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Google Ads Smart Campaigns vs Standard Campaigns

Understanding the key differences between Google Ads Smart Campaigns and Standard Campaigns is essential for choosing the right advertising strategy for your business.

Smart Campaigns offer simplicity and automation, making them suitable for small businesses or those with limited advertising expertise.

In contrast, Standard Campaigns provide extensive control and customization, ideal for businesses with specific marketing goals and the resources to manage complex campaigns.

By considering various factors that we’ll cover in this guide, you can determine which campaign type aligns best with your business needs and objectives.

Let’s get right into the comparison of Google Ads smart campaigns vs standard campaigns!

What Are Google Ads Smart Campaigns?

Google Ads Smart Campaigns are a streamlined, automated advertising solution designed primarily for small businesses and advertisers with limited time or expertise in managing online advertising campaigns.

The primary goal of Smart Campaigns is to simplify the process of online advertising, making it accessible to those who may not have extensive knowledge or resources.

By leveraging Google’s machine learning algorithms, Smart Campaigns automate many aspects of ad management, allowing businesses to focus on their core activities while still effectively reaching potential customers.

Key Features


One of the defining characteristics of Smart Campaigns is the high level of automation. Google takes care of the majority of the tasks involved in running an advertising campaign.

This includes ad creation, targeting, and bidding.

Advertisers need to provide basic information about their business, set a budget, and define their goals. Google then uses this information to generate ads, select the most relevant audience, and optimize bids to achieve the desired outcomes.

Easy Setup

Setting up a Smart Campaign is straightforward and user-friendly. Advertisers start by providing essential details about their business, such as the business name, website, and primary advertising goals.

They then create ad copy, which typically includes a headline, description, and call-to-action. Google provides guidance throughout this process, making it accessible even for those who are new to online advertising.

Once the setup is complete, the campaign can be launched with minimal ongoing management required.

Local Ads Focus

Smart Campaigns are particularly effective for businesses targeting local customers.

They are designed to help local businesses attract nearby customers by displaying ads across various Google platforms, including Search, Maps, and Display Network.

This local focus is beneficial for small businesses looking to increase foot traffic to their physical locations or drive local online sales.

Simplified Performance Tracking

Smart Campaigns come with simplified performance tracking and reporting features.

Google provides easy-to-understand reports that highlight key metrics such as clicks, calls, and visits.

This allows advertisers to quickly assess the effectiveness of their campaigns without needing to analyze complex data.

The emphasis is on providing clear insights into how the ads are performing in relation to the advertiser’s goals.


Ease of Use

One of the main advantages of Smart Campaigns is their ease of use.

The automated nature of these campaigns means that advertisers do not need to have in-depth knowledge of online advertising to get started.

The setup process is intuitive, and Google handles most of the complex tasks, making it an attractive option for small business owners and busy professionals.

Time Efficiency

Smart Campaigns save time by automating tasks that would otherwise require significant manual effort.

This includes selecting keywords, setting bids, and continuously optimizing the campaign based on performance data.

As a result, advertisers can focus on running their businesses rather than managing their ads.

Automated Optimization

The use of machine learning allows Smart Campaigns to continuously optimize ad performance.

Google’s algorithms analyze data in real-time to adjust bids and targeting, ensuring that the ads reach the most relevant audience at the right time.

This automated optimization helps to improve the effectiveness of the campaign without requiring constant manual adjustments.


Limited Control

While the automation of Smart Campaigns is a significant advantage, it also comes with a downside: limited control. Advertisers have fewer options for customization compared to other campaign types.

For example, they cannot manually select keywords or control bid strategies in detail. This lack of control may be a drawback for businesses that want to fine-tune their advertising strategies.

Less Customization

Smart Campaigns offer fewer options for customizing ads and targeting specific audiences.

The ad formats are more standardized, and the targeting options are primarily determined by Google’s algorithms.

Businesses with specific branding requirements or complex advertising needs may find this lack of customization limiting.

What Are Google Ads Standard Campaigns?

