Google announced a big shake-up recently with Google Adwords (and a few other features) coming together and renamed Google Ads.
They’ve been making a lot of noise about it – emails, notifications and so on. But let’s face it, a new name and a new logo might be exciting to everyone at Google HQ, but what we really need to know is what’s in it for us!
And one of the key new offerings is something that’s most definitely aimed at small businesses – Smart Campaigns.
Smart Campaigns aim to take the complexity out of managing pay per click campaigns by automating most things (bids, ad content). You tell Google your goals (online purchase, phone calls, request directions) and it does the rest using machine-learning algorithms. Smart campaigns will collect data from many of Google’s platforms and services, e.g. search, YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, and even the Google Play store. All of this information is analyzed and used to help Google Ads dynamically adjust a campaign’s keywords, bids, and ad placements.
Goodbye Adwords Express
Basically Smart Campaigns are a grown-up version of Adwords Express which they will replace (although if you are currently using Adwords Express, these ads will still run).
Like Adwords Express, these are aimed at small businesses who don’t have the budget or expertise to manage full Adwords campaigns and particularly local businesses. Think bricks and mortar businesses like salons and restaurants, and also local services like plumbing or pet sitting.
With Express what you gain in simplicity you can often lose in lack of control – Google chooses the keywords and its interpretation can be very broad. You’ll certainly pay more per click with Express than with a well managed Adwords campaign. But without the management overhead it can be worthwhile for some businesses. However, most businesses I’ve spoken to who tried using Express got very poor results.
Smart Campaigns won’t give you any more control, but they should – in theory – be more intelligent.
Will they achieve that?
Over the years, Google has been offering more and more automation elements into Adwords to reduce the amount of management required. Things like target cost per acquisition (CPA) bidding where, instead of setting a maximum cost per click, you tell Adwords how much you are willing to spend to acquire a customer and it does the rest.
The trouble is that Google’s algorithm doesn’t understand your business like you (or your PPC manager) does. And machine learning requires sufficient transaction volume to be able to make sensible choices. Something that small businesses will struggle with.
Last year I ran a split test for a client to trial CPA bidding – and the results were awful. Our Google account manager confided that we were not alone in this!
So it remains to be seen just how smart “Smart Campaigns” really are.
Smart Campaigns are being rolled out now in the US and should be available to us in the UK shortly. I’ll be keeping a close eye on how they perform.