When you buy an app for your phone, you’re usually presented with a couple of options. The free version typically contains ads and fewer bells and whistles than the paid version. I always go for the free version first to make sure it’s an app I’ll use. The free version of Angry Birds is a perfect example. I got the free version thinking I’d play it once and delete it. Boy was I wrong. The game was so much fun and addictive, I blew through the levels available and got hooked enough I had to have the paid version. In the same way, Google offers businesses the option to try out AdWords with a very basic account with limited functions with the hopes they’ll like what they see or want more out of the product and upgrade to a managed account.

AdWords Express is designed for people who want to test out online advertising but aren’t ready to make the jump into the deep end of the AdWords pool with a managed account. Google is targeting small businesses with limited resources to dedicate to their online advertising by offering to handle the account management. If you’re not currently using AdWords, trying out the Express product is a way to get your feet wet without investing too much of your time right off the bat, much like trying out the free version of that app before shelling out for the full version. With Express you are up and running quickly with well designed ads. You can easily see which words drive traffic and what if any qualified leads this type of advertising generates.

If you’re ready for a more targeted and flexible campaign with the ability to turn individual ads on and off as your needs change, then a managed AdWords account is the way to go. Managed accounts are more robust, full of tools to maximize your campaign. But you do have to manage it, staying on top changing bids for competitive keywords. This will involve  a lot more time, effort and resources than an AdWords Express account, and if you are getting started you might want to work with an AdWords account executive who knows what they’re doing.

Is it worth the effort? We think so. The ability to fine tune your ads will typically drive more qualified traffic (people who are genuinely interested in your service) to your website.  Recently we we moved a client from an AdWords Express account into a managed account. After studying the results we chose to spend more of his budget on some of the less competitive phrases and adjust the content on the landing pages to more closely match those keywords.  The result? We were able to double the amount of high quality clicks for the same investment.

Take a look at the differences of the two types of accounts side by side to see what will work best for your business based on your goals and needs.

FeatureAdWords ExpressAdWords Managed Account
Set UpAnswer a few questions about your business and set your budget. Google will do the rest.You build your campaign from scratch with keyword research, ad writing and creating content to convert clicks.
ControlYou can't make any changes to your AdWords Express campaign. Managed accounts offer complete control over every aspect of the account.
BudgetWorks better with small budgets. $300/mo or less.Works better with larger budgets divided into ad buys and management.

Online advertising can be a useful tool if you go in with the right expectations and know what you want out of it. Google is making a push for small businesses to give AdWords a try by offering pretty hefty promo codes and free trials with both AdWords Express and managed accounts. It’s definitely worth a look and if you want to learn more, we’re happy to help.