AdWords or AdWords Express: Which Ad Platform?

4 minute read

Google AdWords

There are two primary strategies for reaching your audience when they are searching on Google or Bing for your product or service: content found organically through Search Engine Optimization and advertisements.

Both are critical. Small businesses especially recognize the need to optimize for both organic and search engine marketing.

The biggest struggle we’ve seen is: where to start? Should I run ads, should I focus on organic content, how much time (and money) should I spend on this? This list goes on and on.

We’re going to publish some articles over the coming weeks to help with this. Our team at DailyStory is going through some of these experience first-hand as we get our startup off the ground!

We’ll start with looking at Google’s ad platform.

Google Advertising Options

Believe it or not, there are actually two options for advertising with Google! Understanding the differences between these two ad platforms will help you choose the right option for your business.

AdWords Express – Best for Getting Started

AdWords Express, formerly known as Google Boost, was relaunched in 2011. It is primarily targeted at businesses that don’t have a lot of time to spend managing their pay-per-click campaigns.

Google “automagically” identifies keywords, bidding strategies and then manages those bids for you. You then simply dial-up or down the amount you wish to spend and it will forecast the number of clicks:

Google AdWords Express

In addition to simple budgeting, it narrows your ad choices exclusively to text ads. Text ads are ads that are shown in either Google Maps or when someone searches on Google and triggers your ad with a keyword or phrase.

AdWords Express also makes it incredibly easy to target geographically. For example, if you have a physical storefront you can limit your ads strictly to people in your city.


The reasons for selecting Google AdWords Express over Google AdWords:

  • Simple to Start – Easy to setup and easy to get started.
  • Automation – Google automatically manages keyword bidding and keyword selection.

The main reason for not selecting it for your Google ads:

  • Loss of Control – loss of fine-grained control over how Google manages your ads. For example, you don’t have a lot of options if you want to manage different landing pages for different keywords that triggered your ad.

AdWords – Best for Optimizing Strategy

I’ll start by saying, I love Google AdWords. I can literally spend hours going through and fine-tuning ads, keywords, landing pages and more.

But that is also the biggest challenge:

Unless you are willing to commit the time, a minimum of 5-10 hours/week, you are likely mismanaging your ad budget.

It’s very easy to set up lots of campaigns, buy loads of keywords and in turn spend a lot of money.

If you do commit the time, you can control exactly how and when your ad is shown down to the ranking for each keyword. If you aren’t willing to put in this type of effort, I would highly recommend hiring an in-house marketing manager or a Google Certified Agency to help manage your Google AdWords.

In addition to the control provided by AdWords, your advertising options also open up: including the text advertising options similar to AdWords Express, you can also run banner and video ads. Because these ads also run on Google ad network you can take advantage of re-marketing (ever seen ads from sites you’ve visited on other websites?).


The reason for selecting Google AdWords:

  • Control – Full control over all aspects of your campaign. Managing individual keyword/phrase bids, use custom landing throughout Google’s ad network and run graphic/video ads.

The main reason for not selecting it for your Google ads:

  • Complexity – Google AdWords is complex. If you aren’t willing to commit to the time or aren’t willing to hire an expert, it’s better to use AdWords Express.

Summary and Recommendation

AdWords Express is a great choice for small-to-medium businesses that know they need to advertise on Google, but simply don’t have the time to manage it or don’t wish to outsource to an agency.

AdWords is a great choice for any business that knows they need to advertise on Google but values flexibility/control or has outsourced to an agency.

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