The world of PPC is going through deep changes thanks to the power of automation. Automation is helping PPC specialists and agencies free their time from mundane tasks to focus on higher-value activities.
In the past few years, the major ad networks like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads provide their Advertisers with automation tools to improve their management performance.
These new automation features provided by these networks are just the beginning. There's a lot more that will be released in the coming years, which will impact PPC management in even more profound ways.
To discover how automation has influenced PPC management, we asked seven PPC experts how automation has impacted their workflows. Here's what they said!
What Impact Has Automation Had In Your PPC Campaigns?
Since Google Adwords and Facebook Ads launched their automated rules, automation has been in every PPC specialist's radar. Many repetitive tasks can now be done once and then automated, such as pausing low performing campaigns, scheduling ads, or changing bids. For this reason, automation is in the center of most PPC specialist's work life.
Dave Walker, founder and Director of Segmatic, was the first expert to express his fascination for PPC automation:
Automation is essential to everything we do in PPC. We've built our own tool which automates account creation, search term analysis, ad copy creation, bidding, shopping creation. We believe that it is interesting to figure out how to execute a complicated strategy once, but after that, we want it automated.
Being able to automate tasks once to then focus on strategy has allowed the experts to focus on higher-value activities. To this extent, Jonathan Dane, founder and CEO of KlientBoost, said:
As a PPC agency, we find that automating small tasks leads us all to focus on the bigger picture. Unfortunately, it's too easy to get hung up on the small things because "they have to be done", before you can focus on bigger needle movers.
So automation like ad testing and bid adjustments, albeit small automations, have freed up a ton of time to focus more on what matters for us.
According to JD Prater, Head of Customer Acquisition at AdStage, automation helps him focus on potential problems:
Automation has made my life a lot easier by taking care of the repeatable little tasks. I love to run rules in my paid social campaigns that help keep my ads fresh and alerts to direct my attention to potential issues. Having the time to focus on other more important tasks has helped me increase the effectiveness of my account management.
Michelle Morgan, Director of Client Services at Clix Marketing, mentioned:
In my experience, automation has been successful in saving me time and improving my campaigns effectiveness.
Melissa Mackey, Search Supervisor at gyro, has found there are many tools that have helped her improved her ad management. From bid and budget management to scheduling and stopping campaigns to ad copy testing, she uses automation to save her a lot of time each week:
The biggest impact has come from using Acquisio for bid and budget management. We no longer have to manually manage budget pacing – saving hours each week. The technology also optimizes bids in near-real time, helping us to get better performance in our accounts. We also use automation to pause or enable campaigns automatically – no more logging in on weekends to pause a campaign that’s ending. We use AdAlysis for ad copy testing, which enables us to test faster and smarter.
Frederick Vallaeys, CEO of Optmyzr, has also found automation to be highly effective for his client's success:
We routinely see advertisers improve their CPA and ROAS by 20% when they streamline their workflows with Optmyzr's tools. And because they spend less time to achieve these results, they have more time to find new clients and grow their business in other ways.
Despite its benefits, PPC automation also has its limits. The fact is, there are still only certain amount of tasks you can automate. Kirk Williams, owner of ZATO, gave us a detailed look at how he uses automation for PPC management:
The impact of automation has grown significantly for our accounts over the years. We have begun to use automation in our PPC clients primarily in 5 ways: bid adjustments, ad management, negative keyword management, reporting, and notifications.
In bidding, like many agencies, we use a selection of tools and automated rules to make bulk decisions based upon historical performance for specific keywords or product groups (in Shopping Ads).
Finally, we automate notifications for certain elements of a client account to ensure we are getting the most up to date data on important elements. For instance, we have a an automated rule set up that tells us if a client's important campaigns/ad groups have zero impressions in a day. That alerts us to the fact that something may have happened (especially important in Google Shopping when it's not always apparent if a product got disapproved immediately).
Automation is still pretty new and it's far from being perfect. It takes trial and error to see what tasks are best automated and which ones should still be managed by the expert. On this end, Michelle Morgan expressed her experience:
Now, that’s not to say that all automation practices I’ve tested have worked. Over the years I’ve been able to test different strategies, find what works well for me and my clients, then turn off or revert any tests that simply didn’t pan out.
