Google Smart Campaigns: What are they and should I use them?

When I hear “artificial intelligence” I envision self-driving cars and conversations with Siri. But what about using artificial intelligence (A.I.) to manage your digital advertising campaigns? Let’s talk about Smart Campaigns from Google Ads.

What are Smart Campaigns?

Digital display advertising from Google lets advertisers reach 90% of internet users on over 3 million websites. The trick is to plan and manage your ad campaigns so you’re delivering the right ads to the right audiences at the right time. Not easy, but the good news is that Google now harnesses A.I. to help advertisers succeed at this. Enter Smart Campaigns.

Smart Campaigns use A.I. to manage the work of bidding on ad placements, assembling a wide variety of ad options and repeatedly targeting the right prospects. Here are some of the advantages of Smart Campaigns.

  • They can save hours of manual work planning and optimizing campaigns.
  • They’re good for novice advertisers who aren’t familiar with all the manual controls Google offers.
  • They can expand the reach of ad campaigns beyond the scope originally planned.
  • They’re easy to use- just write an ad for your business, describe your product or service and set a budget. And you’re off and running.

And Smart Campaigns are not just for display ad campaigns. They can be used for paid search advertising, mobile device targeting and even advertising on Google maps. For paid search campaigns, this A.I.-assisted platform even picks which search terms to buy.

But here’s the big idea: Smart Campaigns manage and optimize themselves without the intervention of advertisers. For example, if you want to maximize form fills at your website, you can set up a Smart Campaign focused on delivering that outcome. Then just turn it on, let it run, and it will constantly improve its own performance. It’s artificial intelligence working for marketers (Can I stay home from work tomorrow!?).

Should I use Smart Campaigns to manage advertising?

There are some downsides to using Smart Campaigns. One of them is you have access to less data. Since A.I. is optimizing the campaign, the data required to do that is locked in Google’s black box. You get a simplified dashboard instead of the in-depth reporting offered by standard campaigns showing data by campaign, ad group, keyword, and search term.

Next, you have less control over where your ads appear. If you are using digital display advertising, you can’t easily pick specific sites to include or exclude.

There’s a 40 mile limit on the area you can target with one campaign. Want to target a wider area? You need to create another campaign. Also, Smart Campaigns can only be used with one landing page per campaign.

Lastly, you have little control over your ad copy and design with Smart Campaigns. Google pulls copy from existing profiles of your business to create the ad copy it uses. While it may result in better performance overall, it certainly requires marketers to give up control over exact messaging.

So where do I stand on Smart Campaigns? I recommend them for advertisers with smaller budgets or ones who have less time to spend managing campaigns. For larger advertisers with greater expertise, Smart Campaigns may not be a great fit. Today expert digital marketers can often outperform Smart Campaigns by doing their own manual planning and optimization.

But I believe Google will continue to improve and expand the ways Smart Campaigns can be used. And as for the future, I’m not betting against artificial intelligence. For more information, take a look at this detailed guide to search engine marketing.

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John Walker
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