AdWords Express vs. Google Ads

AdWords express vs. Google Ads
Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash

Table of Contents

AdWords Express (Smart Campaigns) or Google Ads (Expert Mode)

AdWords Express (Currently coined as Google Smart Campaigns) has been Google’s answer to make advertising on Google very approachable and easy for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  It’s with merit that Google designed this platform to make it very easy to start advertising, however it comes down with some significant hurdles and likely, pitfalls, that I want to share.  At the end of the post I’ll share my conclusion and recommendation for any advertiser considering AdWords Express (Smart Campaigns).

AdWords Express Lacks Proper Measurement

Google Ads (Expert Mode), has an amazing tool set to track the effectiveness of every click that you pay for. Several examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Linking Google Ads to Google Analytics, which allows an advertiser to see what each user did on your site, and how long they spent on your site
  • Robust call reporting capabilities, to track users who called your business, as a result of your ads
  • Pixel based conversion tracking, to track any sign-ups, or purchases, from your site, as a result of your advertising

Unfortunately, Adwords Express does not have robust tracking and measurement as Google Ads (expert mode). This alone is a show stopper for me, if I can’t definitively say what the investment is doing for our business, I wouldn’t feel comfortable advertising.

Search Text Ads can run on the Google Display Network

This is a big one in my book, search ads work well, as you’re reaching users who are searching for products/services you offer, on Google search . Within AdWords Express (Smart Campaigns), text ads can appear on websites if the content matches the keyword’s you’re targeting. This sounds good in theory, but performance on the display network is completely different than that of Google Search.

Ad Formats are Lack Luster

Within Google Ads (Expert Mode), you can boost your ad with a plethora of ad extensions, which are add ons to your text ads to share even more information of your business, claim more real estate on the search page, and drive a higher click through rate. Google Ads Express still has ad extensions, but they are automated and does not give capabilities to design the best extensions for your business.

Remarketing Capabilities are Limited

One of the most effective forms of digital advertising is remarketing, where you can specifically target past site visitors who didn’t convert, with a customized message. Advertisers can go even so far as to have unique messages based on pages of the site they’ve visited.  Within Google Ads (Expert Mode), this is entirely possible and relatively easy to setup and you have full control of who you’re reaching, with the exact message to deliver. Within AdWords Express, they strip out many capabilities to have well built remarketing campaign.

Search Match Types are Missing

Within AdWords Express (Smart Campaigns), all search keywords you’re targeting are phrase match. This is OK, but for advanced advertisers, having match types such as Exact, Phrase, Broad Match Modified and Broad can be very helpful in creating a stellar search campaign.

Landing Page Functionality

AdWords Express (Smart Campaigns), limit each campaign to one landing page. This is OK for most businesses, but if you want to test different landing pages to see what will drive the most impact, Google Ads (expert mode) is where you can test multiple landing pages per campaign, even setup landing page experiments to split traffic evenly, and report which landing page drove the best performance.


For any advertiser who is starting to advertise on Google, check to make sure your account isn’t an express account, a quick way of finding out is to look at the URL. If it contains “express” within (example:, we need to switch to advanced mode.  This can be done simply by clicking the gear icon in the upper right hand corner to switch to expert mode.

Google Ads Switch to Expert Mode

All of the above are based on my research and first hand experiences, but Google also documents the differences of each platform here  and below.

AdWords Express vs. Google Ads Expert Mode


Google Ads (Expert) Tutorials

If you decided that Google Ads (Expert Mode) is right for your business, I want to take time to give you resources to setup your campaigns for. success. Even though it is a far superior platform, you need to know exactly what you’re doing, before you start advertising. It sounds silly but one button that’s accidentally clicked (or unclicked), could have some serious ramifications on your Google campaigns. With that, here are a few helpful resources to setup your campaigns for success.

Helpful Google Ads Resources

For more helpful resources, check out the blog posts and articles below.

Google Ads Support

Google Ads Management

Google Ads How to Guides

Google Ads Optimization Tips

Google Ad Formats

Ben Lund

Ben Lund

Ben Lund is a 14+ year digital advertising vet who founded Rise Marketing Group. Outside of managing his agency, he offers advertising courses on SkillShare and routinely shares his best practices on

Ben Lund

Ben Lund

Ben Lund is a 14+ year digital advertising vet who founded Rise Marketing Group. Outside of managing his agency, he offers advertising courses on SkillShare and routinely shares his best practices on

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Need More Advertising Help?

While I am sharing a good amount of free information through DIY Digital Strategy, if you need more help, feel free to drop me a line on my contact page, as my agency Rise Marketing Group helps clients of all sizes.
Even if you’re not interested in full service advertising management, I would love to hear from you! Ping me a line at and I’ll be sure to follow-up to see how I can help.