Google Ads Standard Campaigns provide advertisers with a comprehensive and customizable platform to manage their online advertising efforts.

Unlike Smart Campaigns, Standard Campaigns offer granular control over various aspects of the advertising process, making them suitable for businesses with specific marketing goals and the resources to manage more complex campaigns.

These campaigns enable advertisers to tailor their ads, targeting, and bidding strategies to achieve precise outcomes.

Types of Standard Campaigns

Search Campaigns

Search Campaigns allow advertisers to display text ads on Google Search results pages. These ads appear when users search for keywords related to the advertiser’s products or services. This type of campaign is ideal for businesses looking to capture intent-driven traffic, as the ads are shown to users actively searching for specific information.

Display Campaigns

Display Campaigns enable advertisers to place visual ads across the Google Display Network, which includes millions of websites, apps, and Google-owned properties like YouTube and Gmail. These campaigns are effective for reaching a broad audience and increasing brand awareness through visually engaging formats such as banners and videos.

Shopping Campaigns

Shopping Campaigns are designed for retailers looking to promote their products online. These campaigns showcase product images, prices, and business names directly within the search results. They are particularly effective for e-commerce businesses aiming to drive online sales and attract potential customers who are ready to purchase.

Video Campaigns

Video Campaigns allow advertisers to display video ads on YouTube and across the Google Display Network. These campaigns are suitable for businesses wanting to engage their audience through rich, multimedia content. Video ads can be used to build brand awareness, drive conversions, or promote specific products and services.

App Campaigns

App Campaigns are tailored for businesses promoting mobile applications. These campaigns drive app installations and engagement by displaying ads across Google Search, YouTube, Google Play, and within other apps on the Google Display Network. They leverage machine learning to optimize ad placements and targeting based on user behavior.

Key Features

Manual Control Over Ads, Targeting, and Bidding

One of the standout features of Standard Campaigns is the high level of manual control they offer. Advertisers can create highly customized ads, select specific keywords, and set detailed targeting criteria. This control extends to bidding strategies, where advertisers can choose from various options such as manual bidding, cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-impression (CPM), and cost-per-acquisition (CPA). This level of customization allows businesses to tailor their campaigns to meet precise marketing objectives.

Detailed Reporting and Optimization Tools

Standard Campaigns provide access to comprehensive reporting and analytics tools. Advertisers can track a wide range of metrics, including impressions, clicks, conversions, and return on investment (ROI). These detailed insights enable advertisers to make data-driven decisions and continuously optimize their campaigns for better performance. Advanced tools such as A/B testing, conversion tracking, and audience segmentation further enhance the ability to refine and improve advertising efforts.

Variety of Ad Formats and Extensions

Standard Campaigns support a diverse array of ad formats and extensions, allowing advertisers to create engaging and effective ads. Ad formats include text ads, responsive ads, display ads, shopping ads, and video ads, each serving different purposes and audiences. Ad extensions, such as site links, callouts, and location extensions, provide additional information and functionality, improving the visibility and performance of ads.


High Level of Customization

Standard Campaigns offer unparalleled customization options, enabling advertisers to tailor their ads, targeting, and bidding strategies to specific needs. This flexibility is beneficial for businesses with unique marketing goals and complex advertising requirements.

Detailed Targeting Options

Advertisers using Standard Campaigns can leverage detailed targeting options to reach their ideal audience. This includes demographic targeting, geographic targeting, device targeting, and audience targeting based on interests and behaviors. Such precision helps ensure that ads are shown to the most relevant users, maximizing the effectiveness of the campaign.

Comprehensive Performance Insights

The robust reporting and analytics tools provided in Standard Campaigns give advertisers deep insights into their campaign performance. This data allows for thorough analysis and informed decision-making, leading to more effective advertising strategies and better ROI.


Requires More Time and Expertise

The high level of control and customization in Standard Campaigns comes with the need for more time and expertise to manage them effectively. Advertisers must have a good understanding of online advertising principles and be prepared to invest significant effort into campaign setup, monitoring, and optimization.

