The art of automation is common practice for marketers in 2019. And this is especially true in the world of SEM.
In fact, through the use of PPC automation, you can start generating better conversions, optimizing your ads and capturing the right traffic by using the data you already have.
In this article, we’ll cover the benefits of PPC automation, what it is and some practical applications for you get started today.
The Benefits of PPC Automation
Before we talk about why you should look into PPC automation, let’s give a quick definition of what it is:
PPC automation is the use of technology, AI and machine learning to optimize your SEM efforts. Because the number of networks and platforms available, managing paid ad campaigns manually has become a near-impossible task. Which is why automation technology has become fundamental for brands to scale their digital media efforts.
By using PPC automation, marketing managers can free up their time to focus on top-level strategy and internal processes. With this in mind, what exactly are the benefits of implementing PPC automation into you workflow? Some common upsides include:
- Bid management: Some say this is more art than science, but it’s certainly more the latter. It’s also incredibly time-consuming. PPC automation can manage bidding for you, usually with a greater degree of accuracy and profitability
- Ad creative & copy: For large accounts with a huge number of ad groups and campaigns, you can use automation to optimize your ad copy based on data feeds, IF statements and your website copy
- Reporting: Get the data you need, when you need it. Generate the insights that will help you make strategic decisions without having to sort and wrangle huge amounts of data
How to Get Started With PPC Automation
Now we’ve made some of the benefits clear, let’s look into how exactly you can get started with PPC automation.
You might feel you’re not quite ready to give PPC automation a try just yet. But there are a couple of reasons you should, at the very least, experiment with it. First of all, as your business grows, you’ll find that rolling automation out to some campaigns now will set you up for success and scale later on.
Secondly, if you’re managing many clients, you’ll likely find that there are many that would benefit from automation right away. That’s not to say you should implement automation technology across your entire portfolio. Instead, analyze those who would benefit based on elements such as:
- Number or products they sell
- Number of campaigns you’re running for them
- The size of their budget
With this in mind, let’s look at things you need to consider when implementing PPC automation.
1. Empower Your Teams with The Right Technology
As Google Ads starts becoming more sophisticated, the automation options available out of the box is bound to expand. For many advertisers, then, this is the best place to start.
Here are just a few ways you can use Google Ads to automate your PPC efforts:
Smart Campaigns: For small businesses, smart campaigns can be a smart way to get started in the world of SEM without much effort. This is now the default setup when opening a new Google Ads account, and is designed with small businesses in mind.
Universal App Campaigns: Built to drive more app installs, once these are set up, there’s very little for you to optimize. Targeting, bidding and even ad creative is all taken care of by Google. Creative elements are taken from the data available on the iOS App Store and Google Play Store.
Goal-Optimized Shopping Campaigns: Providing ease of access to ecommerce and DTC brands, this automation makes managing hundreds (even thousands) of products more manageable. This campaign type automatically runs display ads, remarketing and, of course, shopping ads. Data from the conversions collected over a 45 day period is used to optimize based on sales value.
Dynamic Search Ads: As mentioned above, managing a huge inventory of products (or even landing pages for complex propositions) can be tough. With dynamic search ads, your SEM efforts run on autopilot. All product data is pooled in automatically, creating new search ads based on your product data and copy.
Then, there are more sophisticated solutions (such as Acquisio 😉). With third-party machine learning, you can automate and optimize the following areas of your SEM and PPC campaigns:
- Create dynamic campaigns based on product data based on custom or predefined templates
- Manage search queries to expand your target keywords
- Create an ad extension library and apply them across campaigns and different channels
- Automatically optimize bids and ad creative to ensure you’re generating conversions at a lower CPC
- AI-powered budget distribution to to allocate funds where they’re most needed (and are more likely to generate results
2. Feed Your Machines
In order to properly optimize your PPC campaigns, your machine learning tool of choice needs access to the right data in order to start making the right decisions for you.
For example, smart campaigns will only begin working once an existing campaign has been running for long enough to collect data. In other words, for the machine to start doing its thing, it has to learn from humans first.
If you have little experience with SEM, you may want to skill up first. For those who have been through the trenches, this is a simple matter of creating campaigns as usual. Use your skillset to ensure you’re creating effective ads built upon best practices.
Speaking of best practices, be sure to set campaigns up with a consistent structure. Having a process that takes a “uniform” approach to campaign creation will help your machine learning technology figure out what works best.
Most importantly, make sure you track conversions from the moment you start running your campaigns. Take those that generate the best results, and use them as the basis for your campaign structure.
3. Automation Doesn’t Mean Ignorance: Always Be Monitoring
As your automation platform of choice begins to optimize your campaigns, it can be tempting to sit back, relax and let it do its thing…
But this is a very bad idea indeed. Why? Because, much like humans, machines can be fallible. They’ll make decisions based on logic, not always based on the qualitative context we’ve developed throughout our careers and understanding of our audience.
Automated optimization and management runs fast – very fast. As a result, things can go wrong quickly, too. Which is why you should keep a keen eye on how things are ticking along – especially in the first month or so.
Set up processes built on a proven SEM strategy. Your strategy should inform the machine, not the other way around. Fail to get this right, and you’ll just end up wasting time in a completely different area (as well as your budget).
Boosting Results with Bid Automation
We’ve covered the fundamentals of PPC automation, along with some best practices to bear in mind as you look into the world of machine learning.
Now it’s time to get into the good stuff. Having a solid bid strategy can make or break the profitability of your SEM campaigns. But bid management can often be a huge task itself. Which is why it is, by far, the most popular (and perhaps most important) use of PPC automation among SEMs.
As mentioned in the previous section, start with manual bidding. The machine needs something to learn from, remember? So start with a low CPC bid and increase it gently as you generate more data.
Once you’ve got a feel for your optimal CPC, you can start using the Experiments feature in Google Ads to see if automated bidding wins out against manual bidding:
Why A/B test? Because if your gut is right, and Google’s automated bidding brings fewer results, you can revert back without much hassle. And the good news is, if automated bidding does win out, you can apply it to your entire campaign without losing all the new learnings you’ve generated.
There are several types of automated bidding strategies, which include:
- Maximize Clicks: Aims to generate as many clicks as possible based on your budget
- Maximize Conversions: Focuses on using your budget to generate as many conversions as possible
- Target CPA: Puts a focus on conversions, but only at the target CPA you define
Check out Google’s documentation to learn more about the different forms of automated bidding.
Pro tip: Acquisio’s Turing algorithms use data from 30,000 accounts to optimize bids for conversions, meaning no historical data is needed to start seeing results. Learn more about automated bidding here.
We’ve put a heavy emphasis on ad creative throughout this article. But what about keyword targeting? Without high-quality traffic, even the best copywriting goes to waste. Luckily, you can automate the discovery of new keywords using various automation features.
The first step in keyword-to-conversion optimization is to create single keyword ad groups (SKAGs). In doing so, you can bid more aggressively for those top-performing keywords, capturing more impressions and clicks in the process.
Finally, some platforms help you to manage your target search queries. Acquisio, for example, can help you uncover new keyword opportunities and manage negative keywords, all on autopilot:
In order for PPC automation to work, you first need to get the basics down. This means manually setting up and managing effective ad campaigns that generate results at a reasonable budget.
Only then will the automation features of Google Ads start yield great results. After all, it’s hard to get good results from bad data.
Alternatively, you can look to a tool like Acquisio, which pools in data from over 30,000 accounts to ensure you’re getting optimized SEM campaigns right away.
Featured image: via Unsplash / Simon Abrams
Image 1: Screenshot taken by the Author, 2019
Image 1: via Google Ads
Image 2: via Acquisio