Monday, December 22, 2014

PPC Ad Platform Comparison: Google AdWords – Standard vs. Express

Google AdWords is the Pay per Click (PPC) advertising platform that Google has offered for many years.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I just recently tried using its “lite version” Google AdWords Express.

Google's Search Engine Marketing (SEM) platform gets plenty of criticism, but it's what keeps Google in business.  So it must be effective for enough companies.  It's probably a mistake to discount it altogether.

At this point, I am not an expert of either the standard version nor the express version of AdWords, but I will share what I’ve learned so far about each of these by giving a breakdown of each.

Also, at the very bottom section, I make my recommendations of when it makes sense to use each of these.
Google AdWords Express

Biggest Benefit: Google AdWords Express is EASY to setup.  The first time you setup a business and ad campaign on it, it might take you 15 minutes, at the most.  Subsequent setups will take you between 2 and 5 minutes.

AdWords Express is easy to setup.  There are very few choices to make:
  • Campaign Title & Description
  • Target Website URL
  • Target Location (either by a distance radius or by listing specific cities/zip codes)
  • Target Keyword/Market Category
  • Daily/Monthly Budget
  • Use Your Phone Number or Special Google Tracking Number

Other Cool Benefit #1:
Budget: When you set your ad campaign budget, you can move your pointer along a sliding scale from left (less expensive) to the right (more expensive).  As you do this, you see how much you are spending each day, and it translates that into the monthly budget.

The best part, though, is that Google AdWords Express shows you the approximate percent (%) of your competition bidding LESS than you.  So if you are bidding 25% more than your competition, this version of AdWords is telling you that three-fourths (3/4) of your competition is OUTBIDDING you.

I don’t think that the regular standard version of AdWords offers this unique insight.

Other Cool Benefit #2:
Keywords:  Google AdWords Express will actually choose the keywords for you.  It does the best it can to guess which keywords are the best fit for what you are trying to advertise.  As the ad campaign runs, AdWords Express shows you the number of clicks and views each keyword generates for you through that specific campaign.

Google AdWords (Standard Version)

Biggest Benefit: The standard version of Google AdWords is MUCH more flexible than the lighter Google AdWords Express.

Benefit Flexible Point #1:
Date & Time Ad Runs: You can set specific day and time blocks that certain ads will run.  For instance, if you do not want any leads during the weekend, you can select to run your ad ONLY during the weekdays.

You can even select your time.  For instance, if you only want leads during standard business hours, you can choose options for your ad to run only during those times.

Benefit Flexible Point #2:
Keywords:  Sure, Google AdWords has the Keyword Planner available for its users, and that is nice.  However, what I like about Google’s standard PPC platform is that it allows you to select which keywords are used for which campaign.  You can even select which words to exclude.  You can match ads that people see with certain keywords.

Benefit Flexible Point #3:
Ad Format: In AdWords Express, you can only select a text style ad.  In the standard version of AdWords, you can select a text ad, a dynamic ad, an image ad, and more.  It is sort of like having 64 crayon colors but being restricted to use only a few of them.  It’s nice to be able to use all of the crayons, and AdWords lets you do that.

Benefit Flexible Point #4:
Ad Posting Locations: Just like in AdWords Express, you can list specific cities or a certain radius around a certain city.  However, you can also decide whether you want your ad to be seen ONLY on Google Searches, only on Google Partner Sites, or both places.  AdWords Express puts them on both without giving you a choice.

There are times where it makes sense to advertise in each area.  Often, the message you want people to see in each situation is a little different, also.  It is nice to be able to decide what people see and where.

Benefit Flexible Point #5:
Ad Bidding Amounts:  In the standard version of Google AdWords, you can select whether you can choose whether to bid specific amounts or put it on autopilot.  Even when it is on Autopilot, you can select to auto-bid higher or lower on certain keywords.

Plus, you can select certain keywords to be on autopilot while others have specific maximum bid (cost) limits.

Another Cool Benefit #1:
Data:  Overall, you can look at your ad campaigns through many more viewpoints.  You can sort your data by any category.  You can download that data.  AdWords Express shows the clicks and the views, but in there you can only see 9 keywords at a time.  The standard version of AdWords allows you to view as few as 10 keywords to as many as 500 at one time.

Also, you can see and compare the statistics between multiple ad campaigns, not just within the same ad campaign.  You can compare the performance of different ads within or across campaigns.

You can look at your advertising costs through different viewpoints.

Another Cool Benefit #2:
Conversion Tracking: You can setup AdWords to allow you to measure how effective your campaigns are.  For instance, if you have a “Thank you for registering” page, you can trigger the standard version of AdWords to count each person who makes it to that secondary page not only as a “click” but also a “conversion.”

In AdWords Express, it will allow you to measure the number of people who call the Google Tracking phone number, but has some serious limitations.

Another Cool Benefit #3:
Website to Keyword Compatibility Grading: The standard version of Google AdWords provides a score of how well the landing page (where people go when they click on your ad) matches to each keyword you choose.  If you have a low score on an important keyword, it should trigger you to do something to make it more compatible.  Google AdWords charges you more to be seen if they think your ad only marginally fits and gives you a not-so-high Quality Score.  They make it harder for you to win that bid, but that is tremendously helpful information.

My Recommendations

AdWords Express: I can think of two (2) times it makes sense to use AdWords Express.

Time #1: If you don’t want to bother.  You can just set and forget.

Time #2: If you want to get some ideas from AdWords Express (sort of like getting coaching from Google), then switch over to a standard AdWords campaign.

AdWords (Standard Version): Most of the time, this is better.  It takes more time to master, and there are so many decisions to make your head might hurt.  However, this is just plainly more powerful and flexible.

If you want to start and stop your campaign on certain days or times, don’t run AdWords Express.  It lets you make campaigns active and inactive, but you’re forced to remember to make those switches.  Plus, it seems like campaigns restart sort of slowly.  So it’s nice to set up a schedule in the beginning.

If you want to test effectiveness of certain keywords or bidding strategies, AdWords is the way to go for you.

If you have a way of measuring progress online (by reaching a certain screen), then the standard version of AdWords  is right for you.

Basically, if you don’t fall into one of the two categories within the AdWords Express section, use the standard version.

I’m still learning how to use these.  So maybe I’m overlooking something really important here.  Do you have any insight you would like to share?

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