Now more than ever, your business has a myriad of online advertising channels to choose from in order to reach prospective customers. As search marketing practitioners, we’re well versed in most of those channels, especially pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. In the realm of search, we know Google is the leader with 80% of all searches happening there. Naturally we want our businesses to be there, and one of the key plays for marketers to capture the attention of would-be searchers is AdWords.

However, did you know there are two versions of the AdWords platform? Google AdWords and AdWords Express, two separate but not equal platforms for managing AdWords campaigns. Countless times we have run into a situation where a client has already established a presence with Google AdWords, only to find out they signed up for AdWords Express. This typically comes up when we’re working with a new PPC client whose account we’re trying to link to via our AdWords management account. While not the end of the world, it certainly is a roadblock that must be addressed for anybody looking to manage those campaigns more effectively

So what’s the difference? We’re so very glad you asked:

AdWords Express vs. Google AdWords.

AdWords Express

Geared more toward small and local businesses, even those without a website, AdWords Express lets you get your campaigns up and going quickly, with little to no background in search marketing. AdWords Express provides a business with the opportunity to advertise on Google and partnering sites with minimal involvement. Provide Google with a few details on your business, then the Google system develops the list of keywords and categories your business fits in. You establish a monthly or daily budget, write a text ad, and Google’s “system” takes care of the rest.

Pros & Cons of AdWords Express

It’s easy for a business or marketer to jump in, sign up, and get an ad campaign live quickly. By answering a few questions, the AdWords Express system makes it pretty straight forward for anybody to establish a presence quickly.

The major flaw in this approach, and problem we have with the platform, is that this approach is a complete opposite for many PPC professionals. There’s no hands-on management of campaigns, limited strategic approach and reporting on metrics. Keywords, while thematically they make sense, are mostly based off of broad match terms, which on the surface level seem ideal from a cost-per-click (CPC) and reach perspective, but can burn budget at a rapid pace. Once deployed, campaigns are on auto-pilot, only following your max daily spend parameters.

Google AdWords

Google AdWords is the preferred platform that many of us SEM professionals would rather work within. With that comes a full-time duty to ensure these campaigns are on track and well optimized. From budgets and bid management, to keywords and ad creative, Google AdWords is the fully managed version. With AdWords, your ads can be established on, the Google Display Network, along with local search outlets such as Google Maps.

Pros & Cons of Google AdWords

Much like AdWords Express, it too is easy to establish a traditional AdWords account and for the most part, it’s pretty straightforward to setup your first campaign. But that’s about where the simplicities end. The targeting options with AdWords are much, much more robust. Multiple campaigns with many adgroups (categories) can be operated at any given time.

Bid strategies become more finite based on anything from geographies down to individual keyword phrases, demographic/psychographic characteristics and particular actions from a user. One major caveat is that this is a full hands-on approach to search marketing, one that you do not want to fall asleep at the wheel with.

Can You Convert AdWords Express to Google AdWords?

Whether you accidentally set up an AdWords Express account, or are getting a search marketing pro involved, your AdWords Express account can be converted over to a fully managed AdWords account. It requires a couple pieces of information, a phone call to the AdWords support team, an email response and you’re off to the races.

As an FYI the Google AdWords Support is available from 9am to 8pm EST Monday through Friday.

Steps to convert AdWords Express to Google Adwords

  1. Log into your AdWords Express account and have your login email address handy. In AdWords Express, this is how the AdWords team will be able to identify you.
  2. Call the elusive Google Support telephone number at 1-866-2GOOGLE (1-866-246-6453) where an automated prompt will ask you what you need help with. Google will then connect you with an AdWords Support Specialist. FYI – they might ask you for a 10-digit customer I.D. which you won’t have. Just proceed.
  3. Explain to the AdWords Support Specialist that you are running an AdWords Express account and wish to move it over to Google AdWords. The team should help facilitate your request without an issue.
  4. Once the Specialist has verified all of your information is correct, they will start the transition process which ultimately will result in an email to your account that you must reply to.
  5. Following their instructions, Copy & Paste, the Bold Text, in a quick response back to them. From there the Specialist will take care of getting your account migrated over. The next time you log into AdWords, it will no longer be the AdWords Express interface, but full blown AdWords.


AdWords Express might appear to be a logical method of quickly establishing a presence on Google, it’s best that you understand the platform and the road you’re headed down. As a reminder, it is a fully automated version of AdWords. Adwords-Lite if you will. It offers very limited control over targeting and reach. Whereas Google AdWords must be fully managed, but offers up the most versatility and maximum reach for your targeted audience.

We can see where AdWords Express has its place in the market, but also wish it wasn’t a core product at Google that gets pushed on small businesses, as we have seen it become a quick budget burner and those dollars could have been better spent elsewhere.

Confused by this? That’s ok, our pay-per-click marketing team is here to help guide your marketing initiatives.