Complex Setup and Management

Setting up and managing Standard Campaigns can be complex, particularly for businesses new to online advertising. The detailed configuration options, while beneficial, can be overwhelming without the necessary knowledge and experience. This complexity may necessitate hiring dedicated personnel or external agencies to manage the campaigns.

Key Differences Between Smart Campaigns and Standard Campaigns

Automation vs. Control

One of the most significant differences between Smart Campaigns and Standard Campaigns in Google Ads is the level of automation versus manual control.

Smart Campaigns are designed with automation at their core. Google handles most of the tasks, including ad creation, targeting, and bidding. This makes them ideal for small businesses or advertisers with limited time and expertise. The advertiser provides basic information and goals, and Google’s machine learning algorithms take care of the rest. This approach simplifies the advertising process but comes at the cost of reduced control over specific campaign details.

Standard Campaigns, on the other hand, offer extensive manual control. Advertisers can customize every aspect of their campaigns, from selecting specific keywords and setting bid amounts to choosing precise targeting options. This detailed level of control allows for highly tailored advertising strategies but requires more time, effort, and expertise to manage effectively.

Ease of Use

Another key difference lies in the ease of use between the two campaign types.

Smart Campaigns are user-friendly and designed to be set up quickly. The process involves a few straightforward steps, such as entering business details, setting a budget, and writing ad copy. Google’s automated system then manages the rest. This simplicity makes Smart Campaigns accessible to beginners and small business owners who may not have the resources to invest in complex advertising strategies.

Standard Campaigns are more complex and require a greater understanding of online advertising principles. Setting up a Standard Campaign involves multiple steps, including keyword research, audience targeting, and manual bid adjustments. While this complexity offers greater flexibility and potential for optimization, it also demands a higher level of expertise and a significant time commitment.

Targeting Options

Targeting capabilities differ significantly between Smart Campaigns and Standard Campaigns.

Smart Campaigns rely on Google’s algorithms to determine the best targeting based on the advertiser’s goals and provided information. This automated targeting is designed to reach relevant audiences without requiring detailed input from the advertiser. However, it offers limited customization compared to Standard Campaigns.

Standard Campaigns provide detailed targeting options that allow advertisers to reach specific audiences based on various criteria. Advertisers can target by keywords, demographics, geographic locations, device types, and user behaviors. This granular targeting enables precise audience segmentation and optimization, which can lead to more effective ad performance.

Ad Formats and Assets

The range of ad formats and extensions available also varies between the two campaign types.

Smart Campaigns support a limited number of ad formats, typically focused on simplicity and broad reach. The available formats are generally less customizable, and ad assets are automatically applied by Google based on the ad content and objectives.

Standard Campaigns offer a wide variety of ad formats and assets, allowing advertisers to create highly customized and engaging ads. Formats include text ads, responsive ads, display ads, shopping ads, and video ads. Advertisers can manually add ad extensions such as site links, callouts, and structured snippets, enhancing the ad’s visibility and functionality.

Budget and Bidding Strategies

Budget management and bidding strategies differ between Smart Campaigns and Standard Campaigns.

Smart Campaigns feature automated bidding strategies where Google optimizes bids to achieve the advertiser’s specified goals. Advertisers set a daily budget, and Google adjusts bids in real-time to maximize performance. This hands-off approach simplifies budget management but offers less control over individual bid adjustments.

Standard Campaigns provide various bidding strategies, including manual bidding, enhanced cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-impression (CPM), and target return on ad spend (ROAS). Advertisers can choose the strategy that best aligns with their campaign objectives and adjust bids at the keyword or ad group level. This flexibility allows for detailed budget control and optimization but requires ongoing management and expertise.

Reporting and Optimization

The level of reporting and optimization tools available also marks a difference between the two campaign types.

Smart Campaigns offer simplified reporting with a focus on key performance indicators such as clicks, calls, and conversions. The reports are easy to understand and designed to provide a quick overview of campaign performance. Optimization is largely automated, with Google’s algorithms making adjustments based on performance data.

