DW Tips

Google Ads: Smart Campaigns vs Google Search Campaigns

Sep 15, 2023 by Paul

If you feel like you're spending a lot of money on your Google Ads campaigns, but not getting the results you were hoping for, it may be because you're running 'Smart Campaigns'.

In Google's own words:

"Smart campaigns have AI-powered features to help you manage your ads with minimal effort. You can set up your budget, choose your location preferences, and add a few keyword themes. Based on these choices, Google Ads will show your ad to people looking for the products and services your business offers. Google AI maintains and updates your search terms over time."

So, are 'Smart Campaigns' really that smart? It's true that they're quick to setup and they don't require any specialist knowledge of managing Google Ads.  Just a few words, your location, an image or two, your credit card details, and away you go. However, their simplicity to setup can also be their Achilles heel because they allow Google to make all the important decisions, i.e. who to show your ads to and when. By comparison, Google Search Campaigns give you, the advertiser, much more control over how your budget is spent. So, although you may need a Google Ads expert to run your Google Search Ads for you, they may provide you with a much better return on your investment.

So let's delve into the key differences between the two:

1. Automation vs. Manual Control:

  • Smart Campaigns: These are designed for advertisers who want a more automated approach. Google's machine learning algorithms handle most of the campaign management, including ad placement, bidding, and targeting.
  • Search Campaigns: Search campaigns provide more manual control over various aspects, including keyword selection, ad copy, bidding strategies, and audience targeting. Advertisers have greater flexibility to fine-tune their campaigns.

2. Campaign Goals:

  •  Smart Campaigns: These are ideal for advertisers looking to drive specific actions, such as website visits, phone calls, or store visits. They are well-suited for small businesses or those new to online advertising.
  •  Search Campaigns: Search campaigns are versatile and can be used for a wide range of goals, including lead generation, e-commerce sales, brand awareness, and more. They provide more options to align with specific objectives.

3. Keyword Targeting:

  • Smart Campaigns: Keyword management in smart campaigns is limited. Google determines which search terms trigger your ads based on the products or services you offer.
  • Search Campaigns: Advertisers have full control over keyword selection, allowing them to target specific search terms relevant to their business. This precision can be crucial for reaching the right audience.

4. Ad Creatives:

  • Smart Campaigns: Ad creation is simplified, with Google generating ad headlines and descriptions based on your business information and website content.
  • Search Campaigns: Advertisers have complete control over ad copy, allowing them to craft customized messages and A/B test different ad variations for optimal performance.

5. Budget and Bidding:

  • Smart Campaigns: Budgets are set at a daily level, and Google automatically manages bidding to maximize results within that budget.
  • Search Campaigns: Advertisers can control their budget in various ways and have more bidding options, such us Maximise Conversions, Target Cost Per Acquisition and ROAS (Return on Ad Spend).

6. Audience Targeting:

  • Smart Campaigns: Audience targeting options are limited, primarily based on user behavior and location.
  • Search Campaigns: Advertisers can utilise advanced audience targeting options, including demographics, interests, remarketing lists, and custom intent audiences.


In summary, the choice between Google Ads Smart Campaigns and Search Campaigns depends on your advertising goals, level of control desired, and familiarity with online advertising. Smart Campaigns are user-friendly and automated, making them suitable for beginners and businesses with simple goals, while Search Campaigns offer more control and customization for advertisers seeking specific results.

Contact us today for a free audit of your Google Ads campaign.