If you've ever wanted to get into pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to drive traffic to your website, you've certainly heard about or used Google's PPC tools. There are two very different platforms that Google offers to manage PPC, so the question most ask themselves is often, "should I use Google Adwords or AdWords Express?"
What is AdWords Express?
Google's AdWords Express platform is a stripped-down, simplified version of Google AdWords. In Google’s words, “AdWords Express is an advertising option for businesses that want to get started quickly. It’s ideal for business owners who don’t have a lot of time to manage their online advertising.” If you are strapped for time and money, as most business owners are, this probably sounds like a great deal. You quickly set up a few things and let Google handle the rest. Like anything else, though, there are some significant trade-offs.
No Experience Necessary?
When AdWords Express first came out, one of the key selling points was that businesses did not need any marketing experience to be successful. Google seems to have backed off that idea, instead now focusing on how quickly you can get your campaign up and running (kinda the same thing, though, huh). While you can certainly do just what Google promises - take only 15 minutes to set up AdWords Express and have an online advertising campaign - the real question is, does it actually work?
If you had no understanding of investments and retirement strategy, managing your nest egg alone could cost you a fortune. If you don't know how to work on a car, yet try to overhaul your transmission, you're just going to end up with busted knuckles and an even more expensive repair. Gambling your advertising campaign on 15 minutes of setup can be just as costly and just as frustrating when the results are not what you expected.
AdWords Express may be a quick way to get started - it's the EASY button of PPC - but your conversion rate will never be as high as it could be unless you invest the serious time it takes to gain an intimate understanding of the fundamentals of search engine marketing (which takes the same amount of time regardless of the platform you use).
The Trade-Offs of Express
Once you begin to understand how Google AdWords works, and the various factors that can dramatically affect your conversions, you will begin to realize the inherent limitations of the AdWords Express platform.
The full version of AdWords allows you to create and manage your own keyword list, adjust your bids for individual keywords, organize your keywords and ads into tightly grouped themes, and create custom landing pages to maximize the number of leads and sales you generate from your ad campaign. Full AdWords also gives you more targeting options, retargeting capabilities, and multiple ad types. All of these factors work together to improve your conversion rate, so it is best to retain control of them rather than allowing Google to automate the process (more on this later).
One of the most compelling reasons to choose AdWords rather than AdWords Express is analytics and conversion tracking. AdWords provides several tools to track conversions like phone calls, contact form submissions, and online sales. Conversion tracking is important because it allows you to calculate the return on investment from your advertising campaign (this is a capability that sets this type of advertising apart from all others - the most robust ROI tracking ever). Website traffic and ad impressions are important to measure, but knowing when a click is leading to a sale is invaluable knowledge. Not only does regular AdWords provide a ridiculous amount of feedback and data (so much so that it makes AdWords Express look embarrassing), but your AdWords account can be linked to your Google Analytics account, which provides even more data on the traffic you're generating. AdWords Express does not provide conversion tracking. It reports on ad clicks and ad impressions, but there is no way to determine how many of those clicks converted into leads or sales. That should be a deal breaker for any business owner, knowing just how precious a marketing budget can be.
It is tempting for time-strapped local business owners to begin with an AdWords Express campaign with plans to switch over to the full version of AdWords at a later time. There's a problem with this ideah, however: there isn't a way to change an existing AdWords Express campaign to an AdWords campaign (or vice versa). You can build a new AdWords campaign from the ground up, but you can't migrate any existing data.
Rather than taking the time to set up and run an AdWords Express campaign, only to completely rebuild it using AdWords, it just seems logical to set up the campaign you actually want from the beginning. Optimizing for conversions with either of the two platforms really entails the same learning curve, and AdWords provides much more robust customization and tracking features. AdWords Express is not necessarily a bad product, but its limitations make it a poor choice for business owners who want to maximize their ROI.
Do It Right The First Time
We often are called on to consult new clients on their PPC efforts, generally after they gave it the old college try themselves, or after they went with the brother of a friend who builds websites in his spare time. In any instance, lack of an intimate understanding of PPC and AdWords has led to untold wasted dollars (here's a case study of $10,000 in wasted dollars). In the hundreds of accounts we have audited, there have literally only ever been TWO that didn't really have room for immediate improvement. Besides those two, every other one (including those being managed by so-called "PPC management agencies" that considered themselves the gurus of the industry) was mis-managed.
A popular saying is "if you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to fix it right?" If you've got a feeling that PPC could be right for you (and it is easily the wisest place to start with marketing for the majority of businesses and organizations), we need to talk. Don't let yourself fall prey to the hazards of the DIY mentality. We're always glad to offer our expertise and skills in making your marketing budget do all it can for you (and if pinching pennies is what you do, just know that it's always way cheaper for us to manage it for you instead of hiring in-house PPC managers - just one more way to boost your ROI).
About us: Level 11 Online Marketing is a fast growing digital advertising agency that is becoming known for disrupting the status quo. We specialize in digital advertising, video production, SEO, SEM, advanced analytics, custom web solutions via website design & implementation, social media strategies and conversion optimization. Headquartered in Utah, you will find Level 11 team members in Utah, Washington, California, Idaho, and Colorado. We have the best creative minds in the industry backed up by the most talented software developers and video production teams which leads to powerful, efficient advertising campaigns.
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