Is automating your PPC management really getting you the best results?
Or is there a better way?
Automation is no longer the far-off hypothesis of science-fiction writers, it is very much part of our everyday lives. All of a sudden self-driving cars and robot surgeons are discussed in terms of ‘when’ not ‘if’. In manufacturing and industrial sectors, workers may view automation as the dark cloud of impending redundancies, but as a forward-thinking, data-driven industry the SEM world has embraced automation as a tool for good.
Lets face it, a list of pro’s for automation when it comes to PPC management pretty much writes itself: eliminate the risk of human error; allow AI to account for huge pots of data that can correlate and formulate decisions well out of the scope of the single human mind; bid and make changes in real-time to account for the slightest signals and fluctuations; and ultimately save significant amounts of time spent on analysis and implementation.
But there are limits to what can be automated and a real risk in an over-reliance on automation. The major argument against automation in the broader sense is as mentioned above – jobs. Through history there has been endless instances of technology becoming obsolete and newer, better alternatives taking their place – so will you be the human beta-max of tomorrow? Well according to a BBC article from September last year apparently not. Advertising accounts managers (the closest I could get) rank 223rd of 366 jobs at highest risk to automation. That’s due to the requirement for “employees to think on their feet and come up with creative and original ideas.” which is where an over-reliance on automation can become a problem.
As a PPC agency we’ve been approached by software companies that can for a “surprisingly low fee” (so a 30 day free trial and thousands per month following) provide us with tools that can take away all manual work on our PPC accounts and automate everything. So they can change bids, create ad groups, add negative keywords, write compelling ad texts, call our clients and discuss their budgets and KPI’s, make the perfect cup of tea… And therein lies the risk – automate too much and you take away the creative benefits of human input. One of the main criticisms levied at PPC accounts using high levels of automation is that they just allow for a conveyer belt of like for like campaigns with little individuality and creativity. Understanding a product or service and taking the time to write a truly unique and compelling ad text for a specific keyword set is still well beyond the abilities of any software (or Google’s dynamic ad tools), as is deciding on a search terms relevancy and whether to add it as a negative keyword. There’s also a criticism of either lack of functionality/flexibility or lack of value for money thrown at the automation software itself – the tools that can genuinely do what you need them to do are going to charge you for the privilege; even Google’s own DoubleClick platform is far from cheap!
Ultimately it all comes down to balance. There’s always going to be a level of PPC account management that can be done more effectively with automation, and certainly an account manager will always be thankful for any help with the more mundane tasks. But likewise a good proportion of work still needs high levels of manual input. That’s why we prefer to refer to these aspects as the ‘handcrafted’ elements of PPC account management. The word ‘manual’ takes away from the artistry and creativity needed to do the job effectively, and let’s be honest just as a master craftsman has pride in what he creates, a good PPC account manager will always strive for perfection. Any account manager worth their salt (or simply those that have been doing it long enough) should still be able to create an effective campaign that is 100% handcrafted, but I’d challenge anyone to equal that performance with one that is 100% automated. But again balance is the key. By automating the areas that should be automated, you give yourself more time on those areas that shouldn’t be. So that means if you harness the power of automation effectively it should allow for MORE creativity, MORE ideas and ultimately BETTER performance.
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