It’s no secret that Google has been pushing hard in promoting local search — just look at how Google Places listings are now often integrated in normal Google searches. So with the release of Google’s AdWords Express program, it’s my opinion that this is yet another attempt for Google to integrate further into the local search market.
What is AdWords Express?
AdWords express is a pay-per-click (PPC) program where you advertise your product or service alongside regular Google searches. So far this description sounds the same ad the AdWords program — but here come the differences.
With the AdWords Express program…
1. you are limited to advertising a local business that has a Google Places page (e.g. so from my interpretation of what I’ve read it seems that this program is geared to local stores and services providers only).
2. you cannot select particular keywords. Google will select keywords for you based on the category you have selected for your Google Places page.
3. you thus cannot filter your keywords (e.g. negative keywords, broad match, exact match, etc) — it’s all Google’s “guesstimate” as to where your site fits in.
4. you cannot, therefore, select a particular price to pay for a specific keyword
5. Something that does appear intriguing, however, is that if you are a Google AdWords Express advertiser, your business will appear in blue on the map that’s usually displayed on the search results page, while the other businesses will still appear in red. I do wonder, however, how this will look when, for example, the majority of the local businesses in your area for a specific niche (e.g. all the dentists) have Google AdWords Express ads — how will anyone stand out?
Will it Work?
One of the great things about AdWords is that you can finely-tune pretty much everything about your ads (caveat: Facebook advertising does a better job of targeting demographics), and I think that one of the things that Google is trying to do with AdWords express is to simplify the process for people who want to advertise without the need to manage an AdWords account (or hire someone to do so).
Philosophically I’m not sure how valuable this approach is going to be. If you want to lose weight, then you need to watch your diet and go to the gym — there’s no shortcut. Similarly, with online advertising, it takes hard work and lots of time invested to find what ads work and at what price. When it comes to running an AdWords campaign for my clients, I really like to use data from a successful organic SEO campaign before I start an AdWords campaign — nobody likes throwing money out the window. So the idea of having Google select keywords for me based on my Google Places category makes my wallet nervous.
So while I commend Google for trying to make AdWords more accessible to the masses, in doing so you as the advertiser do lose a lot of control, and it’s this control specifically that differentiates a good marketer from a great one. That being said, I will be keeping my eyes and ears open in the near future to see where Google AdWords Express winds up in the online marketing equation — will it be an alternative to a traditional AdWords account? an adjunct to an AdWords account, or a waste of money? We will see.