Hassle-free campaigns that learn as they go to perform better for your business? Welcome to the future of online marketing via Google Ads Smart campaigns.

Here you’ll find:

  • An introduction to Google Ads Smart campaigns 
  • The top benefits of Smart campaigns
  • Who should use Smart campaigns and when
  • How to set up Smart campaigns for your business

Nobody is an expert at Google Ads.

Wait, what? (Hear us out.)

Sure, you can be really good at Google Ads. Proficient, even. But to be an expert at something that is evolving at such a rapid pace? 

Not a chance. 

Even the most brilliant Google Ads scholar understands they’re on a continuous journey of learning and adaptation. There’s always room to implement the latest tools and test new capabilities to increase conversions and boost their return on ad spend (ROAS). 

Smart campaigns are a prime example. 

What are Smart campaigns and how do they work? 

A Smart campaign is a type of Google Ads campaign that uses automation to make setting up and managing your pay-per-click or PPC campaigns faster and easier. 

Smart campaigns differ from standard Search campaigns in that much of the process of building and optimizing your ad campaigns is automated. For example: choosing a bidding strategy, targeting the right audience, and ad creation.

Smart campaigns evolved from an earlier tool called AdWords Express. This later became part of the Google Ads suite and was rebranded as the “Smart” campaign type.

Need a quick refresher on the basics of Google Ads? Start here.

Where do Smart campaigns appear?

Smart campaign ads appear on both the Google Search Network (GSN) and the Google Display Network (GDN). The GSN includes Google Maps and Google Images, while the GDN umbrella includes Gmail and YouTube. There’s no activation fee, and advertisers only pay when someone clicks on (or views) their ads. 

Even for someone new to Google Ads, Smart campaigns are super easy to set up. In a nutshell, you select your primary campaign goal (e.g., sales, leads, or website traffic). Then, you choose “Smart” as your campaign type. Lastly, provide Google with some basic assets, and in about 15 minutes your campaign can be up and running.

At that point, machine learning (ML) takes over and Google optimizes your Smart campaign for you. It does this by:

  • Continually finessing your ad creative to match popular search phrases
  • A/B testing your ads to see how they perform across different channels
  • Adjusting your bids to maximize campaign performance

(Generally, we recommend opting for Expert Mode to get more control over your campaigns. But that doesn’t mean Smart Mode doesn’t have its advantages.) 

Because Google (and not you) will be managing your campaigns, the data points you see will be limited to the basics:

On the plus side, your campaign dashboard is much simpler to navigate (more on this below). 

Smart campaigns also leverage automated remarketing. This increases your chance of capturing a sale by showing your ads to people who have visited your site previously but didn’t convert.

Pro tip: Google Ads users can now choose to operate in Smart Mode, which Google calls “a simplified version of Google Ads.” In Smart Mode, all campaigns are Smart campaigns. Google uses machine learning to drive results based on campaign goals. Alternatively, Expert Mode requires a more hands-on approach. 

The role of machine learning in digital marketing

You’ve likely seen a headline or two recently about artificial intelligence (AI)-generated content taking over the internet

Applications such as ChatGPT and Lensa AI may be the shiny new toys everyone is talking about. But AI has been quietly dominating in the digital marketing space for decades — especially when it comes to PPC campaigns. 

So much of how marketers identify potential customers (and connect with those customers) relies on machines. These devices gather and process massive amounts of data, using sophisticated algorithms. This data can reveal not only who is most likely to make a purchase, but also how, when, and where to reach them. 

And Google knows this better than anyone. 

The multibillion-dollar tech company has been using ML in its proprietary PPC platform (Google Ads) for over a decade now. In fact, the aforementioned AdWords Express was developed to simplify the ad campaign creation process. With it, they could put a lot of the heavy lifting on the shoulders of machines instead of marketers.

Today, modern Smart campaigns continue to revolutionize the way businesses promote their products and services. 

Top 3 benefits of Smart campaigns

Google AdWords (now Google Ads) first launched more than two decades ago. Since that time, the platform has evolved considerably. They’ve added and eliminated features, introduced new campaign types, and enhancing reporting capabilities. These changes were made to help businesses create powerful ad campaigns so they can grow and scale. 

The downside? Google Ads has become so complex and its features so diverse that it can be difficult to use for someone who doesn’t eat, sleep, and breathe Google Ads. 

The Smart campaign type is Google’s attempt to improve the user experience of their PPC platform. It’s also a way to make it more accessible to folks who may not be highly experienced marketers. 

These are the top three benefits of using Smart campaigns to promote your product or service. 

1. Fast and easy setup

Want to get your PPC ads up and running quickly? Smart campaigns are the way to go. All you need is a Google Ads account and about 15 minutes. The process will help Google understand your business, your potential customers, and the goals you are hoping to achieve. From there, Google takes the reins. You sit back and reap the benefits. 

2. Less “hands-on” management

Building and optimizing PPC ad campaigns is a full-time job. That’s because you need to pretty much always be thinking about things like:

  • Campaign goals
  • Bidding strategies
  • Audience targeting
  • Ad scheduling
  • Conversion tracking

You also have to monitor the performance of each ad campaign and know how and when to tweak your ads to ensure they continue to perform toward your goals. 

The problem? For a lot of marketing managers and business owners, paid ads are just one of countless tasks they are expected to handle on a daily basis. That’s why Google Ads Smart campaigns are so appealing. 

Smart campaigns are all about automation. They continuously run behind the scenes. They monitor how customers interact with your ads and record how well those ads are performing. Plus, they automatically make the necessary improvements to achieve the results you want.

