Curious but nervous about search advertising for your small, local business? Google’s paid advertising product, AdWords, comes in a training-wheels version called AdWords Express that’s a fast and easy way to try out search engine marketing. Just understand that you give up most of the control of your ad campaign to Mother Google. Here’s what you need to know about AdWords Express:
Setup Is Easy
You need a Google business account and an AdWords Express account, including a credit card number. Next, try a Google search for “AdWords Express promotional code”—the company is pushing the product with free credits.
Create Your Google Ad
Creating an ad on the Express website or mobile app takes a few minutes, once you get the hang of it—you only have to flip through five screens. And if you get stuck, you can call a help line and talk to an actual Googler.
You select your business type from a list and pick a target geographic area (choices include a city, state or 15-40 mile range from your business)…enter a website address (or use your Google business page if you don’t have a website)…enter a phone number or opt for Google to create a number for the ad that will forward calls to your phone (at no extra charge)…and write your text ad (you can see what it will look like as you write it).
To set your budget, you toggle a little slider bar that shows a daily dollar cost, an estimate of the number of clicks your ad will likely get at that cost and the competition at that cost, in other words, the percentage of your competitors who will be paying more than you for a better ad position.
For instance, a hamburger restaurant in Santa Monica, CA, could pay an average $17 a day or a maximum $529 a month for an estimated 329 to 549 clicks on the ad per month, and land in the middle of the competition at the 50% mark.
And that’s it. Within 24 hours, your ad will be on the Google desktop and mobile versions, including Google maps, plus some partner websites. As with any Google pay-per-click ad, you only get charged for clicks and you can turn your ad campaign off at any time.
Once your ad is live, an easy-on-the-eyes dashboard shows you the numbers of clicks and calls generated by your ads, plus your spend. You can connect your Google Analytics account to Express for detail on how many new visitors the ads are pulling in, also track visitors actions on your website to see if they hit goals, such as filling out a form.
What’s Going On Under the Hood
The work that makes pay per click advertising so challenging but so precise—choosing keywords (search terms), tracking which keywords are bringing in leads and which are failing, writing and re-writing ad copy, testing ad copy, watching costs per click and overall budgets—all gets outsourced to Google’s algorithms. Googlebots will even write entirely new ads, test those against the ones you write, and go with the winner.
What You Give Up for All This Convenience
Troll the discussion boards for AdWords Express, and you’ll see complaints that the available categories are too broad for the particulars of some businesses. “I need a category that will work for ‘furnished apartment’ or ‘corporate housing’,” writes “HomeLink Cincinnati C”, “Google wants to throw me in with ‘apartments’… The apartment category eats my budget up almost immediately with -0- results due to the fact it isn’t relevant.”
In Original AdWords, HomeLink could buy just the phrase “furnished apartment” or tell Google to block non-performing terms like “apartment rentals” by designating then as “negative keywords”. But that’s not available in Express, which uses a “broad match” in AdWords speak, serving up your ad to a one-size-fits-all bucket of search terms. However, you can see on your AdWords Express dashboard which individual key phrases get the clicks.
Express also can’t match Original’s targeting capability: That Santa Monica hamburger restaurant could aim an ad for its Tuesday lunch special just to mobile-phone users within two miles between 11 AM and 1 PM on Tuesdays.
The Bottom Line
AdWords Express is worth a try on a small budget, particularly as a first step to gain some experience with search engine marketing. You may find your business lines up just fine with Google’s canned categories and the wasted clicks you pay for are still cheaper than hiring a consultant to run your search engine marketing program. However, chances are pretty good that you’ll outgrow Express and move on to Original AdWords, as you gain sophistication and the competition online gets tougher.