Written by Sam Yadegar on Nov 1 , 2022

Discover how Google Ads Expert Mode can help you create the best PPC advertising for your budget.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What Google Ads Smart Mode is
  • What Google Ads Expert Mode is
  • The benefits of these modes for your campaigns
  • When it’s time to switch to Google Ads Expert Mode

Managing Google Ads is a lot like riding a bike. You don’t just start off riding the Tour de France. You start with training wheels and work toward independence. Think of Google Ads Smart Mode as training wheels and Google Ads Expert Mode as the Tour de France.

When you open your Google Ads account and create a new campaign, you’ll have two options: Smart Mode and Expert. These two versions of Google Ads offer different experiences to manage and optimize your campaigns.

Google Ads Smart Mode

According to Google Ads, Smart Mode is the simplified version of Google Ads. But it is, indeed, limited. (Image: Unsplash)

What is Google Ads Smart Mode?

First, let’s talk about Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) Smart Mode. Smart means you have a limited amount of control over bids, targeting, goals, and even where your ads show. Instead, when you begin setting up your campaign, you put in the goals and basic info, and the AI does the work for you.

According to Google, “Smart Mode is the simplified version of Google Ads. It was designed to simplify the advertising experience, so businesses can drive real results and save time setting up and managing campaigns.”

Using this mode, you’ll enjoy an easy step-by-step setup and management. You’ll retain control of your ad copy, landing page, keyword themes, and goals, but you won’t need to do the day-to-day management and optimization that an expert campaign requires.

What is the purpose of Smart Mode?

You may be wondering why Google Ads has two different modes. The Google Ads team knows that not everyone is a digital marketing pro. They understand all businesses need to create brand awareness, generate phone calls, increase foot traffic, or complete another business goal. With this in mind, they created Smart Campaigns.

Goals

In the eyes of Google, less data means less levers to pull, therefore better performance. (Image: Unsplash)

What goals can I set?

In this mode, you can set several goals. These goals are:

  • Receive more calls
  • Attract more visits to your physical location
  • Get more sales or website sign-ups
  • Get more brand awareness with video views

Receive more calls

When you use this goal, Google uses machine learning and your settings to drive more calls to your business. Your ads will have a call button that users can click and be connected to your business.

Attract more visits to your physical location

This goal helps brick-and-mortar businesses get more customers to their physical locations. The platform will optimize your campaign to drive more foot traffic to your store or business. You’ll see how many people interacted with your business profile on Google Maps.

Get more sales or website sign-ups

If you own a service-based business, you’ll use this goal to generate more leads, newsletter signups, or similar actions via your website. Or, if you sell products, you can create a Google Ads campaign with the objective of selling your products. Google Ads will help you accomplish this by optimizing for trackable actions. It will also help you set up Google Analytics to track these actions on your site.

Get more brand awareness with video views

If your business isn’t well-known, then you may want to increase your brand awareness. A video views campaign can also be helpful for creators and influencers who need more views. 

What data will I get?

When you spend money on ads, you want to know what you’re getting. In Smart Mode, you’ll be provided with limited data. In the eyes of Google, less data means less levers to pull, therefore better performance. The data you do have access to includes:

  • Map actions (local actions) – These are interactions with your Google My Business listing, like getting directions, viewing a menu, clicks to call, and sharing locations.
  • Reported calls – The number of calls your campaigns generated.
  • Clicks and impressions – The number of times your ad was seen and clicked. 
  • Connect Google Analytics – You can also connect your Google Analytics to see more data, including actions on your website.

Should I use Smart Mode?

New Google Ads users usually benefit most from this mode since it provides a guided, easy-to-manage interface. You won’t have to do keyword research or write lots of ad copy. You can set up a campaign and get started in just a few minutes without any prior training. 

Small business owners who aren’t yet ready to hire a professional to manage their ads often use Smart Mode to create more awareness of their business.

“…Smart Mode was designed by Google as [an] autonomic on-ramp to Google Ads,” says VP of Growth and Strategy at HawkSEM, Steven Dang, “…in an ideal world, no one should be using [it].” 

But for companies in a hurry to get campaigns up and running, with zero marketing support or resources, or unbounded by traditional metrics of success like return on investment (ROI) or return on ad spend (ROAS) — Smart Mode might be an option.

But, ideally? Everyone should use Expert Mode. 