3. Simplified dashboard and reporting features

Let’s just say it: Google Ads can be overwhelming. Especially the Google Ads dashboard, where literally all of your campaign performance data can be found. 

For someone new to PPC, or for those trying to keep pace with the latest changes to the Google Ads platform while still running a business, it can be difficult to understand all of the information found in the dashboard. 

With Smart campaigns, Google offers marketers a far more simplified dashboard. Again, so much of the campaign optimization process is automated using Google’s algorithm. As a result, the dashboard features only the primary “need-to-know” metrics:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Conversions
  • Etc.

The result? Users are given a helpful overview of their campaign performance without being inundated with unnecessary stats, charts, and reports. 

Businesswoman hand working digital marketing media in virtual sc

Remember, for more control over your campaigns, you can always switch to Expert Mode. (Image: Adobe Stock)

Who should use Smart campaigns (and when)?

If you’ve read this far, you have probably noticed a common theme: simplicity.

In contrast to running a standard Search campaign, Google Ads Smart campaigns are a fast, easy, and hassle-free option to create high-performing PPC campaigns. But they aren’t for everyone. 

Maybe you prefer a more hands-on approach and can spend the time learning the intricacies of digital marketing and the Google Ads platform. If so, standard Search campaigns may be a better fit. With Smart campaigns, Google controls who sees your ad, when they see it and where, as well as how your ad budget is spent. 

That said, where Smart campaigns truly shine is among small business owners. 

Smart campaigns were designed specifically for small business owners. They can construct powerful ad campaigns in less time so they can focus on the day-to-day tasks of owning and operating a business. Even someone with very little knowledge of online marketing can instantly create and run ads and enjoy high conversion rates with very little effort. 

Plus, because Smart campaign ads appear on both the GSN and the GDN, they have the ability to reach a wider audience. 

How to set up Smart campaigns

Ready to set up your new campaign and put Smart campaigns to work for your business? The first step is signing into your Google Ads account. (If you haven’t yet created a Google Ads account, you can start here.) 

To keep things simple, let’s make sure we begin in Smart Mode

Remember, for more control over your campaigns, you can always switch to Expert Mode.

Next, you’ll want to click that blue + New Campaign button to get started. Google will first ask for your main advertising goal and give you three choices for what you want to see increase:

  • Calls
  • Website sales or sign-ups
  • Visits to your physical location

Once you’ve made your selection, Google will ask about:

  • Your customers (whether they come to your brick-and-mortar location or if they mainly shop online)
  • Your business name (this one should be pretty easy)
  • Where you want people to land once they click your ad (i.e., the URL) — this can be your company website, or you may want to direct people to specific landing pages

Using the URL you provided, Google will take a few minutes to “learn” about your business by scanning your website (or web page). After that, it will show you both a mobile and a desktop version to verify that people are being sent to the correct page. 

Pro tip: Already have a Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business)? You can link it directly to your Smart campaign. Here’s how

Now for the fun part: writing your ad copy!

This may sound a little intimidating, but fear not. Google simplifies the process of writing ad copy. It provides a space for three headlines, two descriptions, and the option for a call button. And, because it just scanned your website, it automatically generates your ad copy for you. 

But wait — it gets better.

Don’t like the ad copy provided? Simply click the headline to get a dropdown box of other options, or write in the copy you prefer (just be sure to pay attention to the character limit). 

Once your ad is complete, you will be shown a preview of how it will appear on a mobile device. If everything looks good, click the Next button. 

Next, Google will prompt you to “Add keyword themes to match your ad to searches.” 

Again, this is easier than it sounds, since Google will have automatically generated several keyword themes for you. You can easily keep or remove the themes provided, as well as browse the “Suggested keyword themes” section for more ideas or type in your own. 

At this point, you may be wondering about negative keywords

With Smart campaigns, things work a little differently. While users are unable to add specific negative keywords, you do have the option to add “Negative keyword themes” instead. Just be sure your keyword themes are as accurate as possible to match popular search terms and attract the right people. 

After that, you’ll be asked where you want to show your ads. 

You are given two options: 

  • Advertise near an address (type in your address and choose a radius)
  • Advertise in specific postcodes, cities or regions (type in a specific location)

Then, you’ll need to set your advertising budget. 

As with previous steps, Google will automatically generate a few different daily budget options, complete with an average spend and the estimated amount of ad clicks you can expect each month. Alternatively, you can enter in your own budget, either by typing it in or using a slider tool based on typical competitor budgets. 

Once you have completed these steps, Google will prompt you to review your campaign to verify that everything is correct. 

Lastly, it’s time to finalize and launch.

Google will show you all of the information you have entered up to this point. If you need to make any changes, you can simply click on the pencil icon to do so. You can also give your completed campaign a name. 

All good? Click Next. 

Google will then give you the option to set up conversion tracking for your ad. If you’ve already done this, simply select “Skip for now” to complete your campaign and run ads. 

Your ad will then undergo a brief review period (approximately one working day, according to Google). After that, your campaign will be approved and start running so potential customers can see your ads. 

Talk about simple! You can also create additional Smart campaigns to spotlight other products or services. 

The takeaway

Nowadays, digital marketing is critical to the success of your business. 

It’s also incredibly complex and time-consuming. 

While Google has done its best to try to simplify PPC ads with Smart campaigns and Smart Mode, you may still feel out of your league when it comes to building and optimizing high-performing campaigns. 

If that’s the case, the team at HawkSEM can help. Let’s connect and talk about how to dramatically improve your online marketing results. 

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation