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Google Ads and Google AdWords Express: The Difference

Written by Andrew Seiden on 01.24.19

Google Ads vs. Google AdWords Express

If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably thought about the benefits of advertising on Google. Bringing your ad to the top of Google’s search results is a sure way to drive traffic to your website, and with increased traffic, you’ll secure higher conversion rates. However, Google offers two options for advertising and you need to know the difference so you can make the best choice for your business needs.

Google Ads

The Google Ads platform is set up like an auction. Businesses put in bids on keywords that pertain to their industry in hopes of having their ad rank in the search results— preferably at the top. The business pays when someone clicks on the ad, which is called pay-per-click (PPC), and the cost-per-click (CPC) is based on where the ad is in the search results. The person pays just enough to hold the ad position, which means more than the ad beneath it but not more than their maximum bid (in most cases).

Google ranks the ads it gets for a particular keyword and decides which ones will show before the organic search results. The ranking is determined by its quality score. The quality score is derived from the following:

  • Relevancy of the keywords to the ad
  • Quality of the ad content
  • Landing page content
  • Expected click-through rate
  • Bid amount

With Google Ads, you take full control of the advertising campaign, which can be overwhelming and time-consuming for the novice. You have to handle these elements (and more):

  • Select keywords
  • Develop a list of negative keywords
  • Decide how much to bid for each keyword
  • Work with a daily budget
  • Create ads
  • Use metrics to determine how well the ad is doing
  • Make necessary adjustments if the ad is not performing well

Since Google ranks ads using relevancy of keywords, user context, landing page content, ad extensions, and maximum bid, a person may not necessarily have to bid extremely high if they have highly relevant keywords.


Google AdWords Express

Google developed AdWords Express for the business owner who doesn’t have the extra time to coordinate an advertising campaign let alone stay on top of one. The goal of Google AdWords Express is to simplify the process by automating it. Google does almost everything for the business. The sign-up process is simple and seamless. You just create an ad, select the budget, and describe the business’s product or service. However, you are given a menu of choices from which to choose. You cannot manually type in your business or what type of product or services you provide.


Once you enter your data, Google automates an ad campaign by developing a list of search phrases. The way it’s supposed to work is when someone searches Google using one of the phrases, your ad will show up near the search results. And while Google AdWords Express does give you some control over the basic elements of the advertising, such as what phrases to exclude, it doesn’t allow you enough control over elements such as negative keywords. It also relies on broad match keywords, which means some searches end up in irrelevant places. A company that describes itself as a Westland Flower Shop, may show up in results for Westland Bowling Alley simply because the word Westland matches both phrases.


The main difference between Google Ads and Google AdWords Express is the amount of control you have. Google Ads gives you more control to focus your keywords on your target audience. However, the added options do require more management.

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Topics: Paid Campaigns