When I first tried PPC advertising with a company called GoTo (before Google), there was only one way to get started and that was to set up your account, put all your keywords in, set up your ads, landing pages, account structure and settings and then figure out how to manage the bidding, ads, keywords and landing pages so that you didn’t spend all your money overnight or worse get no leads from what you spent your money on.
Google has tried to solve this complication by creating a streamlined version of AdWords called AdWords Express (f.k.a. Google Boost). Basically, AdWords Express is Google’s program which is meant to be an easy, effective way for small businesses to reach local customers.
So, let’s look at some of the reasons why you would want to use AdWords Express versus plain old AdWords and vice versa. Basically, AdWords Express ‘boosts’ your Google Places or local search listings to the top of the list. So, if a search term is entered that would trigger local search results, your Google Places listing is elevated into the Advertising section of the search results, (the ads on the top, or ads on the right), and your place marker is changed from red to blue. Your ad may stand out more because of the color marker, which you would not get if you merely have an AdWords campaign. The concept is that by paying you elevate your ad to the top, get more clicks, and make sales.
Once you pay to elevate your listing, your free listing disappears however. Therefore, you never really know if you would have been there for free. You lose the ability to compare and contrast getting there for free vs. paying, as Google does not allow ‘duplicate’ listings.
Google AdWords Express help section says: We recommend choosing between AdWords or AdWords Express to start, rather than advertising on both at the same time. AdWords Express is ideal if you prefer a low-maintenance advertising option, while AdWords provides you with more advertising options and more sophisticated controls. With AdWords, you control your keyword selection and bids, and you can target both locally and nationally, get advanced reporting, and take advantage of different ad formats such as video ads, and more.
If you advertise on AdWords and AdWords Express, your ads will compete in the same ad auction. Only one ad from either your AdWords or AdWords Express account can appear for a search query.
AdWords Express has some significant limitations. Some of these include less control over budget, less places your ad can appear and a lot less features.
So, other than the possibility of a higher click through rate due to the blue flag in your ad, it appears that if you’re going to consider adding an AdWords campaign that is geo-targeted to your Google Places efforts, AdWords is likely a more effective alternative than AdWords Express. However, if you are small and just getting started and want to test whether AdWords is a viable alternative for you, it may be best to start with AdWords Express as it’s a lot easier to set up and manage than a full blown AdWords campaign.