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How to get started on Google Ads with Smart Campaigns

5 min readLorenzo SignorettiLorenzo Signoretti

When you're first starting out on Google Ads, the experience can be a bit overwhelming. There are countless targeting and bidding options to choose from, keywords to set, and ad copy to write 😮‍💨. Luckily for us, Google has created Smart Campaigns (formerly known as AdWords Express) to take some of that burden away (not to be confused with Smart Display Campaigns nor Smart Shopping Campaigns).

With Smart Campaigns, your ad will automatically show to potential customers across Google Search, Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail, and the Display network. You just need to set a budget, choose a theme of keywords to target, and write the right ads. The first two steps are fairly trivial, but finding the right ad copy to attract new clients can be quite challenging and time consuming—a tool like ours can certainly help in that (more below).

Smart Campaigns can be set up in just 15 minutes and can help you drive traffic to your website and increase sales. Sounds too good to be true? Follow this guide, and you too can get some amazing results in just a few minutes.

What are Google Smart Campaigns and who are they for?

Let's start with what separates Smart Campaigns from the rest of Google Ads' solutions. There are pros and cons to using both tools, so it's important to understand what each of them is best suited for.

In a nutshell, the main difference between the two is in the degree of customization they afford. The regular Google Ads (also known as "Expert mode") gives you the most flexibility, while Smart Campaigns are meant to get you started in as little time as possible. With Google Ads, things can get complicated fast.

Comparison between Google Ads' Smart and Expert modes

Needless to say, if you have very stringent audience targeting requirements, or if you are looking into other sophisticated campaign settings, then you should not opt for Smart Campaigns (go read our article on 5 mistakes to avoid when setting up your campaigns on Google Ads instead).

Here are some of the other differences between Smart Campaigns and Search Campaigns according to Google's official guide:

Comparison between Smart Campaigns and Search Campaigns

In short, Smart Campaigns are the right fit for anyone who has limited time and resources and who has little to no experience with pay per click advertising.

How to get started with Smart Campaigns

Smart Campaigns are the default option when you're using Google Ads' Smart Mode. This is a simplified version of Google Ads designed to streamline the advertising experience. If you've ever attempted to sign up for a new Google Ads account, you may have noticed that, by default, Smart Mode is already enabled for you. As long as you don't switch to Expert Mode (Google Ads), every campaign you will create in Smart Mode is a Smart Campaign.

If you're already using Google Ads' Expert Mode, you don't need to create a new account nor to navigate to a separate tool. In fact, you can create a new Smart Campaign as you would any other type of campaign. Just select "Smart" as the type for your new campaign:

Smart campaign selection

Limitations of Google Smart Campaigns

Google Smart Campaigns limitations

Due to their simplicity, Smart Campaigns have some limitations, some of which we already mentioned. This simplicity can be very attractive (who wouldn't want to grow their sales with as little effort as possible?), so it's important to keep the shortcomings of these simplified campaigns in mind—before pouring a lot of advertising budget into them. Here are some of the most important things to consider:

  • You can't use negative keywords to exclude some topics. Let's say, for example, that your bike-repair shop didn't sell new bikes. On Smart Campaigns, you would have no way of excluding people who are searching for "new bikes" instead of looking for the repair services that you offer.

  • You have no control over the specifics of your campaign, and you need to trust Google to be optimizing for your goals. In other words, you need to be confident that your campaign is not being wasteful.

  • You only have visibility on high level performance data. Only impressions, clicks, CTR and conversions are given back to the advertiser. Were you looking for a breakdown of your performance by the hour? Sorry, you're out of luck.

  • You can't set up custom conversion tracking on Google Smart Campaigns. This means you have lower control over what is defined as a verified lead/conversion.

How to optimize Google Smart Campaigns

Smart Campaigns growth

Regardless of their shortcomings, Smart Campaigns can be a smooth sailing experience for most people, especially for those who are just starting out on Google Ads. But sometimes, they just don't work out of the box.

While they only offer very basic customization options, you can still turn around an underperforming campaign around, if you know which levers to pull:

  • Improve your ad copy: With so little options to choose from, you must make sure you're using the right message to present your business to your potential customers. If you were doing that on your own, this could easily take many hours. A professional copywriter can easily ask for thousands of dollars, so—depending on your budget—Adflow could be a better solution to maximize your ROI from Smart Campaigns. Did you know we also have a Chrome Extension?

  • Adjust the campaign's budget: Depending on the kind of business you're running and the products you're selling, you might just be bidding too low. Many factors contribute to ad performance beyond the budget, but you should always remember that high competition always makes running ads more expensive.

  • Tweak delivery scheduling: Smart Search Campaigns offer the opportunity to customize the scheduling. This can be extremely effective for local businesses—as we have highlighted in our dedicated guide.

  • Improve your Landing Page: Google crawls and evaluates every page that your campaigns is directing traffic to. You can check how your page fares with tools such as Google's very own Page Speed Insights. Your conversion rates may be poor if your landing page doesn't load quickly, isn't relevant to the end user, or simply doesn't provide a pleasant experience.

  • Be patient: Smart Campaigns take time some time to ramp up. After it is created, a Smart Campaign will try a few combinations of targeting, setting keywords, placing ads, demographics, and more to find the one that can deliver the best results. The process can take from a few days to a month.


Closing thoughts

There is a significant reduction in the input necessary from business today compared to the past. Google Smart Campaigns are an example of how access to an online presence is being democratized—but they're not for everyone. In short, we learnt that Smart Campaigns are best for users who:

  • Are brand new to advertising on Google
  • Are limited on time or resources
  • Want to generate extra revenue without much work

But beware: Smart Campaigns offer a very simplified experience. After a period of time, you will likely find your sales stalling. There are only so many settings you can edit on Smart Campaigns, the most important of which being the headlines and desctiptions that make up the copy of your ad. That's something we know very well here at Adflow. Create an account for free today and start growing your business with Smart Campaigns and Adflow.

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