AdWords Express: The DIY Solution for Small Business SEM

While Google AdWords is a great way to get traffic to your website, it can be tough to set up and manage appropriately. If it is managed properly, it’s possible to see a good ROI. Unfortunately, I’ve seen plenty of businesses fail when trying to do it themselves. That is why AdWords Express was created.

It provides small businesses with an easy way to get SEM ads up and running quickly and easily, and see their investment pay off. That's why AdWords Express is one of my recommendations for the DIY small business owner.

Important Note - AdWords Express has been replaced by Smart campaigns.

"Smart campaigns are Google's smart, easy solution for small businesses and helps your business get discovered on Google in those relevant moments. Powered by the best of Google's advertising technology, Smart campaigns bring you results based on your ad goal, whether that be customer calls, visits to your store, or actions on your website. Smart campaigns can be set up in just 15 minutes, and then works to constantly improve your ad around your goal, measure its performance, and show you clear, understandable results. That way, you can feel confident your advertising is delivering real results on your investment while you spend time doing what you love most—running your business." - Google Ads Help

I'll be publishing a new article with updated info, but the process is similar. Smart campaigns is essentially AdWords Express with improved features.

Get Ads up and Running in 3-Steps

AdWords Express 3 step process

Select an ad goal, create an ad, and set your budget. That’s all it takes to get started! I’ll provide a quick overview of the process.

1. Select an ad Goal

Google gives you three goals to choose from,

  • Call your business
  • Visit your storefront
  • Take an action on your website
AdWords Express Pick a goal

Choose the goal that best fits your business. If you run an e-commerce, blog, or news site, I would use the take an action on your website goal. You can create ads targeted towards users making a purchase, or to sign up for a newsletter.

The visit your storefront goal is best suited for local small businesses. You can prompt customers to visit your location, and if you're a new business, let them know you exist!

For the call your business goal, this can be useful for businesses in the service sector to get appointments and leads.

2. Create an Ad

After you choose your goal, you will have to select a location. This will vary depending on your business, but if you're an e-commerce site in the US, I'd advise choosing the US and possibly Canada, depending on the size of your business.

AdWords Express choose location

From there, you’ll have to choose your keywords. Google will have some suggestions, but you need to do some of your research. I would advise targeting precise keywords to get the most bang for your buck.

For example, if you have an auto body shop in Boston, MA, instead of choosing just broad words like “auto body repair”, it would be better to choose “fender repair” or “detailing service”. The more specific the keyword, the more relevant it will be to your customer, and the more likely they will be to make a purchase.

Remember to set realistic goals and above all else, don't neglect Marketing 101. You will need to -

  • Properly define a target market
  • Segment out unprofitable customer groups (market segmentation)
  • Define and set your market position
  • Choose keywords and ads based on your findings
AdWords Express choose keywords

The next step is to write your ad. For this, I have some tips and best practices you should follow.

Tips for Ad Text -

Tip #1 - Capitalize each word in both the ad headline and body. (Except for conjunctions like and, but, if, ect.) This helps capture attention better. For example -

Instead of writing an ad headline that looks like this
That has a description that looks like this.

Write an Ad Headline That Looks Like This
With a Description That Looks Like This. It Will Make the Ad Pop out Better.

AdWords Express Create Advertisment

Tip #2 - If your chosen goal is to get calls, I would enable the “verified calls” option. This will help you track which calls came from your ad campaign.

Tip #3 - Include a USP (Unique Selling Proposition). It's always a good idea to highlight how your product/service is different or better than your competition. What can your business do that others can't? Furthermore, if you have any discounts or promotions, definitely include those in your headline. (Examples - "20% Off" and "Fall Sale Going on Now")

Tip #4 - DO NOT LINK TO YOUR HOMEPAGE! That is the most common, and biggest mistake people make when creating their ads. Your homepage is a broad description of your business and is the least conversion friendly. You should have the ad link directly to the product or service page or build a landing page specifically designed to convert or inform customers. In other words, make it easy for the customer to find what they’re looking for after they have clicked on your ad. The ad and the page it links to should be directly related.

