There are countless ways, either on PPC bid management platforms or AdWords itself, that you can choose to hand over ever-increasing amounts of control to an automated tool. The question is, when should you succumb to this bejeweled siren of temptation and when should you hold out and do it manually?
Google, it has been mooted on more than one occasion by more than one PPC expert, would appear to love to relegate the use of Keywords to the trash bin of history eventually. And to this end, they have introduced Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) and Google Shopping as well as keyword variation matching. These are all useful tools but you would most likely not get the best out of your investment relying solely on those.
The DSA campaign is a great way to fill in gaps for otherwise missed searches without breaking the bank but it is not a set it and forget it tool. You have to constantly apply new negative keywords and carefully filter the landing pages AdWords is matching to amongst other things.
The commonest form of automation is bidding. This can be done in a number to meet a number of goals: To get as many clicks as possible for a budget, to get as many sales as possible for a budget, to hit an efficiency target (e.g. CPA), to deal with time and day fluctuations in traffic cost and efficiency, to reach a certain target position.
I personally use my company’s proprietary tool but for those who don’t have that option, you’re left with either picking up the scripting skills or relying on AdWords.
The other area of automation that is heavily in play is ad rotation. This works when you have multiple ads in an ad group (best practice) and you can choose to have Google automatically rotate the ads so as to favor those more likely to get clicks or conversions or to rotate evenly for a period before it then starts to favor ads based on data. In addition, there is the basic rotate evenly forever option.
So how do you decide what to go with? Well, my advice is once you have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, you may come down to a shortlist of possible ways to go. In this case, test both and see how you go. There’s no universal correct answer, which is why these options exist.
There are, however, some fundamental questions to ask whereupon the better options will reveal themselves:
- Do I have a high volume account with a lot of data?
- Do auction conditions and sales patterns vary wildly within a day and across the week?
- Does performance very a lot within my account (and within Brand and Generic sectors of the account)?
- Do I have an extensive website with many items for order or just a handful of worthwhile landing pages/offerings
- Do I have a ton of experience managing a PPC account at a granular level?
- Am I prepared to put in the analysis time to assess ad performance manually in each ad group?
- Will I be more effective in figuring out how these automations will work best for me or doing everything manually?
Generally speaking, as a full-time PPC manager I work in this way (those who are not full-time may sway further towards automation):
- Even rotation of ads and use my company’s tool to automatically select winners and losers at a pace that suits the account and queue up more ad variations (manually written)
- Automate bids (using rules) of long-tail, low individual volume keywords – it saves time!
- Manually adjust base-bids for higher spend keywords but still use automated day-parting to adjust for time of day and day of week.
- Automate bids for Google Shopping (using rules in my platform – though Adwords Rules or scripts would be just as good)
- Using rules set up for different parts of the account, I can ensure they take into account the volumes of data involved so even low-volume campaigns are assessed and not ignored.
- Use DSA, where tests show the account benefits.
- Try to take control of keyword variations by bidding on variations separately where they make a difference semantically or by intent.
As you can see, I am in no way averse to automation but tempered (through rules-setting, for example) by human decision-making and oversight so I know why CPCs have gone up or down and not have to theorize.
Beyond the norm
Further to these universal forms of automation, there are tools and platforms that allow you to use product feeds to automatically construct keyword-based search campaigns and manage bids and ad group status automatically (pausing and resuming as product inventory dictates). There are also tools that can automate bids by syncing with TV ad schedules (TVTY springs to mind) and to set bids by other real-time stimuli like the weather or stock market prices. These are specialized tools and most often work best for the blue-chip players or at least sites that are large, complex and swimming with data.
So I would say that automation can very much be your friend but you should carefully decide which element of automation is going to get to the results you want in the best way for your capabilities and bandwidth. There is almost certainly somewhere in your account where automation can save you time or boost profitability so, if you’ve pooh-poohed it before, try giving it a second look.
Do you have any top tips for readers regarding automation in PPC?
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