Adwords Express: Things that are Easy to Hate

I have a love hate relationship with the elegantly simple Google’s Adwords Express. One of the things I love is that for a business with more than 2 reviews and greater than an 4 star rating, it will show your star rating with the ad. One of the things I hate is that, unbeknownst to the business placing the ad, if the stars are clicked, it is a billable event and the searcher is taken to your Places Page NOT the web page that you had opted for when you purchased the ad.


On the Places Page, the searcher is subjected to seeing both additional ads AND a list of nearby competitors. Perhaps a reasonable trade off if the business was aware of the quid pro quo or could opt out, but neither is the case. Regardless it hardly seems reasonable that a business should be paying for the privilege of showing a searcher additional ads on Google.

There are a number of other issues I have with the practice besides the indignity of paying to have users to see more ads and learn about your competitors:

1- There are no analytics of the event. It is impossible to see how many ads that were clicked went to the Places Page instead of your website thus it is difficult to asses the value of the ad. A click on the stars shows in the Places analytic as an action and exactly the same as a visit to your website.
2- A corollary to the above is that there is no ability to track the campaign accurately. Since the click never makes it to your website there can be no measurement of conversions or goals in Analytics or the value of the click.
3- There is no indication in the Help files that you are paying when a user clicks on the star. I had to confirm the practice by contacting Google.
4- More importantly, as most Express users do not make it to the Help files, there is no indication in Places that your ad will show your review stars or that a click on them is billable.
5- When you place the ad, there is no indication that the user might be sent to your Places Page even though you explicitly selected the option for sending the user to your web page.
6-If a business has no reviews or a low star rating they are not paying this extra fee. How is that fair? Only better businesses are thus taxed?

With Adwords and location extensions you have the option to enable clicks to call. You pay if the searcher does in fact call. That is a reasonable option in that it is both a choice to turn it on or not and it is an event that is measurable and likely to lead to a conversion.

The other Adwords case where Google will show review stars is with the seller ratings extensions option. In that case you are also “automatically opted in to showing seller ratings with your ads”. (Where is a good copywriter when we need one? Does “opt” not mean choice? Oxymoronic at best.) In this seller ratings case however, when the searcher is taken to the product reviews, it is not a billable click. While it may disrupt your purchase funnel, the pros seem to outweigh the cons.

While a review highlighted Adwords Express ad is more visually attractive, the total lack of knowledge, control and tracking makes this one of those options that is easy to hate.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Adwords Express: Things that are Easy to Hate by

14 thoughts on “Adwords Express: Things that are Easy to Hate”

  1. Mike: In all honesty I haven’t yet usedBoostAdwords Express. I was going to use it during its earliest release but circumstances presented it.

    Now, much of what I’ve read is negative, especially as compared to Adwords. It offers less controls, more problems. Its an inferior product, as far as I can see.

    You, as a commentator should write about it. I’d probably never suggest it.

    What are its values?

    To Google its easy to sell, as they can sell/market the fact that its easy to apply. E.A.S.Y SMB operators who can’t be bothered with the intricacies of web marketing love E.A.S.Y

    For the SMB operator its E.A.S.Y.. They are busy enough with the operations of their own businesses. Effective web marketing is more involved than they have the time, the time resources to master.

    For smaller businesses, Adwords isn’t THAT DIFFICULT. Its infinitely more controllable. Get some help in setting it up. Get reports. Get a feel for the reports. Play with and read about adwords in your extra time. Go to forums where others will help you for free. It isn’t rocket science.

    Why waste time with a cr@ppy bug filled, product, that also includes some “sneaky” elements that are not optimal.

    At least that is my $0.02. :D

  2. Thanks for the heads up! I’ve been advocating clients still to good ‘ole Adwords… Many instances where this is less CPC than the Express system. Very good to know about the stars. I suspect that the G-Force will amend this soon. Hmmm… how with the new business pages affect this whole scenario? How about the option to land on your optimized G+ page instead of Places? Mike to do foresee any kind of integration? If you were G+, what would YOU do? By the way, my nickname is “eRock”… lol.. I wish it was a highly sought after keyword!! But, hey, out of deference, I left it out of this post. Not trying to game the system, that’s why I included my real first name on all my posts, so you knew I wasn’t some lame spammer. Interested in hearing your feedback…

  3. @Earl
    There is a place for it. It does generate business and it is easy. Certainly Adwords offers much more control but Express does work in certain situations. I just happen to think that it should be transparent in what they are charging for.

    @Eric

    Certainly creating a place for a business to engage in the current web is appealing and something that I am sure Google is struggling on. I could envision an environment, driven by a simplified Places integration that shows coupons, events, specials and allows an SMB to intelligently communicate and target subsets of their client base. As to what they will do, I have not a clue.

    Thanks for respecting my author naming policy of no keywords.

  4. Someone said it early on with regard to Boost, comparing Adwords with AdWords Express. “It’s like turning the hen house over to the fox”. Should Google be trusted to have the SMB’s best interest at heart? More disconcerting to me has been the outrageous CPC and the fact that the actual CPC at the end of the campaign is many times well outside the highest range of expected clicks per budget (tool is included in the dashboard). When I talked to a Google rep their response was that I should not use the range of clicks as a planning tool. Of course I asked incredulously, “if it isn’t a reliable tool to gauge an expectation, then why on Earth would it even be included?” I’d certainly be curious to hear the findings of others who are comparing Express CPC’s against AdWords CPC’s

  5. On a side note Google does charge for clicks that are made on your phone number on a ipod touch and you can not place a call on a ipod touch. So you are getting charged on occasion and not getting calls on the pay per call.

    I talked to a rep about this and she said the only way to fix it was to opt out of the ios, which would mean half of the mobile internet traffic.

  6. As always Mike, thank you for sniffing out another land mine along the local search marketing path. I suspected that Express had some downside but what you describe here is plain “dark” side. May “The Force” be with you ;)

  7. @Jim
    It is most definitely a land mine… whether it implies that Google is dark side I am unsure. We live in capitalism after all where ever increasing profits are demanded by the markets. Google, despite their illusions, is made from the same mold.

    That being said, the lack of transparency IS a terrible PR move. The SMB market does not take kindly to perceived deceptions. It is a move that reflects poor planning and overreaching.

  8. “…if the stars are clicked, it is a billable event and the searcher is taken to your Places Page NOT the web page that you had opted for when you purchased the ad” — Pathetic; come on Google, this is not appropriate.

  9. I was so close to placing an ad with adwords express. I’m glad I can across this site before I did. Looks like I’m going to need to learn how to you adwords. Thanks for the info.

  10. @joey

    I think taking out an Express Ad is not a bad way to see how Google does it. You can take out the ad and then go into your adwords account and see what words they used etc. It is very instructive and can allow you to get going while you are learning adwords.

  11. Thanks for the heads up, Mike.

    I haven’t recommended Express for clients yet as I didn’t see the benefit over switching from a full Adwords account. So much for “don’t be evil” – I’m pretty sure hidden charges are the definition of that. This is really valuable information though, thanks for keeping the rest of us informed.

  12. Hmm..well Google will do everything that it can to milk internet marketers their hard-earned money. Yes, Google can really help you boost your traffic and lead generation, but you have to pay the price. And the price isn’t cheap…

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