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Smart Campaigns vs Regular Google Ads

Currently, Google offers two platforms to help your organisation advertise and signal-boost your nonprofit’s mission. There’s Google Ads, and then there’s Google Smart Campaigns, formerly known as Google AdWords Express.

Understanding the differences between the two platforms can help you choose which is the better option for your organisation.


Google Smart Campaigns

The first distinguishing factor between Google Ads and Google Smart Campaigns is that the latter offers complete automation of its functions so that you can focus on other tasks while the platform does all the work for you. Google chooses what keywords to use for your ads based on the variables you input upon setup.

With a Smart Campaign, you can attract potential customers for your business or supporters for your charity simply with just a single Campaign. Of course, you can still run multiple Campaigns if you have a range of services or products that you want to showcase.

When you choose to work with Google Smart Campaigns, you’re basically letting the platform do the work for you - and this could give you valuable time to improve and focus on other aspects of your charity or organisation.

How do I set up a Smart Campaign?

Creating a Smart Campaign should be quick and easy. Just follow these steps:

STEP 1: Log in to your Google Ads account or sign up here if you’re new to Google Ads.

STEP 2: Click the Blue (+) sign or select New campaign.

smart campaign create.png

STEP 3: Pick your campaign goal and select Smart as your campaign type.

smart campaign goal & type.png

STEP 4: Describe the charity or business that you want to advertise - you will have to provide the following information:

smart campaign business data.png

and select your audience (or where you want your ads to appear)

smart campaign audience.png

STEP 5: Find keywords that describe your services, products, or other offerings.

smart campaign keyword themes.png

STEP 6: Time to create your text ad!

smart campaign ad creation.png

STEP 7: Determine your monthly budget (you will only be charged for clicks on your ads or calls to your business or charity).

  • For Google Ad Grants accounts, you can set your daily budget to $329 (maximum).

smart campaign budget.png

STEP 8: Review your campaign settings and you’re good to go!


Regular Google Ads

While regular Google Ads also utilise some level of machine learning, its lack of automated functions compared to Google Smart Campaigns means you are in charge of all the aspects of your campaign, from text ad creation to keyword selection to conversion tracking and budgeting.

In short, with the non-automated regular Google ads, you’ll need more expertise, experience, and time to effectively manage your account.

Managing Google Ads

Advertising with Google Ads is like making a financial investment for your organisation. There are two ways that you can go about this:

  • Manage Google Ads on your own

Make time to check your Google Ads account regularly, and be prepared to make adjustments to ensure your return on investment. At least once a week is fine, but the amount of time you spend on it varies depending on how well your ads are doing and what changes are necessary to be made.

  • Find a certified professional to manage your account

If the first option is a little too complicated and time-consuming for you, consider hiring a Google Partner or a Certified Professional to manage your Google Ads Account. You can choose from agencies to marketing professionals to online experts and be guaranteed that you’ll be working with someone who’s Google-certified to manage Google Ads accounts.

Choosing between Google Ads and Google Smart Campaigns

The difference between choosing automation and none impacts the time and resources needed to maintain a successful ad campaign for your organisation. When it comes down to it, choosing between Google Ads and Google Smart Campaigns is a question of automation vs control and simplicity vs complexity.

The convenience that comes with Google Smart Campaigns’ automation does mean you have to let go of the control you otherwise have with Google Ads. However, if you're struggling to learn Google Ads and don't have a budget available to hire a Google Ad Grants manager then this should be the perfect solution!

Ready to transfer your Ad Grants account to Smart Campaigns?

Just make sure you’ve read through your Google Ad Grant options before you flick the switch!

  • Click here and use your current Customer ID to login to Smart Campaigns

  • Create your Smart Campaigns account starting from Step 2 here

  • Pause your existing campaigns in Google Ads


Change the default Google Ads interface

To do this you will need to call Google Ads Support and ask that Google to change the interface from Google Ads to Smart Campaigns.

The support team member will then email you a template that will give Google one-time approval to make the changes that you want. You should (1) review the template carefully, (2) fill in all of the blanks and (3) send your request back by copy-pasting the completed template.

The template may look something like this:



On behalf of my company, I give Google my approval to make all of the following types of modifications in Google Ads account 1234567890 without first notifying me:

Request 1: I authorise Google to change the interface from Google Ads to Google Smart Campaigns.

Google Ads account CID: 1234567890


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