Why You Should Stay Away From Google's Smart Campaigns
The biggest mistake you can make when you start running Google Ads is to set up a Smart Campaign.
Despite what the name suggests, Smart campaigns are almost never the right approach when looking to advertise with Google and is a surefire way to result in wasted ad spend and a campaign that does not achieve your goals (typically either increasing sales, or generating leads).
What is a Smart Campaign?
A Smart Campaign is essentially a Google Ads campaign that requires minimal effort, knowledge and time to set up, and where Google promises to run everything and make all the decisions for you. This is achieved by almost solely leaning on Google’s using its artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Smart Campaigns are a replacement for what used to be called AdWords Express back in the days when the main platform was called Google AdWords rather than Google Ads.
Here at BlueFrog Digital, we’re often seeing businesses creating Smart Campaigns without even realising it! This is because when creating a new Google Ads account, Google will funnel you through these steps by default. This is disingenuous and not conducive to achieving the best performance for the account, but rather, is an effective way for Google to control as much as everything, keep the account owner in the dark about what’s working, and making it easier for their Google representatives to encourage you to spend more.
What’s the problem with Smart Campaigns?
On the face of it, Smart Campaigns sound like a good idea.
Instead of having to undergo keyword research, campaign planning, etc, you just choose some keyword themes that Google suggests. You then write 1 ad, tell Google your budget, and poof, you’re live!
Once the campaign is live, we’ve seen very mixed next steps. In some cases, we find that volume is almost non-existent. In simple terms, this means the ads are barely showing at all which, while not ideal, at least means that you’re not wasting so much of your ad spend. What is more typical, is that the ads do begin showing, but that you will notice much of a difference in terms of getting the phone ringing.
Why don’t Smart Campaigns work?
Well, it’s because Smart Campaigns are designed to be really simple to set up. But, with increased simplicity, you also get a loss of control.
For example, you get very little control over where and when your ads are shown and what kind of searches trigger them to appear. Hence you end up paying for clicks from people who want to speak to their local bank instead of to an independent mortgage adviser.
You also, in the interests of simplicity, get given access to less data about how your campaign is performing. And although that means there’s less stuff to confuse new advertisers, it also means you aren’t in a position to improve and optimise the performance of your ads.
In a perfect world (and what Google would leave you to believe), we don’t need access to that data as Google’s AI knows more than we ever could. While that’s a scary thought in itself, the fact is that Google’s AI can only start to function effectively once it has a lot of data to work with. For obvious reasons, brand new campaigns don’t have that data.
The other thing to be aware of is the difference in goals and motivation between you/your business, and Google. As a business decision-maker advertiser/business owner, what you want is conversions – i.e. leads and enquiries. Google on the other hand, earns money from each click on your ad, not from each lead you generate. This means that Google’s machine learning is only really interested in getting your ad in front of those people who are most likely to click it, regardless of whether they are really looking for what you’re selling or offering.
As a result, a Smart Campaign will usually bring you lots of clicks (and earn lots of money for Google) but they’ll be low-quality clicks that don’t turn into business for you.