Oct 7, 2015
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I've got a newly acquired client that wants to up his Google Ads game. He currently has a small budget campaign ($100/mo) running on Adwords Express / Smart Campaign. Surprisingly the campaign appears to be running pretty well. Low cost per click and call conversions. Website conversions cannot be tracked, but the client see's increased contact form submissions when the campaign is running. We discussed converting everything over to a normal ads search campaign, but I am leery of stopping something that is currently working. If it ain't broke, yadda ya. What gets me is his cost per click is low for his niche (real estate). Like 22 cents. He is also getting phone call conversions at a good cost per lead for his niche. All with broad match search terms. I'm afraid if we move to a pure search campaign and his cost per click go way through the roof and things might stop working.

I am trying to find resources or just answers on Adwords Express / Smart Campaigns, here are my questions:

1. Where exactly are the express ads showing? I found Google's definition, but its vague. It does say in searches. I see there are some display ad features, as the client has images added and the ad preview shows display type ads. I was able to get the ad to pop on mobile search, but not on desktop (no images). With his cost per click, there HAS to be display ads showing. I'm guessing search plus display. Or maybe its just freaking everywhere.

2. Would you leave this campaign as is? Or is there value in testing a search campaign and a display campaign for such a low budget? If so, at what budget threshold would you start converting and testing?

3. I am also looking for deeper resources on this topic and Google Ads in general. Any documentation, guides, or forum resources are appreciated.


Local Search Expert
LocalU Faculty
Oct 5, 2018
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I am also a believer in if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But there is always room to improve, right?

I am not fully up to speed with the new smart campaigns, mostly because I despised AdWords Express, so it wasn't something I looked into when it came out. But from the sounds of it, and with a cost per click so low, you are running both Search & Display ads?

If so, before you start switching over to a search campaign I would take a thorough look through your express/smart campaign and make sure what network most of your activity is coming from (search vs display). This would also give you an idea of what your actual cost per click from search is, instead of being averaged out with the display ads.

Answers to your question:
1. I would assume that your text ads are being shown for your broad keywords, and then your image ads are showing on placements relevant to your keywords around the web. Basically, a "smart campaign" is the exact same network as a search and display campaign, it's just run/optimized by a computer and not a human.

2. I wouldn't leave the campaign since I prefer utilizing all the features available. That being said, if you don't have time to manage/watch the campaign, it might be better to just leave it as it could end up becoming more work then its worth for that low of a budget. The small budget doesn't mean you can't test anything, but if you cant track "website conversions" then that would make testing a lot harder. I would recommend running 2 separate campaigns, one for display and one for search. That way you will have a lot more control over the actual budget for each network.

3. Here are some resources for you:
Google AdWords Certified in 30 Days with PPC Course from Jeffalytics - You have to pay for this, but Jeff Sauer's material is great for beginners. (a little outdated but the concept is the same)
Community forum - Google Ads Help (the community where you can ask questions for help)
3 Key Strategies to Deliver Google Ads Success for Local Businesses - BrightLocal

Eric Rohrback

Oct 3, 2012
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My take on AW express is that I always opt to go for the full Ads interface. I like to have control over the campaign, the conversion tracking, who the ads serve to and when.

You're definitely using broad match keywords, and likely a search/display hybrid campaign. Not ideal in my opinion because you could be wasting spend on terms or placements that don't actually convert.

It sounds great that phone calls and forms have increased, but how many of those are qualified to buy? Volume is great, but if it's not producing revenue then the ROAS is poor. That's the metric that you should be asking/tracking, because the only thing that matters on ad campaigns is how much revenue you generate. If you're not trading $1 for $2+ then is it really working all that well?

If the budget is only ~$100/mo then it's tough to switch to the full Ads interface and manage. That's tough to manage and make it work. It might be worth it to run FB ads or just straight remarketing to help conversions. You really have no control of AW Express, so if they're fine with limited tracking and fee like it's worth it then it might be fine for $100.


Oct 7, 2015
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Thank you the replies. And I agree with everyone. Client says he's getting calls and leads from it, so we are going to leave it until that dries up or he is ready to move up.


Apr 5, 2013
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You can duplicate this Smart Campaign directly in Google Ads if performance drops, with the added benefit of adding in additional features. We do a lot of local business ad campaigns, and find a significant amount of clicks going to GMB rather than the website - especially in branded search. I would make sure his GMB is optimized and would monitor local conversions (which occur on GMB) in Google Ads.

Barb Davids

Apr 24, 2019
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Thank you the replies. And I agree with everyone. Client says he's getting calls and leads from it, so we are going to leave it until that dries up or he is ready to move up.

Hi! Curious how this is going for you? I have a client that I tested smart targeting with (not the smart display), we moved to text ads. Turns out the smart targeting was performing better even though there's less control.

I wonder if you found any more resources specific to smart targeting? Would love to chat with you more about it.

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