3. Choose Your Budget

With AdWords Express, Google will give you a suggestion based on your competitors budget. To start things off, I would set your budget to the middle of their recommendation. They will also provide you with an estimate about how many views and clicks your ad will receive for the budget you set it too.

Set budget in AdWords Express

After choosing your budget, you have a chance to review all of your settings and ads. If everything seems fine, click next to continue.

Review all settings in AdWords Express

PPC (Pay Per Click) Advertising -

AdWords Express is based on the PPC model. This means you only get charged when someone clicks your ad to visit your site.

From there, you will need to input your payment info. Remember, you only get charged when someone clicks on your ad.

Input payment info into AdWords Express

Drawbacks of AdWords Express

AdWords Express is an excellent option for the DIY small business owner. However, it does have its drawbacks.

Drawback #1: You Can Only Use Broad Match Keywords

When it comes to PPC, keywords are an essential aspect. They directly link a customers search results, and your advertisement, to what they typed into the search engine. There are a few different types of keywords you can use to improve the performance of your SEM campaigns. To simplify things, AdWords Express only uses one kind: Broad Match.

Broad match keywords will match for just about anything related to that keyword. Let's say you're selling wine glasses and use the keyword "wine glasses" for your ad. This broad match keyword will display your ad when people search for "wine glasses", "personalized wine glasses", "blue wine glasses", and other variations. (e.g., synonyms and misspellings.)

So what’s the problem with broad match keywords? They can bring in a lot of irrelevant traffic. In our “wine glasses” example, your ad could display when people search for “prescription glasses”. (Because of the word “glasses”).

Obviously, people will probably know that your site selling wine glasses isn’t what they’re looking for, but others may still click on the ad. That means you pay for that click, even though it’s not what the searcher is looking for. They end up not buying anything, leaving your site, and you pay for that click.

With the full-featured AdWords, you have more control over your keywords. You gain the ability to refine your keywords with exact match, phrase match, broad match modifier, and negative match. That can provide you with a significantly higher ROI than AdWords express, as your ads will be highly targeted towards the searchers intent.

Drawback #2: Limited Targeting Options

While you do at least have some targeting options with AdWords Express, you don’t have nearly as many as regular AdWords. With the full-featured AdWords, you can refine your targeting to age group, household income, parental status, and even make lists for customer segments. Once again, this opens up the possibility for a higher ROI.

Drawback #3: Limited Reporting

Having detailed reports can help you refine your ads, keywords, landing pages, customer segments, and much more. Also, with the full-featured AdWords, you can link your Analytics account with it for even more detailed information.

The end goal is to help the customer achieve something. As the old saying goes, “Knowledge is Power”. ”With more detailed reporting, you can gain insight into who your customers are, what they want, and how your business can help them. Simply put, having more information will help in every aspect of your business. Unfortunately, AdWords Express falls flat in the amount of information available to you.

Drawback #4: Limited Ability to Expand

Let’s say you set up your Express account, see good business, and want to invest more into your SEM campaign. After your account is set up, you can’t switch directly from AdWords Express to AdWords.

To expand your advertising campaign, you would have to begin the process of setting up a regular AdWords account. This means you won’t have any of the data your Express account collected, and have to start from the very beginning. While this isn’t inherently bad, you’ll want the full AdWords experience for expanding your efforts anyway; I think you can see how irritating this can be.

Final Thoughts About AdWords Express

Although it isn’t the best, if you’re looking to do DIY SEM/PPC marketing, Express is the right choice. It’s straightforward to set up and isn’t difficult to maintain either. You can quickly set up a campaign and get traffic to your website, and you don’t need to learn all about AdWords to see an ROI.

With this said, AdWords Express does not negate the need to work on your PPC account. You will still have to check to what ads/keywords are and aren't working. Then, try new variations of ads/keywords to see which ones work best. In other words, you still can't "set it and forget it". It only simplifies the work you have to do on your account.

However, if you do have the time to learn how to use the full-featured AdWords, I would highly advise you do. Even if you don’t have the time, you can hire a professional account manager to manage your account for you.

No matter what, small businesses have many options to choose from. Take the time to plan, set your marketing objectives, and select the best course of action for your business.

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