up and managing Google ads campaigns is a full-time job because you need to work constantly on things like bidding strategies, ad copy optimisation, keywords expansion, audience targeting etc. Smart campaigns are all about automation. They continuously monitor the performance and make necessary improvements to optimise the results.
  3. For someone new to Google ads, understanding the normal reporting features is a daunting task. There is a ton of data available and it’s difficult to focus on the right metrics. With smart campaigns, Google offers a simplified dashboard featuring only the primary metrics such as impressions, clicks, conversions etc. so it’s easy to understand for someone new to Google ads.

Downsides of Smart Campaigns

  1. Limited Customisation: Because Smart Campaigns keep it simple, you don’t have as much control over your ads, bidding strategies, targeting compared to standard campaigns.
  2. Maybe Less Conversions: Smart Campaigns are so automated that they might not bring in as many customers as other types of campaigns. You are putting all of your trust in Google.
  3. Not suitable for advanced marketers: Experienced marketers with in-depth knowledge of digital advertising may find Smart Campaigns too restrictive, as they lack the advanced features and granular control offered by other campaign types.

Comparison between Smart vs Standard Search Campaigns

1. Ease of Setup:
– Smart Campaigns: Quick and easy setup, perfect for beginners. Minimal steps involved, and ads can be up and running in as little as 15 minutes.
– Standard Search Campaigns: More complex setup, involving detailed selections of keywords, ad groups, and ad copy. Requires a deeper understanding of Google Ads.

2. Control Over Campaigns:
– Smart Campaigns: Limited customisation options. Google’s algorithms handle much of the decision-making, providing less control over ad placements, targeting, and bidding.
– Standard Search Campaigns: Greater control over every aspect, including keyword selection, ad creation, bidding strategies, and targeting options. Ideal for advertisers who want more hands-on management.

3. Campaign Flexibility:
– Smart Campaigns: Designed for simplicity, suitable for small businesses with minimal advertising budgets. Ideal for those looking for a set-it-and-forget-it approach.
– Standard Search Campaigns: Suited for businesses with larger budgets and specific marketing goals. Offers flexibility in budget allocation, ad scheduling, and advanced targeting options.

4. Keyword Management:
– Smart Campaigns: Utilises “keyword themes” suggested by Google’s algorithms. Less granular control over individual keywords and match types.
– Standard Search Campaigns: Allows advertisers to select specific keywords, choose match types, and implement negative keywords for better control over ad relevance and targeting.

5. Ad Customisation:
– Smart Campaigns: Limited customisation with pre-filled ad content. Advertisers can modify the content to meet their needs.
– Standard Search Campaigns: More creative freedom in crafting ad copy. Advertisers can create multiple ads per ad group, experiment with different messaging, and use various ad extensions.

6. Performance Monitoring:
– Smart Campaigns: Offers simplified performance monitoring which is easy to understand.
– Standard Search Campaigns: Requires more hands-on monitoring, especially in the initial stages. Daily attention may be necessary to optimise performance, adjust bids, and fine-tune targeting.

7. Targeting Options:
– Smart Campaigns: Limited targeting options, primarily based on geographic location. Device and demographic targeting options are more straightforward.
– Standard Search Campaigns: Offers a wide range of targeting options, including location, device, demographics, and audience targeting. Bidding adjustments can be made based on specific criteria.

8. Learning Curve:
– Smart Campaigns: Beginner-friendly with a shorter learning curve. Suitable for businesses with limited time or advertising experience.
– Standard Search Campaigns: Steeper learning curve, requiring a more in-depth understanding of Google Ads. Ideal for advertisers seeking a comprehensive grasp of campaign management and optimisation techniques.

How to set up Smart Campaigns?

Google encourages new users to opt in to Smart Campaigns by default. In order to set up a traditional standard campaign on the search network, you’ll have to click on the “Switch to Expert mode” during the first part of the signup process as shown below.

If you already have an account running and want to create a smart campaign then you can do this by clicking on ‘Create campaign’ and then select ‘Smart’ as the campaign type. Here are the steps on how to set them up:

  1. Landing Page: The first step is to provide the business name and the landing page where you tell Google where to send people when they click your ad. It’s like giving them a direct path to the most relevant page on your website. For example, if you are a business selling silver necklaces then you will want to send users to your necklace page, not your home page. Google scans the page to find the information about your business and suggest ads and keyword themes.
  2. Content for Ads: Google helps you make ads by giving you some starter info. You can tweak it to create your own custom ads.

3. Keyword Themes: In a standard search campaign, you have to make a list of keywords with different match types but smart campaigns keep things simple. Instead of picking specific keywords for your ads, Smart Campaigns use “keyword themes” suggested by Google. These are groups of related phrases that help your ads show up when people search on Google. Google recommends a maximum of 7-10 different keyword themes. You’ll want to choose keyword themes that are similar to searches that you believe people will conduct on Google in order to find your services.

4. Location: You pick the areas where you want your ads to show.

5. Budget: You set a daily budget to control how much you spend.

That’s pretty much it. Once you’re done, you can just sit back and wait for your account to be approved. After your account is approved, Google will create and run your ads for you and do the optimisation.

In a nutshell, Smart Campaigns are like the beginner’s guide to Google Ads. They’re perfect if you want things simple and don’t have much time or experience. But if you’re a marketing professional or need more control over the targeting, creative and reporting, regular Search Campaigns might be more appropriate. Remember, it’s all about finding the right fit for your business and tweaking things along the way.

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