Google Smart Campaigns is a tool that has been designed and built for beginners, by google, and sits within Google Ads. It promises a simple and effective way to set up and run a campaign, without the need for any real technical know-how. They have marketed it as only requiring 15 mins of your time a month to maintain them, which is a huge saving to managing a campaign manually. However, before you jump in feet first and start setting up Google Smart Campaigns left, right and centre, let’s first take a minute to review a 30-day test that we conducted, which was over within 24 hours…
Simple Ads with Google Smart Campaigns
Our mission here was simple; we always look at ways of helping the businesses we partner with. Part of this requires us to test new and emerging technology and initiatives to ensure we not only know the market, and it’s developments, but also to help ensure the accounts we serve are getting the biggest bang for their buck.
This blog has been pulled together during the outbreak of COVID-19. Now, more than ever we want to help businesses look at ways of generating new revenue streams, as well as using all the tools we have to offer free marketing advice and campaign ideas in order to get businesses back up on their feet. Based on this, tools like Google Smart Campaigns look like a great way to start driving traffic and revenue to a website, quickly and efficiently – or at least that’s what we would have liked it to have done.
What is Pay Per Click Advertising?
Pay per click advertising, or PPC, is commonly associated with the ads that appear at the top of Google. These are ads which are paid for. The price of the ad varies, depending on how many people also want to be at the top of the same search terms that you want to found under.
In this example below, we have created an ad to run for a number of search terms which include ‘website design’, ‘website designers’ or ‘website design agency’ – we then bid for these terms, and put forward the maximum we are willing to spend for the whole campaign.
This is usually a process that we manage in house, both for KAYBE and also for the businesses we partner with. You can read more about PPC Management here.
Building Ads Using Google Smart Campaigns
We planned to use KAYBE as the guinea pig and test the campaign by sending traffic to our website. We didn’t spend the time setting up a dedicated landing page, instead we sent the traffic to our website design page – the reason for this is that we were not testing to see if the traffic converted, but rather how efficiently Google Smart Campaigns spent the daily budget, and in turn monthly budget that we had assigned to the campaign.
The big question we wanted to answer: Is machine learning really advanced enough for Google to develop a tool that is capable of managing bids efficiently? And that’s our key driver here – efficiency.
The all important keywords
So, by reading this far I am going to assume that you’re familiar with choosing the right keywords and how important this is when building a campaign. When going through the quick set-up tool for Google Smart Campaigns, we were given the option to enter in our keywords. Google recommended eight here, you could put in more (which we normally would if we were managing a PPC campaign) but we stuck to Google’s recommendation.
While these are fairly broad terms, they all link back to Website Design, which was the core theme we were going after. From this, in theory Google was going to work out similar terms that people search for, and then display the ad accordingly.
One thing we wanted to control here, but couldn’t, are terms where we know people are looking for something that we don’t offer. For example, we don’t offer the ability for someone to create a ‘click and build’ website, so we wouldn’t want to pay for our ad to show search terms like ‘online website builder’ – as this would literally be money down the drain.
Google Smart Campaigns: Machine learning key phrases
Okay – so now we have selected our keywords, our budget was set, and we were ready to hit go – despite the limitations of not being able to exclude certain words.
The ads were subject to Google’s normal quality control processing. This was over within a matter of hours – nice and quick (unlike Facebook – but that’s a whole other conversation!).
The ads then went into a ‘learning’ phase. This is where Google was going to add their genius, comparing our keywords, ad copy, and requirements from the wealth of data they’re sat on. Exciting times… is a machine about to outsmart the knowledge of people? In principle, it should be able to – but then again, it can only be as smart as the people who have built the platform, right?
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The Google Smart Campaign Goes Live!
A day or so later, the machine learning is complete – we were cooking with gas. The ads were live. But wait a minute, we set a £12 daily budget – yet we have a spike at £25.70… what’s this?
Yep – Google had blown DOUBLE our daily budget. Huh?! How’d that happen? We were straight on the phone to their support team to find out.
Now, it’s worth pointing out here that we always allow for overspend when we manage an account on behalf of a partner. Typically, this is around 10% – while it’s rarely required, we like to make sure that we manage expectations from the start, as it is possible for the ad to be served and clicked on concurrently, by two users and cause an overlapped overspend, however, 10% is nowhere near double the amount we told Google Smart Campaigns to limit itself to.
The response we got, was – well, incredible. They drew our attention to the small print – something which is easily overlooked, especially if you’ve already agreed to terms and conditions (like we had) months prior. If you read the small print, you will see the disclaimer that Google may spend up to FOUR TIMES the daily limit, but never more than the total budget.
Adding Negative Keywords to Google Smart Campaigns
Let’s look at this from a mathematical point of view. £25.70 spend, with 7 clicks, means we were paying £3.67 for each click.
If we now compare this to what we were paying for a campaign that we set up and maintain manually, instead of using the Google Smart Campaigns tool, we see a 122% increase in the cost per click (based on our average cost per click of £1.65 for the same campaign)
Budgets aside – there is another fundamental flaw, in that we could only add negative keywords, once the campaign had started, and the impression had been served (or even worse, once the term has been clicked on, and the money spent).
Let’s look at the example below:
As you can see, we were able to successfully exclude the term ‘website design website’ as this gives the impression that people can develop a website which is, within a click and build environment, which is not something that we offer. But remember, we could only do this once the first impression had been served. Why you couldn’t add terms like this beforehand is just crazy.
A quick summary of the findings
Well, needless to say – we don’t rave the Google’s Smart Campaign tool. Maybe in time, it will develop into something awesome, but right now it feels like a bit of a money making machine, designed for people and businesses who are time poor, and want to be doing ‘something’ but are not equipped with the skill to do it efficiently.
Looping back round to our intentions here – our aim is to share our learnings with you. If you’re a business looking at ways to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope this gives you the insights you need to make an informed decision as to what marketing to take on.
KAYBE can help: We are doing our bit to bend over backwards to help other businesses. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can discuss how we can help you get more from a small marketing budget. It’s what we do.
Until next time – stay safe.