Furthermore, Expert Mode is a bit of a misnomer because it has one believing that only “experts” should be using Expert Mode. In reality, “Expert Mode” should probably be styled as “Normal Mode,” because so many of the features and capabilities found in Expert Mode should come standard, or be implemented by, your average, run-of-the-mill account.

What is Google Ads Expert Mode?

In this interface, you’ll find many more options and the ability to adjust every part of your campaigns, such as a wealth of affinity and in-market audiences for targeting and a diverse set of campaign types to reach potential clients on all of Google’s networks. 

You can also create custom conversion tracking, which allows you track both conversions and micro-conversions to move users down your marketing funnel. Professional marketers can help businesses achieve their goals through various campaign types, including Search, Display, and Video.

“Expert Mode offers the full range of Google Ads features and campaign types,” states Google Help. “While it gives advertisers more complete control over their bidding strategies, it also requires more complex management. This is why we recommend it for advanced marketers and advertisers.”

Goals

In Smart Mode, you’re limited to just one goal per campaign, and they must be one of Google Ad’s predefined goals. (Image: Rawpixel)

What is the purpose of Expert Mode?

Unlike the Smart Mode option, Expert Mode is created for the professional advertiser. The purpose is to let professionals tailor every aspect of their campaigns to their marketing goals. It allows for advanced audience creation and customized tracking. 

When should I switch to Expert Mode?

For some small businesses, Smart Mode might be all you need. However, if you want to grow and scale, you’ll soon find yourself limited by the Smart Mode features. There is limited analytics and the features are sparse. With Expert Mode, you’ll only be limited by your creativity. 

“You should switch to Expert Mode if you want any semblance of control over your account, whether it’s setting your own bids, writing your ads, selecting your own targets or keywords, or choosing your own settings” Dang adds.

What’s the difference between Smart Mode and Expert Mode?

As you learn your way around Google Ads, you’ll find Smart Mode tends to be limiting. You’ll want to test new strategies as you get more advanced, but that’s only possible if you switch to Expert Mode. 

Once you make the switch, you’ll find a highly dynamic platform with a variety of levers to pull, empowering you to create highly customized campaigns capable of achieving business goals. While it takes an expert to take advantage of this mode properly, you’ll find that Google Ads offers many benefits for brands.

Goals

In Smart Mode, you’re limited to just one goal per campaign, and they must be one of Google Ad’s predefined goals. When you switch to Expert Mode, you can customize your goals. If you are able to track your ads with the Google Ads tag or Google Analytics, then you can add it as a goal. Some possibilities are:

  • Abandoned carts
  • Product views
  • Completed forms
  • Page views
  • Button clicks 

This level of customization assists you in creating campaigns for every stage of your funnel.

Audiences and demographics

You won’t be limited to just keyword themes. There are several types of audiences you can use:

  • In-market
  • Affinity
  • Detailed demographics
  • Life events
  • Your data segments
  • Similar segments

In-market audiences contain people who are actively researching and thinking about buying a product or service like yours. Google uses up-to-date buying intent data to reach users in the audience you select. Affinity audiences are users with an “affinity” for particular hobbies and interests. 

Not only can you use audiences to create highly targeted campaigns with contextual targeting, but you can also utilize demographics. Adjustments and exclusions can be made to age, gender, parental status, and income bracket. There are also select detailed demographics like homeowner status, education, and marital status.

Life events are exactly what they sound like. These would be milestones like people who are moving soon.

By contrast, your data segments are the data you collect on your website or landing page. These data segments can be anything you can track (for example, people who viewed a product on your website).

Last but not least are similar segments. These similar segments are created within the Google Ads system when it identifies an eligible data segment. There are some standard eligibility requirements. You need to own the seed list, and there must be at least 100 users in the list. The recency of membership and the types of sites the users visited. 

Keyword match types

Keyword match types are a powerful way to control search queries your ads appear on. There are three match types, broad match, exact match, and phrase match. These differ from Smart Mode’s keyword themes in two ways. First, it’s a keyword you’d like your ads to be matched with rather than an idea. 

Second, you are able to do more than make a guess at which keywords will be ideal to use.  Instead, you can use the Keyword Planner to do extensive research. It reveals keyword volumes, projected keyword bids, level of competition, as well as forecasted data. You can make educated decisions and plan out thematically-based campaigns to structure your account for success.

