“Bid Management Tools”, “Paid Search Automation”, “Rule-Based Campaign Management Software”, "Portfolio Management": if you’re an internet marketer but haven’t heard these words recently, then you obviously spent the last few months working as a Tibetan monk.
All these refer to automating some of the more tedious aspects of paid search, be it for increased profitability, or just for the sake of saving time. Automation can make or break PPC campaigns, and this article will discuss the pros and cons of using such platforms and hopefully shed some light on what campaign automation is, why it’s so popular, and whether or not these are tools you should consider adding to your PPC management arsenal.
What Is A “Bid Management Tool”?
This is not a dumb question. Far from it. Most of the time, the so-called “bid management tools” do much more than just “manage bids”. We should in fact speak of PPC campaign automation, done via rule-based management sofware, or portfolio-based management software, or a hybrid of the 2.
Specifically, this article focuses on these tools that can automatically change the main parameters of your campaign (keywords, bids, ad texts, positions or even landing pages), following precise rules or algorithms that you set according to your goals and objectives.
Do YOU Really Need a Bid Management Tool?
That depends. Automating PPC bid management may add incredible value to your campaigns. Or maybe not so much. It depends on whether or not this can create significant improvements in either campaign results or in how you use your time.
Let’s do a quick survey:
– Do you manage several campaigns?
– Do your campaigns count hundreds of AdGroups and thousands of keywords?
– Is your market fierce and competitive?
– Do you have very specific goals?
– Is your market volatile (day parting, seasonal sales, …)
If you replied Yes to most of these questions, you are the perfect target:
In this case, even as an expert, you’re probably overwhelmed by the daily manual labor required to manage campaigns properly. Campaign managers often spend over one third of their time on tedious tasks such as bid management or keyword performance monitoring. Manually carrying out all of the various tasks associated with effective pay-per-click search advertising in such cases is impractical. Campaign automation can free up some of this time which is better spent on developing improved strategy, text ads, and landing pages.
If you work for an agency, there is yet another reason you may want to use campaign automation software – It helps sell services! Because there is a lot of buzz around these solutions, and many agencies do not yet offer such an option, they can be a real differentiating factor. It’s obviously something substantial to show new prospects which can demonstrate your agency’s expertise and give the client the confidence they need to sign a service agreement with you.
On the other hand, if you manage simple or sporadic campaigns which do not require constant attention, you should perhaps look for alternatives. These tools cost money and they usually can’t be justified by low-budget PPC activities.
Can a PPC Campaign Automation Tool replace your brain and skills?
NO! Obviously. Bid Management Tools are not magical tools. They don’t produce miraculous changes that will suddenly transform crappy campaigns into diamond mines.
After all, it’s just software. Yes, it makes many useful things possible, such as automating repetitive tasks, and working 24/7 without complaining. Regardless, there will never be a software substitute for detailed competitive analysis and keyword selection; the same applies to writing great ad copy, even to running tests, and optimizing landing pages.
Repetitive (and boring) tasks are perfect for automation, but strategic and analytical tasks are best left for us humans. Limit the amount of blood, sweat and tears with automation tools, but always put your brain in the driver’s seat!
Are PPC Campaign Automation Tools Dangerous?
YES! Be very careful. These tools are dangerous simply because they are really powerful. And, as we all know, power is nothing without control. In fact the source of danger here is you, the user!
If you were to enable the wrong type of automation, you could easily be allowing your bid management tool to do more harm than good. For example, you could empty your monthly budget in just a few hours, pause very effective adgroups, or increase Max CPCs on the worst keywords.
Of course there are some padded walls here: The best of these tools offer a "simulation" mode. Use simulation and pay attention to the expected results. They also allow you to run rules for you, prepare changes, and wait for your authorization before actually making them.
If you’re not sure of what you want or of what result you expect, you should probably continue to manage your campaigns manually. After all, it’s infinitely better to have a controlled manual bid management approach than to automate changes without having the proper thought process in place to provide direction for these changes.
How To Make The Most Of Your Tool And Avoid Costly Mistakes
First of all, you must determine what you want to achieve. Sounds obvious, but the truth is many PPC managers start acting before thinking, and that’s clearly never a good idea.
Again, you need to know what your goals, strategies and tactics are and translate these into the rules that will empower you to reach them.
Prepare and Choose
You have to select the parameters you want to use or control with your rules: Quality Score, Avg Position, Max. CPC, ROI/ROAS, conversions, or any combination of these or other metrics.
Then you have to choose the scope of your action (Your whole account, one or several campaigns, adgroups, or engines), the date range you want to take into account, and the frequency at which you want your rules to run (every day, every week, every month, etc.).
And finally, determine what action you will take, when issues have been determined: pause, increase or decrease max. CPC, be alerted, etc.
As we already discussed it, testing is extremely important. Never launch an automatic rule without testing it carefully. Work in "simulation mode", and do not allow your rules to make any decisions based on a few clicks, or non significant data (from a statistical point of view).
And at last… Let ‘em rip!
Now that you have a little more knowledge about campaign automation, you can make your own decision and try to benefit from the awesome opportunities created by bid management tools.
Just never forget: YOU make the rules!
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