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How to Use Automation to Boost PPC Performance

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How to Use Automation to Boost PPC Performance

Technology and automation play a huge role in search marketing.

The number of networks that require management is constantly expanding, the functionality of the platforms is becoming ever more complex, and without automation, search engine marketers will struggle to focus on the deeper analysis and insight that clients really value in an agency.

Enabling as much automation as possible will reduce the strain on PPC account managers’ ability to efficiently manage their accounts and free up time for high-level strategizing that a machine can’t do (yet).

To provide some inspiration around where you could lean on automation for certain PPC tasks, here are a few examples and resources to help expand your knowledge of PPC automation.

Automated Bid Management

Managing your bids manually is hugely time-consuming, and not only may it prove impossible to oversee across larger accounts, it may be more profitable (and accurate) for a machine to manage the bids on your behalf.

There are a few options when it comes to automating bid management, and some methods are slightly more advanced than others.

At the most basic level, you could be utilizing the automated bidding options offered by popular PPC platforms such as Google AdWords at campaign, ad group, or keyword level:

Example automated bidding options in Google AdWords

Example automated bidding options in Google AdWords

Google offers a set of conversion-based bid strategies under their smart bidding umbrella, a subset of their automated bidding software.

Smart bidding uses advanced machine learning to amend bids based on a wide range of real-time signals including device, location, time of day, remarketing list, language, and operating system.

The following smart bidding strategies are available to Google AdWords users within the interface itself:

  • Target CPA Bidding: Sets bids to help get as many conversions as possible at a set target cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Target ROAS: Targets more conversion value or revenue based on a target return-on-ad-spend (ROAS)
  • Enhanced CPC: Looks for ad auctions that are more likely to lead to conversions, and then raises your max CPC bid automatically
  • Max Conversions: Using historical data and evaluating contextual signals, this method automatically finds an optimal CPC bid

These bid strategies are great for standard AdWords users, but they haven’t got the granular level of control and customization as automation methods available via AdWords scripts.

adwords scripts

You can use AdWords scripts to automate common procedures (such as modifying bids) or interact with external data, and by far the biggest time saver I’ve experienced from using scripts has been the automation of bids for product groups on Google Shopping.

There are already a few free scripts out there to automatically modify bids. My agency has even created a script that modifies bids for every product group on Google Shopping based on a target ROI figure, saving our account managers huge amounts of time manually amending bids.

How Do I Calculate an Optimal ROAS or CPA Target?

With some of the bidding strategies like those listed above you need to firstly research what the optimal CPA and ROAS is for your business, and this can differ between different campaigns depending on the products being sold and the margins made on each product being sold.

Our clients have a range of different ROAS targets which depend on the profit made from each sale they make online. We also encourage our account managers to test different ROAS and CPA targets in order to optimize for maximum profit.

optimal cpc settings

My advice: don’t choose a set ROAS / CPA target and stick with it. Try shifting the needle a little and analyze the impact on your profit margins on a regular basis.

Automated Account Alerts

Spotting anomalies in account performance and rectifying any related issues is what PPC account managers are paid to do, however it’s unlikely that an account manager will be able to monitor performance around the clock – that’s where automation comes in!

A great example of how to utilize the power of automation to help monitor account performance is an AdWords Script like Google’s Account Anomaly Detector. This script scans an account’s performance hourly or daily (depending on the settings) and prompts an alert when the AdWords account metrics vary more than a set percentage from expectations.

account anomaly detector - google adwords

This works by emailing the account user if an account is behaving differently to how it has performed in the past, and is certainly worth setting up to ensure you’re quickly informed of any issues with account performance.

Automated Ad Copy

Automatically generating ad copy can be particularly useful for larger accounts, and handily there are a number of ways you can automate the generation of ads in Google AdWords.

1. Dynamically Generate & Target Ads Based on Your Website Content

AdWords allows advertisers to use their website content to generate (and target) ads via dynamic search ads (DSAs).

DSAs are a good way of expanding accounts but don’t have the same level of control or the level of targeting options as ads within a keyword-targeted campaign.

2. Create Ads Based on Data Feed Using AdWords Scripts

Creating ads for huge accounts using AdWords Scripts is a method I would recommend over DSAs, however it relies on having an up to date product data feed and strong working knowledge of Google sheets.

Find out more about how to create ads using scripts here.

3. Use IF functions to Automatically Customize Ad Copy

IF functions allow you to insert a specific message in your text ad if a condition has been met, and default text if it has not.

In the example below from Google, an IF function has been used to customize the ad based on device. If users are on mobile they will see the free delivery message, whereas users on desktop will see the default ‘buy now’ text.

IF functions screen grab

You can read more about how to set up IF functions for AdWords text ads here.

Automated PPC Reporting

At Hallam, we use the Google Analytics API to populate our PPC reports in Google sheets, ensuring that our account managers automatically get the data they need to send their clients, and that their monthly “reporting time” is dedicated to analyzing the information and planning necessary actions for the next period.

example ppc report

Example PPC report automated via Google sheets

In practice, using the Google Analytics add-on for Google sheets, you can quickly define the data you want to retrieve and present it in a user-friendly dashboard. Because the data retrieval can be automated using Google sheets, this gives our clients an up-to-date reporting interface that they can access on the web to view key metrics for their particular account.

Conclusion

It’s easy to be put off by scare stories of automation and AI reducing the need for human intervention, but advancements in AI and automation should only be seen as a positive thing.

Utilizing machine learning and automation will provide us with campaign analysis and management assistance at a depth and scale that we humans simply aren’t capable of providing, allowing us to spend time assessing the bigger picture for our clients.

Of course, this post contains just a few examples of how you can utilize automation to save time on core PPC management activities. Your job now is to think about the instances where it may be worth investing a bit of time researching or building automated processes of your own.


Image Credits
Featured Image: Pexels
In-post screenshots and imagery taken / created by Ben Wood, September 2017.

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Ben Wood

Ben Wood

Marketing Services Director at Hallam Internet

Ben Wood is the Marketing Services Director at UK based digital agency Hallam Internet, and has previously worked at a ... [Read full bio]

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