Google Ads (AdWords) Express vs. Expert Mode

Google Ads is a great way to quickly generate visibility. Maybe your business needed ads online to increase exposure on phrases you’re not ranking well for, or to be more present where your competitors are. Regardless, a successful ad campaign can be effective.

When you sign on board with Google Ads, you’ll get funneled by Google into creating an “Express” campaign. Once you’re there, it seems like it’s the only option, but you can switch to Expert Mode.

Today I’m going to talk about those Express campaigns, Expert Mode, and what you should be using (spoiler: it’s Expert, even if you’re not an expert.)


The Express version of Google Ads is a very stripped-down version of Google Ads (Expert Mode). It doesn’t give you the option of using features that give you more control over the account. Those features help increase ad exposure and save money, but we’ll get to that later.

I thought about making an exception and recommending Express for the novice user, but I’m refraining. If you use Google Ads Express, I’m confident that money will be wasted. It’s worth it to enlist a company to handle your ads. The savings will be evident, and results can be closely tracked to show you if Ads are generating a return on your investment.

When you start with Google Ads, you’re kicked through a simple process that ends with entering credit card information:

  • Email/domain
  • Spend/target audience info
  • Simplified ad creation
  • Payment

Then, you’re funneled into the Ads Express interface:

  • The interface shows good information, but it’s very vague and gives so much less than what the expert mode provides
  • In Ads Express, you can click the tool drop down in the top right-hand corner of the interface. Then select “Switch to Expert Mode

Google Ads Tools Button

SMART CAMPAIGN DISCLAIMER: I’ve worked with a few rare cases where the smart campaign that was setup in express mode worked well for the business. They were focused on calls, and the campaign was generating a good number of calls. That being said, I still think moving into expert mode will have better long-term results.

You can look at the data of all of the search phrases working for your account, target them with phrase or exact match, and then wasted spend will go away. This is especially true, because you’ll have so many more settings and capabilities you can adjust to enhance targeting and opportunity at conversion. From there, you can expand the account further, and bring Google’s API back into the mix with a maximize conversions or target CPA bid strategy over time.

At the start of the express to expert mode switch (and with major changes to budget, bid strategy, search phrases targeted) there is a learning period. If you and/or your client are not patient, you will not see the results and what Google Ads expert mode has the potential to do for your business. Sometimes it can be difficult for a client to see past “we’re losing volume and therefore money right now”. Though, if they were patient they would have much more quality volume, save a lot of money on wasted ad spend, and have an ultra-efficient campaign. Google Ads is quick to get you in the search results, but if you want a great campaign that will last and benefit your business for the long-term, there needs to be a period of time to setup, learn, test and adjust. The patience will pay off over time.


If you’re not familiar with the Google Ads Expert Mode interface, it can be a bit overwhelming. The good news is that it’s overwhelming because Google collects a ton of data for you. When this data is properly interpreted and you know how to turn those insights into actions, your Ads account can be very successful.

Some of the most important features of Expert Mode:

  • Keyword Match Types
    • Broad: Just don’t use this option. It’s what is used in Ads Express, and it allows your ads to appear for a lot of irrelevant things. EX: You’re bidding on “TVs”. Broad match will allow you to appear for pretty much anything including the word TVs, or anything Google thinks is somewhat related. It usually doesn’t do a good job.
    • Phrase: Will let you appear for phrases that include your phrase, or something very similar to it. EX: bidding on “action figures,” you might appear for “action figures for sale”
    • Exact: Will only let you appear for the specific keyword. Put brackets around your keyword/search phrase to make it exact match when entering them. If you’ve already entered them, you can check the box next to your keyword, edit match type, and you’ll be prompted with a drop-down menu. EX: If you bid on “website design” that is the only keyword/search phrase your ad will appear for.
  • Extensions
    • Extensions allow you to expand your ads. You can add a phone button to your ad for mobile users, you can create sitelinks that occupy more space in the search results, or you can include your location. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Using these extensions makes your ads more noticeable, allows you to communicate more to the searcher, and it will help your ads appear more.
  • Bid Strategies
    • Your use of bid strategy will depend on your campaign, and how long you’ve been running it. It can help you get more clicks, more appearances, or more conversions. It can also help you leverage Google’s intelligence.
    • For any campaign I’m running with the goal of increasing conversions (ex: calls, form completions, purchases, etc.), I generally get the account running well with Manual or Automated CPC, and set a max bid limit. Once the account has consistently generated conversions, I might switch to the “maximize conversions” strategy, so Google can use its technology to place my ads in places that I’m more likely to convert.
  • Demographics
    • You can exclude certain age ranges, income percentiles, and more. This will help you to narrow targeting down very close to your target audience.
  • Location Targeting
    • This also helps narrow the target. Using Google Analytics or Google Ads, you can identify metrics specific to zip codes, states, or countries.
  • SO much more!

When you narrow targeting, that money can be spent in a place you know (based on data) there is a higher likelihood of a return.

If you’ve been trying to figure out Google Ads and don’t seem to be generating results, or if you’re looking to start a campaign, we strongly recommend utilizing an Ads/AdWords certified specialist. We’ve saved companies thousands of dollars and encouraged revenue increases through Google Ads since it was created. We’re happy to evaluate your current account, help you start a new one, and let you know if it’s a good fit for your business.

Getting a proposal is easy and free. Just fill out our simple form.

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