We all know what Google AdWords are by now, but the main question most people end up asking themselves is – what is the difference between AdWords and AdWords Express?

In short, the actual AdWords is the all-inclusive platform that gives you 100% ability to create & manage campaigns over Google Search Network, Search Partners, Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail. Meanwhile, AdWords Express is a less of a hands-on option where an advertiser is asked to provided Google with the essentials, such as the ad text and final URLs – which will result in Google building and optimize company’s PPC marketing on its own.

But let’s break down each platform separately:

Length of Setup

AdWords Express is definitely quick to set up. We tested the time invested in building out a campaign during 2 essential time periods – when Google Express was first introduced in 2014 & during the research period of this article throughout June of 2018. Both times took us less than 15 minutes to go from opening the platform to Google begging us to add our credit card information.

Meanwhile, a regular AdWords account setup for a small business usually takes between 8 and 12 hours. The time invested into the setup includes keyword research, negative keyword exclusion, competitor PPC analysis, conversion tracking setup, text ad creation, remarketing implementation, reporting tool setup, and other goodies that we surprise our clients with.

Complexity of Setup

Setting up AdWords Express account was definitely made to make things easy. It’s as easy as 1,2,3:

  1. Select your ad goal (storefront visit, phone call, or, take action on website)
  2. Write your ad
  3. Add your phone number

Does that mean it’s going to perform well? We’ll talk about that later…

Meanwhile, regular Google AdWords, as mentioned earlier – is a 100% hands-on approach to building out your own PPC campaigns. While AdWords Express is simplified so far that you are not required to even add your own keywords – you will have to hand pick your queries, add match types, write your own custom ads, pick proper targeting, and, most importantly, make sure you have the right settings applied within the regular AdWords account.

Network Targeting

Unfortunately, AdWords Express is only meant for Google Search & Search Partners. Meaning, that you have no ability to do a local branding campaign or remarket to your visitors with banner ads on GDN or video ads on YouTube. You are limited to search / text ads only.

Meanwhile, regular Google AdWords allows you to do whatever your heart desires. Heck, they can even mix search and display networks together if you wish! (Well, don’t ever do that. You’ll most likely waste a ton of money that way.)
Google AdWords targeting options are actually incredible. For Search Network alone, you have a ton of targeting and bidding strategies other than keyword targeting, such as audience layers, geographic targeting, ad schedule, demographic bidding, etc.! Let’s not even talk about GDN or YouTube where the targeting gets so granular, you could easily target your ads to show on your competitor’s website or even their YouTube channel!


The not-so-secret sauce to having a monster AdWords account lays within optimizing what works while excluding what doesn’t, and ongoing account and on-site testing to find new easy wins.
In AdWords Express account you’re only allowed to add negative keywords vs. implementing actual keywords you want to target; meaning – all you’re left to test is ad text & landing pages. That is nowhere near enough to succeed with AdWords if you’re looking to get some serious results, as AdWords currently is the most competitive it has ever been, AdWords Express might not be the right choice for you.

Just to put things in perspective – when we optimize Google AdWords accounts, we look at the following performance items to make data-driven adjustments:

  1. The performance of actual keywords
  2. Search queries of both – well & poor performing keywords
  3. Ads
  4. Ad schedule
  5. Device type
  6. Demographics
  7. Remarketing audiences

Remember, this is only within the AdWords account. To even scratch the cap of company’s digital marketing potential – one has to go far beyond just the clicks, aka, CRO & everything that needs to be optimized in the post-click experience.

To summarize – AdWords Express gives 100% of the management to their AI. Research suggests that AI is smarter than the average marketer only 1 in 5 times. In other words – it’s your pick whether you will trust your own skillset, AI, or a PPC consultant to build and optimize your AdWords account.


Google is definitely heading the right direction by implementing artificial intelligence in their platform – nearly everything in this world is quantifiable, most decisions made today are data-driven, and who else can process data faster than a human mind? Computers, obviously. Google purchased DeepMind (https://deepmind.com/) for a reason.

To be honest with you – as much as I want Google’s AI to be a successful in the PPC world, I highly suggest using regular AdWords 10 times out of 10 to anybody. There might be small local businesses that are willing to put in $300-500 per month in ads, and Google Express might cut it for them – but even in those cases, it’s unlikely that they will see much ROI from PPC.

If you’re new to AdWords & can’t afford to hire an agency – there are tons of videos on YouTube on how to create your own campaigns, which will most likely allow you to be more effective with PPC than what AdWords Express can offer. If you do choose to go the route of DIY – be a smart marketer,?use the regular Google AdWords account.

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