Google Adwords: Smart Campaigns or Manual Ads Campaigns?

Author - armstrong-admin

Google Ads campaigns be highly effective at lead generation and sales if they are set up correctly. They are currently available either as smart (automated machine learned) or manual (managed by us humans).

So if you are thinking about setting up a Google Ads campaign for the first time, let’s compare the two to see the relative strengths and weaknesses.

Google Smart Campaigns

When you first login to set up a Google Ads campaign you will be steered towards smart campaign with Google making it slightly more difficult to find the path that leads to manual campaigns.

I might be cynical but this looks to be a ploy to guide the inexperienced towards Smart campaigns so that Google retains control over when and where ads are shown.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing

Let’s look at the pros of smart campaigns…

Setting up and managing Google Ads campaigns yourself carries many potential pitfalls for the inexperienced and a lot of money can be spent for very little reward. Smart campaigns will almost certainly bring faster results in terms of traffic to a website than setting up manual campaigns if you have never used Google Ads before. Smart campaigns are also faster to get up and running than manual ads which require a lot of set up work.  

Unlike the old Adwords Express, which would give users virtually no control, Google Smart Campaigns also give some control of keywords used and the ability to ad negative keyword lists once campaigns are up and running. This can save money being wasted on irrelevant searches.

The cost per click can however be cheaper and you will probably get a lot more traffic at a lower cost than you would on a manual Google Ads campaign which is good for raising brand awareness without breaking the bank.

These are the benefits of setting up Google Smart Campaigns but what about the cons?..

As we have already touched on Smart Campaigns might be easy to set up and manage but as with anything in life that’s easy, it comes at a cost. In this case that is surrendering more control over where and when ads are shown and to what audience.

You also don’t get the very detailed analytical reports you find in standard Google Ads campaigns and you won’t have all the options to tweak targeting, audiences and the types of ads you want to show.

Another drawback is relying on artificial intelligence. While this has come on in leaps and bounds even in the last 5 years, it still can’t be relied upon to pick up on the subtleties of language in the way us humans would. So there is always the danger that keywords that have no relation to what you are selling pop up on keyword lists.

One a campaign is up and running it will also take longer to refine a Smart campaign than it does a manual campaign where you will know quite quickly if your keyword targeting is off-track and your ads are showing to the wrong audiences. Relying on Smart campaigns means you may be dipping into Google Analytics reports to get a better idea of what’s happening.

Manual Google Ads campaigns

If you don’t fancy allowing Google’s imperfect artificial intelligence to go off and do its work with your cash, manual campaigns could be the better answer.

The pros of manual Google Ads campaigns

One of the big advantages is of course the control you will get. You can choose a much more extensive range of keywords with search campaigns rather than be limited. You can also have much more control of when ads are shown when you are armed with extra data that shows the days and times where your website visitors are more likely to convert.

Manual Google Ads also offers greater flexibility and more options to test different advertising strategies. You may for example want to look at combining display and search ads or limiting your advertising to search. Within a manual campaign, you can create multiple ad groups and analyse which performs best and makes the best use of budget.

In terms of audiences you will also get much more control over the type of audience that see your ads.

The cons of running manual Google Ads campaigns…

Perhaps the biggest drawback to manual ads campaigns is the time it takes to manage them effectively. While some automation is available such as capping budgets, setting end dates and the days, hours when your ads will be shown, it still requires a lot of monitoring of campaigns to ensure they stay on track.

Unlike smart campaigns which will set bids automatically if your go down the full manual route, you will find yourself logging in and out frequently to adjust bids so you continue to compete with rival advertisers.

Fortunately, there are ways you can get the best of both worlds and allow Google to manage bids to get the best return on budget.

Certainly for the inexperienced, Google Ads can be a challenging advertising channel. They do offer various training modules that teach basic and more advanced techniques as part of their partner programme which are well worth looking at to improve knowledge of the platform and the different ways you can advertise depending on the products or services you sell.