To be honest, I never ever used the Starter Edition. I’m not sure it even existed when I started doing AdWords. Yeah so I think I’m an old-timer. Whatever.
But somebody asked me to take a look at their account lately, so I had to look at the Starter Edition… and I was aghast. The Starter Edition is not real AdWords, and it probably won’t help you much. In fact, it may waste your money.
The comparison grid Google gives you tells part of the story, but not all of it.
Get Started Quick And Immediately Know Nothing About Your Results!
The comparison grid doesn’t happen to mention that you can’t do conversion tracking with it. How important is that? It’s only the first, most basic, most important thing I’ve seen wrong with AdWords accounts people ask me why they aren’t getting results.
Um, you can’t track your leads or sales? Ok, so you know you’re getting clicks. Wow. You’re getting traffic. That’s so 2001 of you. Exciting.
It’s ironic, or sadly consistent, that AdWords doesn’t think it important enough to mention this missing functionality, considering they make money from your clicks, and you have to be vigilant with them to ensure that you get the business results you want. That’s another story.
What else is wrong with the AdWords Starter Edition?
Start With Only One Ad Group And You’re Done, Son- As In Finished
You can’t do ad groups in the Starter Edition, because you get just one.
What’s an ad group? Go to the AdWords Learning Center and watch this video.
The ad group is the fundamental unit of AdWords. It’s like DNA is to life. If you only had one DNA chain, what are you? Not even an amoeba. The ad group is like the family is to society. If you only could have one family, what are you?
You need multiple ad groups if you want to granularly and successfully market online. That’s a whole blog post in itself. But it’s enough to say that more ad groups, and more granular ad groups are critical to good ROI, low cost per click, high quality score, and so on.
So AdWords Starter Edition won’t help you track end results AND doesn’t let you market granularly. Do you need more damning characteristics? You shouldn’t. But here’s one more.
Get Started Quick and Stay Ignorant Longer! Yay!
You can’t do what AdWords calls in the comparison grid “Advanced Reporting”. I just call it “reporting”. What they call “Basic Reporting” I call “their web interface”.
Yes, I see their point- if you can see impressions, clicks, and cost per click, you are seeing a sort of report of activity. But AdWords’ Advanced Reporting is one of the main ways you get an advantage over competitors, optimize your account, increase your ROI, and so on. For example, even if you use the Standard Edition and conversion tracking, you can’t see your ROI (ROAS) without going to the (Advanced) Reporting Center.
Here’s a brief overview of a few of the things you miss with from Advanced Reporting if you’re only using the Starter Edition:
- Increasing your profits. ROI/ROAS per ad, ad group, keyword, etc. Find out what’s getting you ROI and what’s not, so you can increase your overall ROI. You can get this in almost all Advanced Reports.
- Landing page diagnosis. URL performance to compare which landing pages convert the best, and which have problems.
- Geographic analysis. Where in the world are your clicks and conversions coming from?
- Prospect analysis. Find out what exact phrases people are searching for when they see your ads.
- Media placement insights. See on which websites your ads are and are not working.
So Why Anyone Use The Starter Edition?
I do understand. Google does a good job of getting people into the fold by trying the Starter Edition.
Unfortunately, this positions companies to spend money with no result, or with an untrackable result.
And AdWords is way more complicated than people think- overwhelmingly so for the beginner. But that also means there’s a lot more power and ROI in AdWords than people know.
All of this leaves the small business owner who has tried or wants to try AdWords in the worst position- too busy to learn, without enough money to hire a big agency to manage it.
But, my advice is: switch to Standard Edition, and learn how to use it, or hire someone who already knows how. Chances are, if your offering and niche are profitable, and you get it optimized right, you’ll end up making more money than it will cost you.
Brian Carter is the Director of Search Engine Marketing for Fuel Interactive, an interactive marketing agency in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is responsible for the SEO, PPC, SMM, and ORM programs at Fuel and its partner traditional agency Brandon Advertising & PR.