How Effective is Google AdWords Express for Local Businesses?

How Effective is Google AdWords Express for Local Businesses?
Key 'Takeaways' From This Post
  • 88% of SEOs/SMBs say that AdWords is more effective than Adwords Express
  • 78% of SEOs/SMBs say AdWords Express delivers LOW ROI
  • 57% of SEOs/SMBs say AdWords Express is NOT EFFECTIVE at generating traffic
  • 30% of SEOs/SMBs say they tried Google AdWords Express but it was unsuccessful for them

[Update: In July 2018, Adwords Express was renamed ‘Smart Campaigns’. For more up-to-date information on Google’s ad options, visit our paid search tag.]

There are an abundance of posts about the best practice & effectiveness of regular Adwords to drive traffic & leads to all types of businesses.

But there are very few posts that specifically focus on Adwords Express (AWE) and examine its effectiveness for local businesses, its pros & cons & best practices for using it.

In this post we’ll properly explore AWE and cover 4¬†areas¬†–

  • What is¬†Adwords Express?
  • Does Adwords Express provide good ROI for local businesses?
  • Pros & Cons of using Adwords Express
  • Best practices for using Adwords Express for local businesses

What is Google Adwords Express?

AdWords Express (AWE) is essentially a simplified version of Google AdWords (aka PPC ads, or paid-search ads)

Google has struggled to get small business owners to use Adwords because it’s¬†complex. It requires both time & knowledge to make it work cost-efficiently, and small business owners are time-strapped folks!

Adwords Express (AWE) is specifically designed for small, local businesses. It has a guided set-up process that makes it quick & easy to get up & running with paid ads on google. A business can target potential customers based on interests, location & language in just 3 clicks and put their advert live in under 5 minutes!

Sounds too good to be true. Is it? Let’s find out…

Here are few key facts about AWE that you should know.

1. Businesses need to have a Google My Business (GMB) listing

To use AWE¬†a business needs to have an active Google My Business listing. When you create an AWE¬†campaign you first¬†select the business’s GMB profile & then create the ad campaign. Once¬†your campaign is running you can see top-level results displayed in your GMB dashboard & can click through to your AWE dashboard to see data on views, clicks & keywords.

2. Where do Adwords Express ads appear?

They appear in all the places that normal Adwords ads appear – at the top of Google Search pages, on Google Maps pages & across the Google partner site network.

AWE ads also look identical to normal Adwords ads, so there’s no telling them apart.

3. Is there a minimum budget & duration for running Adwords Express?

The minimum budget is very low – approx $1.5/day or $45/month.

You set a daily budget and Google converts this into a monthly amount. So your campaign will run for 1 month with your ads displaying each day until your daily budget is hit.

At that point your ad stops showing until the next day when your daily budget renews.

AWE also provides a guide to what your competitors are spending & the maximum size of your market. This gives an upper limit to your monthly spend which varies for each type of business & location.

Does Adwords Express deliver ROI for Local Businesses?

In March 2016 we ran an online survey of SMBs & Local Search marketers, asking them about their usage & experiences of AWE.

We contacted over 2,000 people but only¬†305¬†completed the survey. The main reason for the low response rate is simple – not that many people are using AWE so can’t¬†comment knowledgeably about it.

The following 5 charts give a clear view of what AWE users think about it.

How familiar are you with Google AdWords Express?

How familiar are you with Google AdWords Express?

Key Findings:

  • 64% of respondents are very familiar with Google AdWords Express
  • 26% of respondents are unsure how Google AdWords Express works
  • 10% of respondents have never heard of Google AdWords Express

Do you use AdWords or AWE for your business/clients?

Quick distinction for you –

  • AWE = Google Adwords Express (see explanation above)
  • Adwords = regular¬†‘full-featured’ Google Adwords service

Do you use Google AdWords Express for your business/clients?

Key Findings:

  • 51% of respondents¬†use Google AdWords for most or all¬†of their clients
  • 29% of respondents use AWE¬†for at least some of their clients
  • 9% say they have been unsuccessful with Google AdWords vs 30% with Google AdWords Express


So it’s clear that many more people are using Adwords vs. AWE for reasons that we’ll explore below.

Interestingly over 3x as many people found AWE to be unsuccessful vs Adwords.

So far Adwords is the favorite ahead of AWE.

How effective is AdWords Express at generating website traffic?

How effective is Google AdWords Express at generating website traffic?

Key Findings:

  • 57% say AdWords Express is NOT EFFECTIVE¬†at generating traffic
  • 39% say AdWords Express is EFFECTIVE¬†at generating traffic
  • Just 4% say AdWords Express is VERY EFFECTIVE¬†at¬†generating traffic


Here we see why Adwords trumps AWE – AWE isn’t very effective at driving clicks for the majority of people who have used it. Just 4% of respondents said it was ‘very effective’ at bringing customers to their site – hardly a glowing commendation!

About the author
In my capacity as BrightLocal founder and CEO, I get involved in all areas of the business, but my two biggest passions are our tools and our customers. It's my job to ensure that we continue to extend and improve our platform to meet our customers' ever-changing needs. But it's just as important that we deliver excellent customer service to match our tools; one without the other just doesn't cut it!