PPC automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning or programmatic advertising are the terms heard very often in digital marketing recently. Agencies, advertisers, C-Level executives and clients are constantly searching and applying the way of using automation in their marketing strategies.
But what is exactly automation in digital advertising? How can advertisers take advantage of that? What can be automated? Is it really possible to reduce time costs and increase efficiency? Do we need to splash out for 3rd party automation tools for greater results?
Automation in Digital advertising is a massive topic. I will try to explain automation processes mostly for Google Ads in this post, since Google dominates the market with a share of 90%. You will also find examples on implementation of automation processes. I will try to cover when 3rd party tools are needed.
Efficiency, scale, and low cost—are just some of the numerous benefits that automation bring to advertising. Further development of automated technology could bring more transparency, visibility, and cost efficiency to agencies.
But bad news! We still don’t have automation that create, implement and track digital advertising strategy at the same time. Human touch is still needed for the most of the digital advertising process.
What can be automated and what’s worth automating?
Automation is the inevitable fate of rote, less-than-stimulating tasks.
Tasks that are well-defined can usually be automated. So if you follow the same process every time you’re managing bids, setting budgets, finding new keywords to add as single-keyword ad groups, setting specific rules or doing bulk uploads for new campaigns, you can automate them through different free tools.
The reason to add true automation is that computers and software don’t need breaks and can work for you 24/7, and they will not make mistakes because of distractions. So if your task could be done by another person and they would not have to ask you questions about what to do, it can be automated.
How to decide if automation is worth it?
This is where we analyze if automation is worth it. In order to understand this, we should determine tasks that are time consuming and how often we are working on them. Then we need to figure out how to prioritize them. So the longer it takes and the more you do it, the bigger the benefit from automating it.
How to automate?
So It’s time to explain step by step what are the best practises for automation in digital advertising and how to automate.
- Automated Bidding Strategies
- Automated Rules
- Google Ads Editor
- AdWords API
- Google Ads Machine Learning
- Extension Tools
- 3rd. Party Tools
The most direct advantage of using Google Ads scripts is that they save time. By automating the more tedious processes in digital advertising account maintenance, you can focus more on optimizing actual performance.
Not only do they save time, but scripts can often catch smaller issues or opportunities that you may have missed.
Main purposes of using scripts are;
- Bid Modifiers
- Pausing and Deletion
- Third Party Data
- Bidding and Budgets
- Automating Maintenance Tasks
- Ad Text
- Google Display Network and Shopping Campaigns
You can apply scripts to Search, Display, Video and Shopping campaigns.
And good news for Bing advertisers! Bing Ads Scripts are rolled out in beta by November 2018. Like Google ads, Bing scripts will help advertisers to automate their campaigns.
2. Automated bidding strategies
Google defines automated bidding strategies as; “A bid strategy that automatically sets bids for your ads based on that ad's likelihood to result in a click or conversion. Each type of automated bid strategy is designed to help you achieve a specific goal for your business.”
So far there are six different types of automated bidding strategies. Automated bidding strategies are very effective when you have certain goals and historical conversion data. Google recommends to have 50 conversions, and minimum 30 conversions in last 30 days in order to make machine learning understand the best combination. If you don’t have enough conversion data in the campaign history, algorithm will check account’s historical data. If you have no conversion data at all, you need to use Manual CPC until you collect some conversion data.
Let’s check out all automated bidding strategies one by one;
It’s used, If your goal drive as many as clicks within your budget. The goal here is increase your site visits.
Automatically sets bids with the goal of showing your ad on the absolute top of the page, on the top of the page, or anywhere on the page of Google search results. The goal here is increase your visibility.
3. Target CPA
Automatically sets Search or Display bids to help get as many conversions as possible at the target cost-per-acquisition (CPA) you set. The more historical data and previous contextual signals the engines have to use for optimizations, the better they are at making those adjustments. The goal here is get as many as conversions within your budget.
Automatically adjusts your manual bids to help you get more conversions, while trying to achieve the same cost-per-conversion. The goal here is Increase conversions while staying in control of your keyword bids.
5. Target ROAS
Target ROAS automatically sets bids to help get as much conversion value as possible at the target return on ad spend (ROAS) you set. The goal here is meet a target return on ad spend (ROAS) when you value each conversion differently.
Automatically sets bids to help you get the most conversions for your campaign while spending your budget. The goal here is get more conversions while spending your whole budget.
Smart Bidding is a set of conversion-based bid strategies—Target CPA, Target ROAS and Enhanced CPC—that use advanced machine learning to help you tailor the right bid to each and every auction.
To sum up, if the goal for your business is to have more conversions or sales, Target CPA and Target ROAS are recommended bidding strategies. You should use target CPA as bidding strategy If your conversion goal has same value and Target ROAS would work better if your each conversion has different value.
