Dear Diary...

If you manage online campaigns, you're probably overwhelmed by the daily manual labor required to manage campaigns properly. Campaign managers often spend over one third of their time on tedious tasks such as bid management or keyword performance monitoring.

Lucky you!

Many tools are now available on the market that can help you automatically change the main parameters of your campaigns (keywords, bids, ad texts, positions or even landing pages) according to precise rules (that you set according to your goals and objectives). This frees up some of your time which will be better spent on developing improved strategy, text ads, and landing pages.

Adwords has developed their Automated Rules, and the main vendors in Campaign Management (Acquisio, Marin, etc.) propose some very interesting PPC Automation Tools. The goal of this post is not to analyse or compare these solutions (that could be the subject of another article), but to see how to make the most of them.

Automation Tools Are Powerful (but Limited)

Most of the time, the so-called “bid management tools” do much more than just “manage bids”. All these tools let you automate some of the more tedious aspects of paid search, be it for increased profitability, or just for the sake of saving time.

Power Corrupts

Indeed, automation can make or break PPC campaigns.

These automation rules can be applied to a number of aspects within your account including:

  • Bidding
  • Budget
  • Status Updates
  • Campaign, Ad Groups, Keywords level

They will also help you reach different targets and goals, such as:

  • Zeroing in on an Average Position
  • Maintaining a specific Cost per Click
  • Optimizing Conversions
  • Controlling Cost per Conversion

But these are not magical tools! 

And this is something that too many campaign managers forget: tools are just tools. Yes, they make many things possible, such as automating repetitive tasks, and working 24/7 without complaining. But there will never be a software substitute for detailed competitive analysis and keyword selection.

The same applies to writing great ad copy, even to running tests, and optimizing landing pages.

Repetitive (and boring) tasks are perfect for automation, but strategic and analytical tasks are best left for us humans. Limit the amount of blood, sweat and tears with automation tools, but always put your brain in the driver's seat!

How to Make the Most of Your Tools & Avoid Costly Mistakes

If you're going to leverage ad management tools to their greatest potential, the first thing you have to do is determine what you're trying to achieve. You can’t create a great set of rules, if you do not have crystal clear priorities and goals.

Listen up...

Secondly,you have to make sure your campaigns are properly set-up. The best rules in the world won’t turn lead into gold. You also need a solid campaign to be governed by those great (automation) rules. So make sure these standard best practices are in place for your campaigns. Consider the following:

  • Text Ads: Engaging, Call to Action, Relevancy, Dynamic versions, etc.
  • Landing Pages: Content, Navigability, Conversion Tracking, etc.
  • Keywords: Match Type Variations, Negative Keywords, etc.
  • Ad Groups: Consistent, Targeted, Ad Rotation, etc.
  • Choose Parameters and Actions: select the parameters you want to use or control with your rules -- such as Quality Score, Avg Position, Max. CPC, ROI/ROAS, conversions, or a combination of these or other metrics.

Third, once this is all done, you have to choose (1) the scope of your rules (e.g. your whole account, one or several campaigns, adgroups, keywords, engines, etc…), (2) the date range you want to take into account, and (3) the frequency at which you want your rules to run.

Fourth, you'll need to determine what actions you will take, when issues have been determined -- such as pausing campaigns, increasing or decreasing max. CPC, be alerted, etc.

Fifth, you'll need to test, test, test. Testing is extremely important. You should never launch an automatic rule without testing it carefully. Work it out in "simulation mode", and do not allow your rules to make any decisions based on a few clicks, or non significant data (from a statistical point of view).

And finally, enjoy! Now you can make your own decision and try to benefit from the awesome opportunities created by campaign automation tools.

Just never forget: YOU make the rules!