Stop Using Google Ad Express

If your website doesn’t organically rank well in search results, Google Ads(formerly known as Adwords) can be a great way to get your website near the top of more search results. This can make your business much more visible and help drive traffic and sales to your website.

This can make Google Ads a great tool for businesses looking to bring in more business if you know how to use it. The downside is that if you don’t have a lot of experience using search ads you can end up wasting a lot of money.

Google steers many of it’s novice users to use their Ad Express service, which ends up being an especially bad option for most users. This article will attempt to explain in depth the reason why Express is such a bad advertising option and what you should do if you’re wanting to start advertising on Google.

Stop using Google Ads Express

 What is Ad Express?

Google’s Ad Express (formerly Adwords Express) is a simplified version of  Google’s advertising platform aimed at small business owners. It promises to make setting up and running online advertising easier and more accessible for small businesses who often have limited resources and digital marketing expertise.

If you go through the process of setting up a new Express account, you can see that Google has streamlined things a lot to make it easy for anyone to start an ad campaign in as little as 15 minutes. All you have to do is answer a few basic questions about your business and  the ad campaign you want to create. These questions include:

  1. Where do you want to direct customers that see your ad? Do you want them to visit your website, call your business, or travel to a physical storefront?
  2. What your monthly budget is for online advertising
  3. What geographic area do you want your ad to run in?
  4. What type of business do you have?
  5. What are some keywords relevant to your business?
  6. What do you want your ad to say?
  7. What your monthly budget for this campaign?

That’s it, your campaign is set up and Google takes care of the details. Sounds great, right?

Why it is Not that Simple

While the goal of making online advertising more accessible to small businesses is a noble one, Express is not a good solution to this problem. Express provides novice users with the illusion of control over their ad campaigns, but there are a number of important factors that Express doesn’t give you control or access to. It goes beyond just streamlining the process and ends up with forcing users into default settings that benefit Google and increasing the cost for advertisers.

Using Ad Express is kind of like buying a used car at full price sight unseen and just taking the seller’s word for it that it is a good deal for you. Would you do that if you were buying a car? No, you would do some research on the car title, take a test drive, and have a mechanic look it over before committing to the sale. If you can’t do those things then you would probably go and look elsewhere for a better option.

Ad description vs. reality

Part of the problem is that we’re used to trusting Google a lot of the time. They provide a number of great products and services, such as Gmail, Youtube, the Android OS, many of them for free. Do you ever wonder how they pay to run all those free services? It’s because they’re really good  at making money from their advertising business, and they work hard to bring in as much ad revenue as possible.

Even when working with the full Google Ads interface, it’s a good rule of thumb not to blindly use automated suggestions or default settings. Much of this is designed to get you to spend more money on with Google, not to help you get a good return on your marketing budget.  

What Ad Express leaves out

So what are some of the factors that Ad Express leaves out? Here are a few of the most important ones:

1.Cost Per Click (CPC)– In the full Google Ads, you get to choose the price you are willing to pay for each click you receive. With Express you just give Google a monthly budget and it gives you a range of how many clicks you may get in return, but there are no guarantees you will get that many clicks.

2.When your ad is shown: The default is that your ad is shown 24/7, but for most businesses it doesn’t make much sense. If, for example, you’re trying to get people to come into a retail store with your ads, it doesn’t make sense to run your ad when the store is closed.

3.Broad Keywords– Ad Express only lets you use broad keyword targeting. This means your ad will not only be shown for search terms that contain the exact keyword you entered, but also the keyword’s synonyms, singular/plural forms, misspellings, or similar  terms or phrases as decided by Google. So for example, the keyword “blue tennis shoes” could end up showing for search terms like “colorful basketball sneakers” or “tennis equipment”. This usually means your ad ends up getting shown in a lot of search results that are unrelated to what you are advertising, and this leads to clicks from people that aren’t really looking for what you are offering, costing you money.

4.Ad networks– By default, Google Express runs ad campaigns on all three of Google’s ad systems, of which the classic ads you see in Google search results are only one. The other two systems show your ads on websites that sell ad space through Google, and generally the quality of the traffic they bring in is much lower than from the Google search engine.

5.Having the right keywords– Express offers suggested keywords based on the business category you choose, but usually these are fairly generic keywords that aren’t going to bring in traffic that will convert well. You can enter your own keywords, but finding the right keywords takes some research and can have a big impact on the campaign’s success or failure. Express doesn’t explain any of this, but it encourages you to put in the first few keywords you can think of and move on with setting up the campaign.

6.Negative Keywords– Almost as important as regular keywords are negative keywords. Negative keyword help you further refine with type of search terms you want your ad to be shown for. For example, if you were advertising for a restaurant using the keyword “pizza”, you might use negative keywords like “frozen” or “recipe” to stop your ad from being shown for people looking for frozen pizza or pizza recipes instead of a place to order pizza from.

How to Switch from  Express to the Full Google Ads

New Google Ad accounts now automatically start off as Ad Express accounts. The good news is that it is relatively easy to switch over to the full Ad account if you know where to look. All you have to go into the account settings and switch on “expert mode” to get the full Google Ad interface. The sad thing is that if you didn’t know to look for it, you would probably miss this option and assume that Express is all there is to running ads with Google. If you already have existing campaigns from Ad Express, these will be copied over automatically to the full Ad account, but to improve performance you will have to change the settings that Express didn’t give you access to.

As nice as it would be if there was an easier way to effectively set up search campaigns, the fact is it’s a complex, ongoing process requires time and expertise to do well. Taking the time to educate yourself a little bit about the online advertising can save you a lot of money and headaches in the long run. If you can’t take the time to do that, hire a marketing consultant or agency that you trust will look out for your best interests and let them manage it for you.