And also before switching to a new bidding strategy, set a campaign drafts and experiment for a while and you will have chance to compare changes between different bidding strategies.
3. Automated rules
Automated rules allow you to schedule your ads to appear at specific times of the day, adjust bids by time of day, seasonal factors or other dynamic conditions, or control your budget and costs by showing ads only at the times you choose.
Most common way of using automated rules are;
- Schedule ads
- Turn on or off several special ads for a promotional event
- Turn on or off several special ads on a repeating basis (e.g. every weekend)
- Turn on or off a special ad campaign for a promotional event
- Pause low-performing ads or keywords
- Pause low-performing keywords based on performance metrics (e.g., high cost per conversion)
- Pause low-performing ads based on performance metrics (e.g., low CTR)
- Bids and bid scheduling
- Adjust bids for keywords based on cost per conversion
- Change bids to target an average position (Search Network only)
- Raise bids to ensure ads show on the first page (Search Network only)
- Raise bids to the recommended top of page bid (Search Network only)
- Bid scheduling (e.g., a higher bid during certain hours of the day)
- Control budgets and cost
- Checking in on your budget
- Budget scheduling (e.g., higher budget on certain days of the week)
- Pause campaigns that have spent a certain budget partway through the month
- Pause campaigns that have reached a certain number of clicks partway through the day
- Increase budget for campaigns that convert well (using cost-per-conversion)
- Increase bids for dimensions that perform well in your Display Network campaign
4. Google Ads editor
Even though Google Ads Editor is not perceived as an automation tool, I think it’s a great automation assistant that saves huge amount of time.
Google Ads Editor is a free, downloadable application for managing your Google Ads campaigns. The basic process is simple: download one or more accounts, make changes offline, then upload the changes to Google Ads. Google Ads Editor can help you save time and make it easier to make changes in bulk.
What you can do with Google Ads Editor
- Use bulk editing tools to make multiple changes quickly.
- Export and import files to share proposals or make changes to an account.
- View statistics for all campaigns or a subset of campaigns.
- Manage, edit, and view multiple accounts at the same time.
- Search and replace text across ad groups or campaigns.
- Copy or move items between ad groups and campaigns.
- Undo and redo multiple changes while editing your campaigns.
- Make changes in draft before uploading them to your account.
- Keep working even when you're offline.
Especially when you need to prepare account structure that have many campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ads, Ads editor is a great time saver. You can prepare your all account structure in Excel sheet and upload it to Google Ads through Ads editor. With the help of Excel sheet, you can easily apply or change all settings.
5. Adwords API
The AdWords application programming interface (API) gives developers programmatic access to AdWords. It’s even the same way that Google’s own developers access AdWords data in the interfaces they’re building.
While the API doesn’t give access to every part of AdWords, it’s as close as we can get today. Using the API requires some serious engineering resources as well as maintaining the servers to run it.
The AdWords API allows apps to interact directly with the Google Ads platform, vastly increasing the efficiency of managing large or complex Google Ads accounts and campaigns. Some typical use cases include:
- Automated account management
- Custom reporting
- Ad management based on inventory
- Bid management based on business data
With the AdWords API you can build software that manages accounts from the customer level down to the keyword level. The API can do almost everything the Google Ads UI does, but programmatically.
6. Google Ads machine learning
Machine learning is the future of search, without a doubt. Google Ads AI is always being improved thanks to machine learning algorithm. There are plenty of options in Google Ads itselfs that allow advertisers to optimize their campaigns. To mention some of them;
1. Responsive Search Ads combines your creativity with the power of Google’s machine learning to help you deliver relevant, valuable ads. Simply provide up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines, and Google will do the rest. By testing different combinations, Google learns which ad creative performs best for any search query. So people searching for the same thing might see different ads based on context.
2. Smart Shopping campaigns help you hit your revenue goals without the need to manually manage and bid to individual products. Machine learning is also used to optimize where your Shopping ads show—on Google.com, Image Search, YouTube and millions of sites and apps across the web—and which products are featured.
3. Smart Display campaigns offer a simple, intelligent solution to managing the complex variables of display advertising, and may be the most effortless way to broaden your customer base and win new conversions. Use a Smart Display campaign to show ads in almost all formats across the Google Display Network, reaching people at all stages in the buying cycle. Smart Display campaigns combine 3 optimization technologies to take the labor and guesswork out of targeting, bidding, and ad creation.
4. Dynamic Search Ads campaigns. For advertisers with large sites or who sell lots of different products, it can be challenging to keep search ads in sync with what they currently offer. Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) offer an automated solution that targets ads to relevant queries, with relevant ads and the right landing page. It does this by using Google’s organic index to find instances when a page on an advertiser’s site would be a good match for a search but is not triggering any ads in Google Ads.