How Much Do You Think Automation Will Change the Way PPC Management is Done in the Future?
Automation is still quite new in the PPC world. Given its limited scope, PPC specialists still need to focus on many important tasks. With the advent of technologies such as machine learning and big data, and with the sharp evolution of artificial intelligence, the whole industry may change soon. PPC specialists need to be aware of the future changes of automation and how it can impact their jobs.
According to Michelle Morgan, automation will increase the quality in which PPC management is done:
I think automation will continue to become more prevalent in our daily work lives, but in more sophisticated ways than they have before. Most of the basics have been covered by existing tools, so the bar has been raised.
Although automation may help companies save time and money, it won't be easy for them to adapt to this changes. She expressed concerns:
I imagine each new automation innovation will take a bit longer for advertisers to swallow, but could eventually change the way we’re doing our jobs.
Nonetheless, there will be tasks which automation won't affect. On this end, Jonathan Dane said:
I think that PPC by itself can truly be 100% automated very quickly. What won't be easy is the creative side. The creative ads (not text ads) and more importantly, the landing page or website experience. Doesn't matter how fine tuned your PPC campaigns are if you can't get anyone to convert. And that's why the art of getting PPC to work will always be there - at least for the near future. ;)
Even if you think automation will make PPC specialists do less and less things, you shouldn't be scared of automation. Kirk Williams likes to see automation as an complement of PPC specialists and not a replacement. Instead of focusing on what it can take away from PPC specialists, you should focus on what it can bring to the table.
We fought this for a long time at ZATO... until we began to look at automation less as a replacement, and more as an assistant. When this change happened in our minds, we began embracing it in client accounts. I truly think this is the way automation is going, and is why it will continue to increase in value. This goes into the difference between true AI, and machine learning (as detailed well in conversations I have had with AdStage founder Sahil Jain), but what we have primarily now is machine learning. In this, we can utilize algorithms and machine learning to increase the success of repeatable processes, and it is there that the value of automation is high in PPC.
I think the most valuable PPCers in the future are not the ones who simply "use" automation for the heck of it (efficiency is pointless if the task you are making efficient is pointless). The valuable future PPCers are the ones who will use automation to save them time in repeatable processes, so they can devote themselves to the deeper analysis points and decisions that need to be made for smarter decisions.
Even though Kirk Williams believes PPC automation won't make PPC specialists go out of business, Melissa Mackey thinks there are certain tasks they shouldn't be doing any more:
I blogged about this recently. I think manual bid management is already obsolete – it just doesn’t make sense when there are so many tools, many of them free, to optimize bids. Automation can help with ad copy testing too – this can be completely automated, if desired (although I don’t recommend this). One of the most important changes PPC specialists will faces is a shift from a purely operational focus (like changing bids and scheduling ads), to a more strategic role. PPC specialists will leave the execution of the ad campaigns to the automated tools.
Four of the interviewed experts agreed on this issue.
First, Dave Walker said:
Paid Search can be split into 2 parts. Strategy & Execution. I don't expect strategy to be ever fully automated, and am skeptical of completely removing humans from the process. Machine learning etc. gets thrown around a lot as some sort of magical solution, but it will be a long-time before the role of intelligent human thought is removed from marketing. Execution on the other hand can be almost fully automated.
Later, Frederick Vallaeys mentioned that:
Automation is changing the way we manage PPC accounts very dramatically. As Google rapidly improves its artificial intelligence and machine learning, certain tasks are easier to automate, like bid management and ad testing. Account managers can also create their own automations using AdWords Scripts. And when more tasks are automated, the account management role shifts to more strategy work, and monitoring that automations deliver the expected results.
Melissa Mackey also added to this last comment:
Most manual number-crunching will be done via automation, freeing up PPC managers to focus on long term strategy and analysis.
Finally, JD Prater shared his thoughts on the topic:
Automation is really going to help account managers become strategic and diagnose issues faster. Especially when thinking about machine learning to bubble up insights and optimizations that I can take action on. I believe that automation will help my accounts become more efficient and produce better results.
What Other New Technologies Do You Think Will Impact How PPC Campaigns Are Run?
Automation is only one of the various technologies which may affect the way PPC management is done. There are many other new technologies which are likely to come up and change the industry standards.
