What is Google AdWords Express Advertising, and Does It Work?

Google has been continually in the process of improving their search algorithm, and a good part of those enhancements involves a focus on local search, specifically when it comes to the integration of Google Places. Shown below is the current Google search engine result page (SERP) for the query “candy store.” Notice the items highlighted with the different colored boxes.

  • The blue box shows my location based on my IP address. Google automatically detects your location as it provides a more customized experience. Click to read more about how and why Google detects your location.
  • The green box shows a few very important elements for a local business. These elements include: business address, business phone number, a link to the business’ website, and a link to the business’ Google Places page.
  • The gray box shows the average rating “Arnold’s Candies Inc” has received from visitors leaving reviews on their Google Places page. If you have 5 or more customer reviews on your Google Places page you should see yellow stars—as Arnold’s Candies has below— showing your average rating. This stands out visually for the user.
  • The red box shows where the local businesses are located on a map of the area. These locations are shown with a pin-point labeled with a different letter for each business. From Google Maps, users can still see your Google Places information on the left-hand side.

All of the elements above have given local businesses organic ways to influence rankings within Google SERPs for broad business category phrases – but what about paid options? In flies Google AdWords Express to the rescue . . . DA DA DAAAA! . . . well kinda.

Back in October of 2010, Google officially released Google Boost, which was meant to provide “a new online advertising solution to help local businesses connect with potential customers in their area” by allowing business owners to easily create ads while utilizing the power of their Google Places page–  without all the hassle of AdWords (bidding, keyword selection, account set-up, etc). In July of 2011 the folks over at the “Googler” thought Boost should be rebranded to show a closer connection with their existing AdWords product. The goal was to initiate additional marketing efforts while still providing a great local advertising option for businesses. And so, Google AdWords Express was born.

The verdict is still out, for some, as to whether Google Express is valuable for local businesses. In that light, we decided to give you a quick rundown of some things we like and dislike about the product— because, ultimately each business is different— what benefits your company may not benefit others.

3 Things We LOVE About Google AdWords Express:

1. Easy Set Up:

The setup process includes a handful of very easy steps that take only a few minutes. These steps include providing your business’ information, selecting the categories related to your business, selecting your monthly budget (based on Google’s recommended budget according to the search volume for your categories), creating 1 ad (or more if you would like), and adding billing information. This means no keyword research, keyword bidding, and other maintenance is required for AdWords campaigns.

2. Local Focus:

Google Express is set up to show your ads to the surrounding area based on your company’s geographic location. Your ad will also show for location-specific queries like “canton winery” and broad phrases like “winery” because Google will detect the user’s location and consider your ad relevant. How else can you rank for a broad keyword phrase like “winery” for only relevant users based on their proximity to your company’s location – pretty amazing! In our own experimenting, which we will discuss in a future post, we have even seen our ads show for competitor’s names.

3. Local Integration:

Google Express takes advantage of multiple Google properties including Google Places, Google Maps, and Google AdWords. This integration gives a local business the opportunity to highlight their Google Places information (including positive reviews and comments), appear as an ad in Google AdWords and Google Maps, and show on Google Maps for local search queries or broad queries for users within a certain radius of the business. This integration gives a user multiple ways to engage with a business, as well as multiple impressions of a business, in a single search query—should they navigate through the various properties.

An example of how Google Express is integrated into some of these Google properties is shown to the right.

3 Things We HATE About Google AdWords Express:

1. Keyword Assumptions:


Even though Google saves you time and headache by taking control over the complicated pieces, Google just doesn’t know your business like you do, which means many assumptions are made. These assumptions occur primarily around keywords because, in the set-up process, you simply select a category and your ad(s) will show for all keywords grouped into that category. This means there is no way to add negative keywords or remove specific keywords from that category. Here is one example of how keyword assumptions can hurt your Google Express campaign.

2. Defined Target Area:


Within the set-up process you have no control over the geographic radius of your express ads – meaning your ads could be targeting users outside of your target market but most likely your ads wouldn’t reach the entire geographic area that your company serves. So once again, Google is making things easier for you, but in the process removing the ability to control very important details like where your ad shows.

3. Bid Control:

Your Google Express ads will show for a defined set of keywords based on the categories you have selected in the set-up process. You will pay whatever Google determines for these keywords because you don’t have the ability to control bidding. This means you could pay $6.00 for a keyword that is unrelated to your specific niche of the category you selected— resulting in many worthless visitors to your site. And again, the only option that assures you won’t show up for any of these useless keywords is to remove an entire category, which also removes potentially relevant phrases that could result in sales for your business.Overall, there are some glaring problems with Google Express, but with careful planning from the start the affects of these problems on your campaign could be minimal. Google Express offers a unique opportunity for locally-focused businesses to gain better control of search traffic for their specific area. I would suggest thinking through the list of LOVES and HATES above to determine if:

1. Google Express makes sense for your web marketing needs (speed, ease, etc.)

2. Google Express makes sense for your specific industry (are you a small niche in a broad industry like antique car repairs?)

3. Traditional AdWords would make more sense for you (looking for more control with campaign settings)

If, after reading this post, you’re still not sure whether Google Express advertising is for you, then leave a comment about your specific situation. I’d love to get back to you with some advice on what I would do — if I were you.

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