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Keeping Up With Google: What Are Smart Campaigns?

Mike Farrell

A recent addition to the Google Ads portfolio, Smart Campaigns promise retailers a smooth, automated introduction to the Search and Display Networks. Retailers must set a budget and upload their ad copy. From there, Google effectively builds retailers’ display and paid search campaigns for them.

It’s unclear, though, if this type of automation gives retailers the flexibility and granularity they need to achieve their marketing goals. In this installment of the Keeping Up With Google series, your source for the latest updates and tools rolling out to Google Ads, we explore what Smart Campaigns are and how they can impact your business.

Release Date:

Google released Smart Campaigns in June 2018. It was one of the first solutions to debut under the revamped Google Ads brand.

What It Does:

Smart Campaigns are automated campaigns that leverage Google’s cross-network data to determine when and where a retailer’s ad should appear and how much they should pay for it. Guided by retailers’ daily maximum budgets and goals, Google distributes text and display ads across the Search Network, Google Maps, Gmail, and partner sites. Google creates the campaign structure, identifies keywords for which the ad will appear, and sets bids for these keywords.

To get started with Smart Campaigns, retailers need to create ad copy, including headline copy, ad text, URL, and ad extensions. They will also need to supply images and copy for display ads. Retailers can choose what days and times they want Google to run their ads. Finally, retailers must set their daily budgets and identify campaign goals, like revenue or web traffic.

Other than these retailer inputs, Google fully manages Smart Campaigns. Using data from Google Maps, Gmail, and the Search Network, Google regularly updates the keywords it bids on, determines where to place text and display ads, and adjusts bids. Google has announced that it will soon develop landing pages for retailers’ ads as well, making it a complete end-to-end solution.

Which Channels:

Smart Campaigns are available on the Google Search Network and Google Display Network.

What It Means for Your Business:

Smart Campaigns are geared toward smaller retailers who are new to Google Ads and have limited bandwidth to regularly monitor and manage their campaigns. This is not a feature recommended for retailers who are already active in Google Ads and have identified granular goals for their campaigns.

A key drawback is the lack of control retailers have over Smart Campaigns. For example, if retailers are launching a new product and want to increase exposure for that product, they cannot accomplish this within Smart Campaigns. Google will simply optimize to the original goal the retailer set. In addition, since there is no historical data on that new product, Google will likely underbid that product at launch.

Other changes in the business that occur outside of Google’s network, like inventory shifts or product seasonality, are not taken into account by Google’s solution. Retailers could miss out on important opportunities when they outsource their campaign structure and strategy to Google.

Although this tool is meant to quickly launch businesses that are new to Google Ads, it does create some hurdles for these businesses in the long term. The biggest drawback is the lack of transparency. If a retailer starts using Smart Campaigns, for example, and then decides it wants to build out a more robust strategy as the business grows, it will need to start over, effectively. The retailer won’t have access into past bids or top-performing keywords, so it won’t have a foundation on which to build a more sophisticated campaign. It will have to build out these keywords and test bids from scratch.

Smart Campaigns should be thought of as a fast and temporary solution, and marketers will need to develop a more long-term solution if they plan to make Google Ads an integral part of their performance marketing strategy.