Why Not To Use AdWords Express

Google recently rebranded their Google Boost product, re-christening it AdWords Express. They claim that it’s an easy solution for local business owners who want to start advertising on search engine results pages quickly and without complicated account setups. Sounds great! But, unfortunately, you’re going to sacrifice a lot of potential by going the convenient route with your paid search advertising. I don’t think that AdWords Express is as good a solution for first-time advertisers as Google claims.

First off, lets explore how AdWords Express limits you in comparison to the regular AdWords product. Going through the setup process, the first thing you need to do is link your business location (listed on Google Places, naturally) to your AdWords Express efforts. This automatically disqualifies a lot of advertisers that don’t have a physical storefront, and just want to sell their goods online. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that you’re a small business owner with a location so we can move on.

Once you have your location hooked in to your new AdWords Express account, you’ll be asked to choose some categories that describe your business. If you choose a broad category or worse, and irrelevant one, your ad is going to show up to a lot of disinterested parties. This may get you some ad views, but no new business. Google is going to show your ads based on the categories you define, but there’s not much fine tuning available. All the kick-ass targeting options in regular AdWords (keyword match types, negative keywords, geotargeting, ad scheduling, etc.) won’t be available to you. And as any experienced PPC manager will tell you, Google sucks at matching broad-match queries. By relying on Google to broad-match queries to your category, you’re inviting a lot of junk traffic that is going to cost you.

Even if you do get a decent category selected, you still have to create a good ad. So what makes a good ad? You can make a decent guess, but you really won’t know what works best for you unless you do some A/B testing. But guess what – you can’t do that in AdWords Express! Sucks to be you! Instead, you’re going to have to rely on your gut instinct of what works for your ad headlines. Oh, and one more thing – you don’t even get to choose the ad text. Instead, Google will generate a brief description of your business based on your Google Places account. No call to action, no ability to advertise discounts or promos, nothing. So you’re stuck with a crappy ad and shoving it out to a broad category of internet users. That’s bad mojo for PPC.

So what should you do instead? Make an AdWords account. It looks a lot harder than it actually is, but if you devote a couple hours to learning the system you’ll find that it’s a wise investment for your business. To keep things simple, just pick a couple of phrase-match keywords that are relevant to your business (after doing your PPC keyword research, of course), group them into ad groups of 5-10 words that are highly relevant to each other, and create two text ads that incorporate the main keywords of each ad group and test two different value propositions. I’m grossly over-simplifying AdWords account setup, but if you do those simple steps I can almost guarantee you that you will see better results than AdWords Express. Better yet, find a good PPC freelancer who can help you out. There’s no need to spend a fortune on PPC, but if you take the cheapest and easiest route, you’re going to be disappointed in your results. Don’t let Google take control of your search engine marketing. It’s your business, and you know what’s best for it.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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3 Responses to Why Not To Use AdWords Express

  1. Scott Clark says:

    Pretty much anytime Google says “leave it to us” people should clutch their pocketbook close to their chest.

    I manage millions in PPC and can say that, in the almost 10 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never come upon an account wasting less than 30% of their budget. I would guess that a 50% number applies to Adwords Express, as it amounts to generic ads written on broad match keywords and no negatives or keyword insertion.

    A pass of keyword research (pos and negative) and match-type tweaks fixes half of it. Recursive testing of ads and landing pages does the rest. Cost per sale can be cut in half. Investing in a freelance firm to audit and repair conventional adwords is a one time cost that will be forgotten as the savings roll in for years to come.

  2. Yes, AdWords Express guarantees mediocre returns over time. I’m kind of surprised they haven’t added more functionality to this version. As you have both stated – being stuck in broad match w/out negatives, w/out ad testing is a highly questionable ploy by Google. They’ve gotten sued over tricks like this before, you’d think they’d be a little more careful.

  3. Chris Denny says:

    Found you for the phrase “Adwords Express sucks”. Nice article I’ve forwarded on to folks.