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Google Ads Smart Campaigns: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Google Ads Smart Campaigns is an automated ad manager that is very easy to set up and run. It is primarily for those advertisers who are very new to advertising or don’t have a lot of time to set up or manage their paid search campaigns.

The Good

The best part of Smart Campaigns is that they are super easy to set up and maintain.  If you have never run a paid search campaign, then Smart Campaigns would be very attractive.  Along with being very easy to set up, they allow for very little interaction once set and the data they report is very basic, so they don’t overwhelm the inexperienced advertiser with information and industry jargon, though you can dig in deeper, if desired.

The setup process is very intuitive:

  • Enter your advertising goals: Calls, Appointments, or Store Visits
  • Enter your business information
  • Enter your service areas by city, county, zip code, etc.
  • Define your products and services (This is guided to make it even easier based on your company information entered earlier.)
  • Write your ad. This is pre-populated with all the data you have previously entered, though you can edit the ads, if desired.
  • Enter information based on your goal selected in the first step. For instance, if you selected Get Calls, you would enter your phone number.
  • Set your budget.  Google gives their recommendations for a daily budget or you can enter your own.
  • Review your campaign details.
  • Activate your campaign.

The Bad

Smart Campaigns are completely bot driven, with no human interaction at all. What this means to the advertiser is that there is little control over your ad campaigns.  It is designed to be simple for the advertiser, but more importantly, simple for Google. The campaign, ad, and keyword control available in Search campaigns isn’t available in Smart Campaigns.  So, if you’re looking for more control and targeting in your campaigns, Smart Campaigns are not the way to go.

The Ugly

Smart Campaigns are very good for Google, but can be very bad for advertisers.  Since the campaigns are completely bot driven (The Bad), they are designed to spend your entire monthly budget whether that benefits the advertiser or not.  In our experience, we have seen where Smart Campaigns will, to use a Google term, Overdeliver.

In Google’s language:

Overdelivery can help make up for days when traffic is slow and your ads don’t get as much exposure. Here’s how: to make sure that you don’t miss showing your ads on a popular day, Google might use more of your budget on some days and less on other days. When this happens, your total daily cost could be up to 2 times your average daily budget for Search campaigns and up to 4 times your daily budget for Smart campaigns (when you aren’t paying for conversions). If you are paying for conversions, your daily cost could exceed your overdelivery threshold.

However, our system makes sure that after an entire month of service, you’re never charged more than your monthly charging limit — the average number of days in a month (30.4) multiplied by your average daily budget.

What is not clear in this explanation, is that Smart Campaigns don’t really have a “daily budget” rather they have a “daily average” based on the monthly budget selected during setup, so Google is capable of charging exorbitant amounts of money per click when the bot chooses.  What this means to the advertiser is that Google will make them spend their entire monthly budget regardless of performance.

In the chart below we show how an advertiser had a Daily Average Cost of $22.67, but on one day the cost was $404.65, far outpacing the “4 times your daily budget” described in their explanation of Overdelivery.  On this day, the advertiser had only 25 ad impressions and three clicks for an Average Click Cost of $134.88 on that day compared to the monthly Average Click Cost of $9.89.


There you have it, the Good, Bad, and Ugly of Google Ads Smart Campaigns.  Advertisers can get better performance and more control over budgets by spending a little more time building local Search Campaigns rather than Smart Campaigns.  If you need help, contact Deka9Digital today.

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