Google Ads Smart Campaigns: What Are They And Should You Use Them?

If you ask PPC professionals about the best way to run a smart campaign, the majority of the time they will answer with “it depends on your account setup and what you are trying to achieve.”  And the majority of the time, that is the truth. 

With this in mind, if you are considering using GoogleAds Smart Campaigns to help grow your small business, there are specific questions you will want to ask yourself before you move forward. We sat down with PPC expert Ty Alyea of Service Direct to pick his brain on the primary questions marketers should ask themselves to make sure they are set up for Smart Campaign success.  

Q: What are Google Smart Campaigns?

TA: Simply put, Google smart campaigns allow advertisers to take advantage of Google’s vast machine learning infrastructure to put your ads in front of the right users when they are most likely to take an action aligned with your specific advertising goals (such as phone calls, web traffic, or store visits). For over a decade, the standard practice for Google PPC advertising was to set a maximum price for a click and have your ads going head to head with a lot of other advertisers doing the same thing, with the bids determining on-page placement. This bidding method can still generate results, but it can be challenging to rank competitively in tight markets where you are consistently getting outbid, and click quality can vary wildly.  Smart campaigns, however, are an attempt to provide Google users and advertisers with a more refined ad space that is better oriented with user and advertiser goals. By letting Google’s algorithms determine what bids and what content is best for a particular user and their specific search queries, you will ideally get more goals accomplished per advertising dollar spent.

Q: Who are Smart Campaigns good for?

TA: Google Smart campaigns achieve their fullest potential when the Google platform is given ample opportunity to identify which keywords, ad assets, and user behaviors line up best with events when your interaction, conversion or impression goals get accomplished. As such, smart campaigns can be of value to all businesses that have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve with their advertising and a way of communicating these goals to the Google system with conversion tracking. However, they do best for businesses that have a healthy budget and patience to sustain a “learning” period of one to two months.

Q: Who are Smart Campaigns NOT good for? 

TA:  Since Google’s optimization methods rely a lot upon their measuring of a significant volume of traffic, smart campaigns learn best and fastest when they have a healthy budget and a consistent ad schedule. So if you have a very low volume product or service, you may not get very good results, as there will be less data for Google to build optimization momentum.  If you find yourself needing to pause your campaigns often, you should also stay far away from smart bidding, lest you cause the less cost-efficient learning period to reboot.  

Q: What happens when Smart Campagins don’t work? 

TA:  Smart campaigns are very good at spending money in ways that line up with the Google platform’s understanding of your goals; however, they need to be carefully trained to spend efficiently. Account managers who have a “set it and forget it” mentality can waste thousands of dollars on campaigns that have poor goal setting and poor goal measurement. When Google sees that the appearance of a particular ad, matched with a particular keyword and query, leads to a conversion, Google will try to replicate that experience and spend accordingly. If there was something in the ad copy that was confusing, and led users to take the desired action in error, you may have given Google a green light to speed your budget off a cliff. Whether your goal is to generate traffic, form fills, or phone calls, you need to be sure that the interactions you are paying for are leading to satisfying results, and tweak your keywords and ad copy accordingly.

Q: What are some tips for getting started with Smart Campaigns?

TA: The first piece of advice I would give is to craft your campaigns as carefully as you would if you were manually running every aspect of the campaign. In fact, one of the best ways to know that you have a good foundation for a smart campaign is to actually run the campaign manually for the first month. By doing so, you can identify whether some keywords and ad copy are generating bad conversions, and lay the groundwork for more efficient spending.

By starting out your campaigns manually and carefully observing performance, you can also give yourself (and Google) a good baseline for how much you can expect to pay for a conversion (CPA), and use that to set parameters for smart bidding. Once you begin observing conversions rolling in over the first month, examine the cost per conversion you’ve been spending and compare it with the suggested costs put forth in Google’s recommendations tab. If Google’s predictive metrics suggest that a smart bidding method would beat your numbers, I suggest you turn on the smart campaign.

Thanks Ty – great insights!