The advertiser can choose whether to include all pages from their site that are in the Google index or just those pages that are in a feed. From that point, Google automatically targets the ads and shows ads with an automated headline
5. Others: There are other automation features in Google Ads. Automated ad extensions, optimized ad rotation, and even using broad match to automatically show ads on related queries are forms of automation that help reduce the amount of time that’s needed to manage a successful campaign.
7. Extension Tools
1. Add-on for Google Sheets: The add-on for Google Sheets makes it easy for you to create, run, and update your Google Ads reports in Google Sheets. All you need to do is, downloadadd-ons and connect your Google ads account. Then you can create reports based on data from one or more Google Ads accounts in just a few clicks.
2. Google Ads match type add-ons: This is very helpful add-ons when you need to assign match type for massive keywords in Google Sheet. Quickly add the match type you need: EXACT,PHRASE or BROAD MODIFIER to your new list of keywords without losing any time with complex formulas.
3. PPC Negative Keywords chrome extension allows you to quickly and conveniently collect negative keywords in your AdWords, Analytics, Bing Ads accounts.
4. There are also plenty of PPC Chrome extensions that all digital advertisers need to use in order to save time and accomplish tasks faster. Chrome extensions are one of the easiest ways to handle works more quickly and they are definitely very beneficial.
8. 3rd party tools
There are many 3rd party tools that are are being used by digital advertisers. Contrary to automation tools I pointed in this article, I do not have extensive experience with using 3rd party tools but I will try to explain as much as I know about them.
One of the biggest advantages of 3rd party tools is they are easy to understand and simple to use. But before starting to use them, we should ask ourselves, why do we need them? What can be automated through these tools?
I will get back to the beginning of the article here, to one of the first questions; What’s worth automating? If we decide that processes should be automated then we should think: how? Afterwards, we should consider if it is possible to automate working process through scripts, rules, ads editor, free tools or automated bidding strategies. If the answer is yes, do not stop and implement them. If the answer is no, then you should consider about 3rd party tools.
Each 3rd party tool has its own automation solutions that could be used on different ad platforms. They can provide different solutions for each platform. And in some cases, you can even find solutions that could be automated, but you did not think about them. So you can check 3rd party tools solutions and features and decide what could work best for you.
Let’s check some of them:
We can count Semrush as an automation tool in terms of solutions they provide. Semrush helps advertisers to easily audit their competitors by Advertising Competitive Analysis. Keyword Research Feature helps to save time by helping with keyword research and provide metrics as CPC, competition level, trends and more. By Ad Research and Creation tool you can get ideas by researching competitors text, display and PLA ads. This will help you save time when creating ad copys.
Smartly is a great Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest ad management tool that helps automate, create, optimize and scale your ad campaigns. Contrary to Facebook Business Manager, Smartly has simpler interface. If you are running multiple ad accounts that have huge campaign structure and applying advanced features, you should consider using Smartly.
Some main advantages of using Smartly;
- Automation: Simplify your Facebook ad operations with automated prospecting and retargeting campaigns
- Simple workflows: Launch, clone, and bulk edit campaigns, creatives, and audiences in an instant.
- Creative solutions: That combine creative automation, ad buying, and creative testing on a single platform.
- Optimize With AI: Optimize your campaigns with Smartly.io’s bespoke AI solutions.
- Reporting: You can track and analyze results with Actionable Insights that grant you a holistic view of your campaign performance, even across ad accounts.
Optmyzr is one of the most well known automation tools that is used for search, display, shopping and video campaigns. There are more than 50+ features that available in Optmyzr to automate work process for digital advertising.
Some main advantages of using Optmyzr;
- Optimizations; Find negative and positive keywords, Run A/B ad tests, Build, maintain, and optimize Shopping Ads, Check for broken URLs.
- Data Insights: Multi-account dashboards with alerts, Alerts and anomaly detection, N-gram analysis, Track and fix Quality Score.
- Report Engine: Custom colors, footers, cover pages, Flexible scheduling, Multi-account reports.
I think and I believe, automation from advertiser aspect is all about creative mindset which comes from needs in daily work process optimization. You should consider automation, when you have a repeating task which takes your time on a regular basis.
Automation is taking over a lot of the tasks humans have historically done in Digital Advertising; but as this shift continues, there will be plenty of new opportunities for digital advertisers and agencies to provide value to their clients.
Contrary to popular belief, automation is not replacing digital advertiser jobs but bringing new role that human will play in digital advertising. In this sense, professionals should have a plan for their business and prepare a strategy on how to leverage automation for maximum efficiency.
- There are plenty of options that could and should be automated.
- AI and machine learning are still in learning process and always will be. We advertisers always should be up to date and follow new trends and developments in digital advertising.
- Human touch is still a must need. But human role in digital advertising is evolving into a more critical and strategic form.
- Don’t be in rush to splash out for 3rd party tools. First analyze what could be automated and then find the opportunities for automation with the tools provided by first and second parties.
Keep calm and automate!