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7 min read

The Use Of Automation In PPC

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Automation is simply giving most of the control to Google’s or Bing’s algorithms to help determine where you can best achieve the KPIs & goals set for the account, or campaign. It can be utilised across different channels, search, display & video.

Most people will assume automation means automatic bidding strategies but it can be as simple as using rules or scripts in the account to save time. Although manual bidding is still preferred by some, using automation can save significant time on the manual management of accounts, gain data via different signals and can avoid under or overbidding. Automation can include setting bids set to achieve your goals, optimising ad variations and how different users interact and many other signals.

There are limitations to automation; human input is required in an account prior to automation to ensure there is historical data for the algorithms to work with. There is also obvious danger with allowing algorithms to determine everything in your account.

Responsive Search Ads (RSA)

By giving Google & Bing multiple headline & description variations, the algorithm will rotate and show the best performing ad copies, showing what variations deliver the strongest CTR, clicks and overall engagement.

You may worry that putting your ads in Google’s ‘hands’ may cause confusion for the customer if they are not clear or have a clash in headline wording. However having messy adverts can be avoided by pinning specific parts of the ad. Pinning headlines which include your key call to action, unique selling points or brand messaging are good places to begin.

The platforms will also help you to know if your responsive search ads (RSA) could do with improving by showing the performance level of the ads within each campaign, see the scaling below.

By using this simple yet effective form of automation, you can begin to see increases in your positive metrics by seeing an increase in engagement.

It is best to launch responsive search ads when your original expanded text ads have been running for a while. This is because the RSA ads will then work best, having learnt from the original ads in terms of what has been working well.

Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic search ads match the customers search queries to the webpages on your site. These types of ads can bring in new search terms by best matching the term to your website and may also bring more traffic through specific search terms. This type of automation also gives a good indication on what customers are searching, which you may have not been previously aware of. 

It is important to make sure that your web pages have sufficient content on them to make sure that the algorithms have enough data/information to work on.

To help you not cannabalise on your other search campaigns – it can be best practice to exclude all other keywords in the account so that you are only bringing in new search queries – not ones already in your account. This will also help to not increase your spend.

Different Strategies

By automating your strategy to maximise conversion, Google’s/Bing’s algorithm will spend the set budget to drive conversions. This strategy could drive low conversion values and hence you may not achieve other metrics like ROAS.This strategy can work well for accounts whereby all conversions or leads provide the same value – submitted forms, contact us pages, email sign-ups etc.

This strategy must only be used once you, first of all, have correct tracking in place and secondly have enough conversion data within the campaign/account. 

Target Impression Share strategy adjusts bids to ensure that ads gain as many impressions as possible. This is best suited to early campaigns or branded campaigns to help your branded terms gain the best visibility. This strategy is good to use to understand the competitiveness of the market space in which you are serving for.

For accounts whereby you are judged on the return in the account, target ROAS is best applied. The algorithm will move the budget to gain the highest return to achieve the highest conversion value/return. 

Some accounts may see a decrease in conversions but you will see a rise in higher-value conversions, in turn creating a high return on ad spend.

To apply this strategy you will need to ensure that conversion tracking is set up to report correctly, 15-30 sales prior to applying this strategy as well as having a realistic ROAS based on budget & prior performance. 

Target CPA strategy, unlike max conversions, gives control over the amount you are willing to spend for a conversion. The aim of target CPA is to not only drive the most conversions but to do this whilst driving the target CPA you set for the campaign/account. Similarly to maximise conversions, this strategy is best suited to campaigns that have been running for at least a month prior to applying a target. 

It is also crucial that you set yourself a realistic target so that the algorithms do not work the budget too much in order to gain a CPA that is unachievable.

Maximise clicks strategy is aimed at spending the budget whilst driving as many clicks as possible. This could cause budgets to rise by increasing max bids on terms, and cause conversions to adjust however it is good for brand awareness & helps drive traffic that may later convert. This needs a fair amount of human interaction to manage spend.

Ensuring Successful Use Of Automation

By giving your automated strategies realistic targets it will gain you the highest ROAS & lowest CPA it can within your set budget; you aren’t asking the account to overwork and drive up your CPCs, driving wasted traffic that will drive up your cost. This mindset is also applicable for other strategies.

The learning period for the algorithms is also crucial to help them understand what factors; bids, keywords, ads, audiences (who’s engaging with your ads the most), devices, locations, time of day, day of the week are gaining you the best results. It is therefore advised not to make many, if any changes, to the campaigns until enough significant data has begun to come through – ideally 2 weeks.

Patiently waiting for campaigns to gather enough data to report on performance can be a nervous time, especially with an actively engaged or demanding client. Managing expectations of the client is important, and keeping your eye on the budget to build the client’s trust during the initial period of automation is important.

Gaining The Highest Intent Traffic & Conversions

When reviewing the level of traffic you are receiving compared to the number of conversions you’re gaining, it is worthwhile noting what conversions you are reporting on. 

For example, you may have conversion goals set up for certain clicks, contact form submissions, payments or even social clicks. Therefore, if you are wanting to use max conversion, target CPA etc, you will want to ensure that you are focusing the strategies on the conversions which are gaining you the highest performance and if you are gaining your performance on profit/revenue-driving conversions or all conversions.

Reasons, why this could affect your performance, is because if you are tracking all of the above variations of conversions, your CPA could look extremely low, due to you reporting on all of the conversions (revenue-driving & non-revenue driving), as well as confusing the machine. Therefore, if you are only being judged on the CPA for a certain conversion goal, be sure to ignore the others.

Think of what conversions you are going to value when it comes to reporting and measuring performance. 

A Human Will Always Be Needed

A human will always be needed to manage the machine. Although automation is increasing the efficiency of paid media and can significantly bolster business performance, it relies on previous data in a world where trends and the current economy are continually changing. It would also be bad business trusting an algorithm with a budget in the millions, and automation can be a high-risk strategy at times and will generally need continual monitoring from a human user. Setting up a campaign should not rely on automation as a whole but instead, the different types of automation should be utilised as weapons in your artillery in the chaotic paid media world.