Google Ads Smart Campaigns are positioned as an easy-to-use, hands-off approach to running ads in Google. They are completely controlled by Google, using their algorithms to decide what’s best for your business.
This hands-off approach can be appealing to small businesses, who have limited time and budget. However, the ‘benefits’ of Smart Ads can actually be a drawback to small businesses trying to get found for what they sell, in their local market. When budgets are smaller, every dollar needs to deliver cost-effective results. While Google Ads certainly is the best place for smaller businesses to reach new customers, Google Smart Ads may not be the best choice.
With Smart Campaigns the setup time is quick – usually around 15 minutes, and requires simple data entry about your business and the products or services you provide.
Google then creates one ad, targeted to a 40-mile radius around your business, showing across all their ad networks.
Since you have very little control over your actual campaign, you’re relying on Google to spend your budget as it sees fit.
The inability to control where your ad displays is the first limiting factor with Smart Ad Campaigns.
Google Smart Ads are shown on both the Google Search Network and the Google Display Network. While the Search Network can reach people while they are actively searching for specific products or services, the Display Network reaches people who aren’t even necessarily searching for products or services at all. For businesses with smaller budgets, this can result in wasting your budget pretty quickly, on unqualified leads.
Limited Ad Creation and Targeting
Google Smart Ad campaigns are limited to one set of ad copy that’s displayed across the entire ad network. This limits the flexibility to showcase your business for what you do best. Plus the fact that you cannot expand your targeting beyond a 40-mile radius, means you can not expand or grow your business outside of these limits.
Search Terms – Google Smart Campaigns Have All the Control
Based on your type of business, Google chooses a list of search phrases that will trigger your ads. These search terms can often be broad and vague – and you do not have control over the words being used.
Depending on your vertical market, this can result in overspending on clicks for generic terms – as these generic terms are often the most competitive, with higher bid prices.
Bidding on broad terms also lowers the likelihood of the lead turning into a customer. The person clicking the ad may not even be looking to buy your products or services.
Businesses see the best return on their ad spend when they are able to choose more specific search terms describing what they do. The inability to control this within Google Smart Ad Campaigns is potentially the biggest down-side for small businesses, with smaller budgets.
No Negative Keywords is a Negative
Just as bidding on the right words is key to campaign success, so is eliminating the negative keywords you most definitely do not want to be found for. A local mechanic business does not want to advertise to a do-it-yourself type looking for instructions. The inability to specify negative keywords within Smart Ad Campaigns can result in paying for clicks that are not specific to getting new customers
Your Budget Spend is Decided Entirely by Google
With Smart Ads, you set your budget, and Google decides the best way to spend it. You cannot set a max cost per click – which again leaves you vulnerable to spending your budget quickly on irrelevant or broad search terms.
Limited Reporting on Your Ad Performance
Google Smart Ad Campaigns offer a simplified version of reporting – containing only a few performance metrics: impressions, clicks, click-through-rate, and conversions. This is due to the limited control you have over your ads. You’ll be able to see surface-level data like clicks and impressions, but you’ll know very little about how they occurred.
The Machine Learning Algorithms Take Time to Learn
With Smart Ads, a certain amount of data is required to run machine learning algorithms properly. Since Google Ads Smart Campaigns rely on AI and machine learning, it may take a while to get your campaign to the level where you can actually see any benefit or improvement. In fact, Google suggests users have at least 50 conversions on the display network and 100 conversions from search ads in the past 30 days in order to be eligible for the Smart Campaign tool.
If a business is paying an average click cost of $2.50, the monthly spend to utilize these optimizations is $2,500 – This is simply not within the budget constraints of small businesses.
Google Smart Campaigns are Not a Complete Solution
A small business may be tempted to hand their full budget over to Google, with the ease of setup, and little time and skill required to run a Smart Ad Campaign. However, simply enabling a Smart Ad Campaign does not offer a full ‘get found’ solution for small businesses. Running a Smart Ad does not gain a business any free, natural traffic from Google, and does little to elevate a website’s ranking overall. For a small business, where every dollar must count, one should not overlook the importance of a well-rounded approach that focuses on paid ads, and natural traffic, from both Google My Business and Listings Management.