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Why data-driven marketers don't trust Smart Campaigns

In our third webinar session, Jason Pittock had an insightful talk with ClickGUARD’s founder Ralph Perrier about Google Smart Campaigns. The dialogue revolved around the value that Google Smart Campaigns service can bring you, the role of machine learning in ad campaigns, and the key metrics you have to look for when running Google Ads campaigns.

In our third webinar session, Jason Pittock had an insightful talk with ClickGUARD’s founder Ralph Perrier about Google Smart Campaigns. The dialogue revolved around the "value" that Google Smart Campaigns service can bring you, the role of machine learning in ad campaigns, and the key metrics you have to look for when running Google Ads campaigns. 

What makes Google Campaigns Smart and how smart is to use it

In 2018, Google added Adwords Express to its Ads Platform and named it Google Smart Campaigns. Until then, AdWords Express was a standalone solution, designed to be a lower maintenance option for small businesses.

Once integrated into Google campaigns dashboard, the service promised the same benefits of AdWords Express campaigns, with added great features. In short, it was going to do everything in an easier, more efficient, and very profitable manner for all marketers out there. 

It surely sounds like a smart service and a great solution. But so did AdWords Express, by now notorious for its high fees and low to no results. That makes a good reason to distrust the service despite its rebranding and new alleged benefits. 

Its attributes begin in the name: it’s smart. By this, Google’s letting us know how it will help its users: through automation. This is, in fact, the service’s main feature. As Ralph put it, “they’re called smart campaigns because the full-featured Google Ads product is much too complex for a large base of their users.” 

In terms of value, that largely depends on the advertiser and the business’ needs, of course. But you are likely to benefit from using Google Smart Campaigns, if you are managing a small business, or you dispose of a limited budget and resources. By resources we also mean the energy you need to invest in learning how to set-up and run your ad campaigns, and the time it takes to actually manage them.  

Who is it for, more specifically 

When Jason asked whether you should think twice about using it, he meant that you should, and Ralph has explained why. 

It has to do with the aforementioned complexity of using Google Ads and what you need to learn in order to run a successful campaign: keywords, negative keywords, targeting, custom audiences, ad extensions, geo-targeting, determining when to bid and when not to bid, etc. 

Of course, PPC experts are well accustomed to all these and find Google Smart Campaigns a significant waste of time and money. But the product is designed for and appeals to a specific market: small businesses with local presence, low advertising budget, no marketing staff, no money for consultants or agencies, or businesses whose owner and staff are too busy to learn how to run standard Google Ads effectively. 

So, while the Google Smart Campaigns can be considered a quick fix, it has limited possibilities for scaling and its potential success is not sustainable in the long term. 

The black box of machine learning 

In talking about entrepreneurs and machine learning, Ralph pointed out that machine learning is not as much of a commodity, as most entrepreneurs don’t even use it, but machine learning is affecting our business and everyday life, directly or indirectly. 

Without knowing, most people use machine learning systems, feeding them with data. This is how our habits, our desires, and our overall environment get to be used by a few very powerful companies like Google, Facebook and the likes of Cambridge Analytica. 

Whatsmore, Google is learning about us just as much as it’s training us on how to use the internet. Therefore, using machine learning for marketing purposes, to predict and manipulate our behaviors, is not a surprise. 

Perhaps, as Ralph jokes, the doomsday prophesied in the Terminator movies, of April 21, 2011 has long come and gone. The machines are here, but instead of taking over our lives with guns they are simply becoming experts at manipulating our behaviors.” 

“Data is the new oil”

If you don’t have updated, real data you can’t make informed decisions. At the same time, there is so much data being created and at such a rapid pace, that it’s virtually impossible to make fully informed decisions without the help of machines. 

Ralph’s advice is to be realistic and now worry about whether or not to use machines for decision making. Instead, ponder about WHICH PARTS of a complex or consequential decision you leave to machines. 

For example, Google Maps is a great help in determining the quickest and best route to get to a destination. But you wouldn’t trust it or any other software in determining your destination, who you travel with, and what car you should drive. 

Campaign key metrics 

If you are a results orientated marketer or entrepreneur you should aspire for transparency in your tool’s performance. So can you trust Google Smart Campaigns with delivering you results and provide you with data that backs them up? 

To help you decide, Ralph summed up three key metrics you should be looking for in your campaigns: 

  1. Transparency and data-driven analysis. These are your best advisors in decision making.
  2. A thorough understanding of WHO, WHEN, WHERE and WHAT you’re paying for with every click. 
  3. Control over your keywords and their placements. This is crucial for your Google Ads campaign.  

Do we have that in Google Smart Campaigns? No, and the reason behind is very simple: it has no interest in giving you detailed data. And so, these key metrics are actually the reasons data-driven marketers don’t trust Google Smart Campaigns: 

  1. Lack of transparency 
  2. At best, you get surface-level data about clicks and impressions (of no real use)  
  3. It takes away the control of choosing your keywords and placements.  

In the end, Google Smart Campaigns is not a bad service, it’s simply not made to cater to your needs. Once you get familiar with Google Ads platform and truly understand that every click is a financial transaction, it becomes clear that Google Smart Campaigns is not a professional ads service. Naturally, you will want to take the reins of your campaigns and place them in good hands, like all data-driven marketers do. 

Webinar Details

Fri 13 Nov 20
30 mins

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Webinar Speakers

Jason Pittock


Jason is the CMO @ ClickGUARD. He is passionate about all things PPC, SEO and has extensive customer acquisition experience. When not writing about SEM he can be found surfing the wildest ocean waves of the South American coast.

Ralph Perrier

Founder & CEO of ClickGUARD

Ralph is the visionary and the founder of ClickGUARD with 2 decades of digital marketing experience. He's been running PPC and Google Ads campaigns since 2003 and is one of few people in the world who has unsuccessfully sued Google for click fraud (gross negligence) after personally being a victim of coordinated and prolonged click fraud attacks dating back to 2009.