Before we consider any new technologies, we need to remember the first goal of any new tool is to solve specific problems for PPC specialists. In this regard, JD Prater said:
There's a lot new tools hitting the marketing technology landscape everyday. I think the ones that will win out are addressing specific problems and pain points. I'm really looking forward to the tools that empower people to optimize and be data-driven.
Similar to what JD said, Melissa Mackey thinks there are already a lot of tools that can replace the standard out-of-the-mill optimization techniques of AdWords or Bing Ads:
There are so many new technologies out there, it’s hard to keep up. I’m a fan of third party tools, rather than relying on Google or Bing to optimize. There are so many great tools out there already. Soon, the days of logging into AdWords and poring over raw data may be a thing of the past.
From all the experts interviewed, Jonathan Dane is probably one of the most pessimistic regarding the future of PPC automation. He believes a new technology such as custom recommendations can not only change the way agencies manage PPC campaigns, but also can make companies like the one he runs go out of business:
Custom recommendation engines will be the quickest way that our agency, KlientBoost, will be put out of business. Imagine a software knowing what your goals are, and then only making recommendations for you to change things - around those goals. This can come with a flair of AI, but it's also just easy logic sometimes. That will be more of a game changer than automation or programmatic tools.
One common challenge publishers face is ad attrition; that is, how people get tired of seeing the same ad over and over. To overcome this issue, advertisers rotate their ads so their audience receive similar ads but that differ from each other. On this end, Michelle Morgan believes the next big change can be the way audiences experience ads:
I’m constantly amazed with the innovations coming out of our industry on a fairly regular basis. In my mind, the biggest trend is more from an end user standpoint, how our target audience is experiencing our advertisements. Nearly all ad channel innovations coming out are trying to help us better target our desired markets and engage with them in a more authentic manner. With that, there’s going to be all kinds of potential for new technologies that help advertisers leverage those advancements and become even more effective.
Whatever happens with the upcoming technologies in the future, no new technology will be separated entirely from each other. It's likely that the next big new technology will be tied with other similar ones. Kirk Williams said:
I think the future of PPC will look like a combination of Paid Search, Social, Voice Search from mobile devices, Augmented Reality, and IOT. Sure, this is a long list, but the new tech in that list are definitely (1) increased intelligence with voice search assistants, (2) Augmented Reality, and (3) IOT devices.
In terms of the third, I think there are ways IOT will disrupt the paid search realm that we don't even know about yet. For instance, buttons like Amazon's dash button can be used to order things like water filters or laundry detergent completely eliminating the need for a search online at all (and thus no ads).
We all know that voice search is continuing to grow as "technology" that is affecting paid search but it's worth an honorable mention because we are still in the early stages of it. I think Amazon Alexa (now on multiple devices), Apple's new home device, Google Home, and Microsoft's Cortana will continue to become valuable parts of our lives, though time will tell exactly what that means for advertisers.
Finally, augmented reality will certainly become a part of the future of advertising, whether that is simply looking one's person in the mirror with an overlay of that new shirt to see what we look like, or some other clever way we think up. It would be foolish to not stay up on the changes in digital marketing.
Similar to what Kirk Williams said, Frederick Vallaeys believes the way the future technologies will improve PPC management has more to do with how they are tied to each other:
What excites me most is that Google makes scripting very accessible to marketers through AdWords Scripts and that they can tie into other Google services. I imagine the day is not far off when we can use AW Scripts to use data from Google's new Attribution, and to write our own machine learning algorithms with Tensorflow.
The fact that we can combine Google's technology with all the data from our business means we are not bound to cookie-cutter solutions, but can actually do unique things for our unique businesses.
Despite the fact new technologies will come and change the way PPC management is done, some things won't change so much. Rather, the quality will improve. Dave Walker thinks automation will help companies to hire less people and improve the execution of the campaigns:
Tools, like Segmatic or others, focused on automating execution will allow for more PPC spend to be managed by fewer people. PPC will become more and more focused on strategy, rather than Excel skills alone!
Automation has changed the PPC landscape in an unprecedented way. This article has shown you how the future of PPC automation tools are impacting the way management is done by some of the top industry experts.
You have also seen how it will may impact in the future. Finally, you have how future technologies may impact the way PPC management is done.
What are your thoughts on the future of PPC automation? Please, share your thoughts in the comments below.