Standard Campaigns provide comprehensive reporting and advanced optimization tools. Advertisers have access to detailed metrics and can conduct in-depth performance analysis. Features such as A/B testing, conversion tracking, and audience segmentation enable advertisers to refine their strategies and improve campaign effectiveness continuously. This detailed reporting and optimization require a higher level of involvement but offer greater insights and control over the campaign’s success.

Choosing the Right Campaign Type (Smart Campaigns vs Standard Campaigns)

Business Goals

Understanding your business goals is crucial in deciding between Google Ads Smart Campaigns and Standard Campaigns. Each campaign type offers different features that cater to specific objectives.

Smart Campaigns are ideal for businesses that aim to achieve basic advertising goals with minimal effort. If your primary objectives are to increase local visibility, drive phone calls, or bring more customers to your physical location, Smart Campaigns can efficiently meet these needs through automated processes. These campaigns are particularly effective for small businesses that want a straightforward way to advertise without the need for in-depth knowledge or management.

Standard Campaigns are more suitable for businesses with specific, detailed marketing goals that require precise targeting and customization. If your objectives include extensive online sales, building brand awareness on a larger scale, or running highly targeted campaigns across multiple platforms, Standard Campaigns provide the necessary tools and flexibility. These campaigns allow for detailed control over ad formats, bidding strategies, and audience segmentation, making them a better choice for businesses with more complex advertising needs.

Resources and Expertise

The availability of resources and expertise significantly influences the choice between Smart Campaigns and Standard Campaigns.

Smart Campaigns are designed for ease of use and require minimal time and expertise to set up and manage. They are perfect for small businesses or individual advertisers who do not have dedicated marketing teams or advertising professionals. The automated nature of Smart Campaigns allows you to set up the campaign quickly and let Google’s algorithms handle the optimization, freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of your business.

Standard Campaigns, however, demand more resources and a higher level of expertise. These campaigns require regular monitoring, optimization, and a thorough understanding of online advertising principles. Businesses with dedicated marketing teams or those who can afford to hire external agencies will benefit from the greater control and customization that Standard Campaigns offer. This investment in time and expertise can lead to more finely tuned campaigns and potentially better results.

Budget Considerations

Your advertising budget also plays a significant role in deciding between Smart Campaigns and Standard Campaigns.

Smart Campaigns generally require a lower budget and are optimized to maximize performance within the set limits. They are designed to be cost-effective for small businesses with limited advertising budgets. The automated bidding strategies ensure that your budget is spent efficiently to achieve the best possible results without the need for constant manual adjustments.

Standard Campaigns offer more flexibility in budget management but may require a higher investment to achieve optimal performance. These campaigns allow for detailed control over how your budget is allocated across different ad groups, keywords, and targeting options. Businesses with larger advertising budgets can take advantage of this flexibility to optimize their spending and achieve specific marketing goals. Additionally, the ability to manually adjust bids and budgets can lead to better performance and higher returns on investment.


That concludes our comparison of smart campaigns vs standard campaigns.

Choosing between Google Ads Smart Campaigns and Standard Campaigns depends on your business goals, available resources, budget, and specific advertising needs.

Smart Campaigns offer simplicity and automation, making them ideal for small businesses or those with limited advertising experience. In contrast, Standard Campaigns provide extensive control and customization, suitable for businesses with more complex goals and the resources to manage detailed advertising strategies.

By carefully evaluating these factors, you can select the campaign type that best aligns with your objectives and maximizes the effectiveness of your online advertising efforts.

If you’ve liked this post, make sure to check out our comparison of Price Assets vs Promotion Assets.

Michael Schroder

Michael Schroder

Michael Schroder is a Google Ads and SaaS marketing consultant. He has been managing $200k-$300k monthly ad spend and has worked with 200+ SaaS companies. The thing that makes him unique is his data-led approach and his focus on SaaS businesses.