Last week, I spoke at the Figaro Paid Search, Display and SEO seminar on the topic of automation in paid search.

As automation becomes increasingly used, it’s important to understand where and how it can be used in order to stay ahead of competitors and keep up with the ever-changing paid search landscape.

If you missed the event, don’t worry, I’m covering off the highlights in this blog post.

In paid search, there’s more data available than ever before and with so many different data points and pieces of information being processed at any one time, it’s increasingly difficult for humans to make sense of it all, nevermind act on the insights provided.

In addition, the ability to bid on a wider number of factors, means it’s never been more difficult to compete in the paid search landscape.

Over the last few years, the Google Ads platform has seen exponential change with the introduction of automation; including smart bidding, smart display, similar audiences and eCPC changes.

Google is making increasing use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies which work hard to help users decide how to alter campaigns so they no longer have to think, just do.

Automation is in action across a wide number of industries and sectors and is assisting humans to help us become better at our jobs.

So, what does automation have to do with PPC?

Automation has the potential to replace dull, repetitive and time consuming tasks such as reporting, pulling data, analysing data, writing ad copy and deciding on bid levels.

But the automation needs users too! The technology learns from itself and the data input into it, so it improves over time.

The more users it has, the more it is able to learn and the more effective it becomes.

This allows marketers to add value by focusing on the what, not the why.

Rather than spending time collecting data and trying to make sense of it, automation makes it easier to identify why a certain audience has decided to engage, why some ad copy works better than others and why it might be necessary to bid higher for certain devices.

Automation allows users to focus on why these things happen and the actions to be taken following this information.

When is it right to automate?

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency,” Bill Gates.

It’s extremely important to only automate processes that are already efficient as this will only serve to make them more efficient.

So, when running paid search campaigns, it’s important to have a clear granular structure which allows users to drill down specifically into the areas of the account that are working.

When used correctly, automation can provide a number of benefits including:

Time saving

Automation within paid search will save time on reporting, data collection and bidding and allows time for other, more strategic activities.

Reduced cost and human error

Automated bidding can improve the efficiency of campaigns and allows you to reinvest this budget back into paid search or into other channels. In addition, the reduction of human error will also prevent wasted budget and make it much more efficient.

Improved customer service

By using the suggestions made by automation technologies, the likelihood of reaching the right person with the most relevant message increases, allowing you to provide a seamless customer journey.

Better control and insight into data

The information provided by AI and ML technology gives marketers the choice to decide what to do with the information and whether to act on it. It also provides more information so time is not spent on gathering information in the same place before it can be analysed.

Where is automation best placed for paid search?

“I think the key to using machine learning well in PPC is by willingly using it for anything that can be easily replicated. This preserves you (the human brain) for client facing communication, problem solving, strategic decisions, analysis and smarter reporting,” Kirk Williams.

Automation is not the best option for every task but there are areas in which it can lend a hand and save time, resource and make campaigns more cost-effective.

Reporting

In a recent survey, over 34% of marketers admitted that they spend more than three days a month on reporting either for their own businesses or for their clients. This is a huge amount of time that could be better spent on analysing automated reports to improve performance and increase revenue.

When looking into implementing automation, reporting is the best place to start and saves a huge amount of time by having the information delivered automatically.

Google Ads has these features already but apps such as Supermetrics can provide a much quicker and slicker way to process data.

This allows marketers to focus on the ‘so what’. What can be done with the information and how can it be used to benefit marketing campaigns?

By automating reports and looking at the so what, it’s possible to not only see what has been done but to see why those results were like that, and how the information can be used to inform next best actions.

Bidding

Aside from reporting, bidding is the second area of paid search in which automation will have the biggest impact.

80% of a digital marketer’s time is spent on manual tasks such as bidding and only 20% is spent on strategy. This is a huge waste of time so it’s important to find more efficient ways of working to stay ahead.

Ads now has so many options available for segmentation, it has become very difficult for a human to keep up with them all, let alone decide how to bid based on those factors.

Rather than a keyword focus, factors such as location, gender and other demographics are now used to target various audiences.

Behaviours and interests in particular have become more important over the last 18 months. Features such as similar audiences and in-market audiences segment audiences by their market need and demographics and provides an extremely granular way to operate campaigns.

There’s no way a human can compute all of these different elements and decide on the correct strategy going forward.

Over 50% of Google advertisers (Source: Google UK) now use Smart Bidding in their accounts and the use of Smart Bidding in the UK has doubled year on year.

This is an automated bidding product within Google Ads and has seen a huge amount of growth over the last few years.

The technology has improved as more and more businesses use it - an element that is essential to its success. The more data it has and the more competitor data it has, the better the system works for everyone.

However, for automated bidding to work effectively, accounts must be well structured and stabilised. It’s also essential to test the strategies that the technology suggests to ensure results can be tracked back to specific changes.

This can be done through split tests or cookie tests and is important for helping the system to learn and improve.

Automated bidding is only set to become more prevalent and important so if you’re not implementing it now, competitors will be and they will be stealing a march!

Key takeaways

The key takeaways for automation and paid search are to start doing at least something to automate tasks. It might be currently only being used for a limited set of tasks but it will provide much more time for thinking, analysing and devising new strategies.

Time and attention are precious resources so spending them on the right tasks and finding better ways to perform tasks such as reporting and bidding will provide a much better way of working.

If you’d like an audit of your PPC account to find out where you could be using automation to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your campaigns, please get in touch.