Negative keywords

Negative keywords prevent your ads from being shown on specific words or phrases. If your keyword was “storage container,” and you added a negative keyword, “careers,” then your ad wouldn’t show for the query storage container careers. As you can see, negative keywords are vital to ensuring your ads appear for the correct audience. The control this gives you is yet another reason you’ll benefit from using Expert Mode.

Assets (formerly ad extensions)

These are a variety of informational add-ons that can be shown with your ads when you’re eligible. The Assets you can use to enhance your ads are:

  • Callouts
  • Structured Snippets
  • Price
  • Call
  • Sitelink
  • Lead form
  • App
  • Promotion
  • Image
  • Location

Callouts

These are non-clickable assets that allow you to highlight your business and what it has to offer.

Structured snippets

You can give more details about your products or services using Structured Snippets. First, you choose a category like “service catalog” or “amenities.” Then, you add a relevant list to the asset to showcase relevant information.

Price extensions 

Price extensions allow you to show prices for your products and services directly within your ads. Up to eight prices will show at one time.

Call

If you’d like people to call your business, you can add a call extension to your ad. People can dial the number or click to call directly from their device.

Sitelinks

Sitelinks are a great way to include more links for your site. You can create sitelinks for your about page, services, contact, or any pages you’d like to showcase.

Lead form

If you are running lead generation campaigns, then lead forms can help. You can direct users to a lead form, so they don’t have to leave the platform to submit their information.

App

Only select accounts are eligible for these extensions. App extensions let you link your tablet or mobile app to your ads. This is helpful if your goal is app installs.

Promotion

Are you running a special promotion? Promotion assets give you the ability to show special promotions alongside your ads. You can list dates and give promo codes. You specify the URL so you can send potential customers to special landing pages too.

Image

Image assets are only available to accounts that are at least 90 days old. According to Google, this extension increases the click-through rate by 10% (on average) when they show on mobile search ads.

Location

Location assets use your Google My Business profile to show your location in your ad.

Variety of campaign types

Google Ads Smart Mode

You’ll be able to choose from several types of campaigns in this mode. You can reach potential customers via Google Search and image ads on the Google Display Network, partners’ sites, Gmail, and YouTube. 

  • Search – reach users when they type queries into the Google Search bar
  • Display – users will see your ads on YouTube, Google Play, Google Finance, and Gmail, as well as Partner sites (which can vary)
  • YouTube – these appear within streaming videos, over videos, and before or after videos 
  • Performance Max – The most dynamic campaign type allows your ads on all of Google’s channels.
  • Shopping – Created for e-commerce, these ads appear on Google Display, YouTube, the Shopping Tab, Search Partner sites, and Shopping Service and Apps.
  • Discovery – Ads are displayed on Gmail Promotions and Social tabs, YouTube Home, Watch Next feeds, and Discover.

Learn more in our post about campaign types.

Ability to retarget users

Yet another feature missing from Smart Mode is remarketing (also known as retargeting). That’s when you use an advertising platform, in this case Google Ads, to show ads to people who’ve visited your site or completed a specific goal.

The goal is to turn website traffic into conversions. If they expressed interest in your product or service, then it’s worth trying to get them back to the site. Remarketing ads allow you to give special offers, new details, and discounts to people who have been to your site. Some popular remarketing audiences are:

  • Cart abandoners
  • Product viewers
  • Visitors to specific pages (like a service page)
  • All site visitors

When you use remarketing, you get a second chance to engage users. Research proves more touchpoints produce more conversions.

How to switch to Expert Mode in Google Ads

Making the switch between modes is easy! Sign into your account and navigate your way to the wrench icon (Settings) in the top right corner. Then choose “Switch to Expert Mode.” You’re done!

The takeaway

Using Google Ads Smart Mode? You’re missing out on features and opportunities.

As Dang points out:

“Some of the most important features someone is missing out on if they don’t use Expert Mode include the ability to set your own bids and bidding strategy, the ability to choose and refine both positive and negative keywords, the ability to get granular with settings and campaign segments and making adjustments to them as necessary, the ability to write your own ads, and the ability to choose your own targets.”

The bottom line? Doing Google Ads badly in Expert Mode is probably still more beneficial than doing it well in Smart Mode. Do you need help with your ads or marketing strategy? Learn how HawkSEM can help!

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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