All About PPC Automation

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “All About PPC Automation.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: Do you believe automation (no matter how small) is necessary for better account management?

  • Yes – I think that having automation is critical to giving each client the attention they deserve. – Derek Martin (@derekmartinLA)
  • Yes, if for no other reason than reporting efficiency. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
  • Yes, even something as simple as a report automation saves you time and allows you to put more effort into other things. – Brett Stevens (@BrettStevens1)
  • Saving time is always necessary. – John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
  • Reporting, yes. But account automation can be tricky with low volume accounts. – Ginny Marvin (@GinnyMarvin)
  • Is it necessary? No. Does it help for certain accounts (larger ones), or for people with large client loads? Absolutely! – Leo Sussan (@lsussan)
    • Yup, even if you’re using just to flag issues & not make automated changes, can save time. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
      • That’s *exactly* what I’ve got. I’ve also got a script that makes the process of batch labeling much easier. – Leo Sussan
  • Not for better per se, but for more efficient management. – Susan Waldes (@suzyvirtual)
  • Yes, there are items that can be automated that will not impact what PPC managers should be doing anyway, labels, scripts, etc. – Matt Umbro
  • Not exactly necessary, no. Automation requires some effort as well. – Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)
  • I automate my entire reporting process. But I DO NOT automate any account changes. It isnt necessary. – Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
    • I have an account that spends 50k a day and has over a million keywords, r u saying my auto bidding is unnecessary? – Brett Stevens
      • He’s saying that if your bidding was crap before, automating won’t fix that. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
      • Absolutely crucial in large accounts – but effect could be limited when done only on keywords. – Aniket Khare
  • Automation of repetitive tasks can be necessary to remain efficient & competitive in order to focus on higher priority items. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • Labels with automated rules is a great way to automate ad scheduling, especially when ads need to constantly be changed. ie: Wed – Sat is one sale and Sun – Tues is another…or automating black friday and cyber monday ads going. – Matt Umbro
  • Yes. Some account mngt tasks are better carried out by machines, i.e. bidding. Others humans do better, i.e. ad creation. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
  • Automation needs a holistic approach – tough to see it deliver value when it operates only on part of the problem. So a keyword bid automator needs to have visibility into Ads, Match Types, Regions & Sitelinks – Else doesn’t really make the cut. – Aniket Khare (@AniketKhare2)
  • Yes, any areas where you can lower tedious mgmt with effective results, I’m on board with. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Budget, reports would be the first targets, but the fun comes as we automate rules to achieve varying business goals. – Aniket Khare
  • Automation of repetitive tasks lets us focus on what truly matters to clients (more conversions). – Derek Martin
  • Changing ads on weekdays is a good example of a specific task to automate. But there’s not much automation you’d need in every case. – Martin Roettgerding
  • Automating stuff like turning off ads when a promotion ends is pretty necessary (unless you like working at midnight). – Tamsin Mehew (@TamsinMehew)

Q2: Are you using any scripts? Which ones and why?

  • Using one script for weather. Tried another to pause ads when site goes down, but that failed miserably. Still figuring it out! – Michelle Morgan
  • The weather script, haven’t had time to figure any others out. – Heather Cooan
  • I love the countdown script! Great for ecommerce campaigns. – Matt Umbro
  • The countdown script. – Ginny Marvin
  • Yes – using scripts to automating rote tasks like kw match types but also for dynamic reporting. – Derek Martin
  • The countdown script I have used a few times and love it! – Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
  • The countdown script especially helps to divert eyes away from PLAs. – Matt Umbro
  • Recently wrote script that assigns conversion/cost data at the keyword level to find negatives/opportunities. – Derek Martin
  • The biggest example – I have a script for a product SKU account, that automates stock, and adds pricing into ads. – Leo Sussan
  • We have a custom script to activate/pause thousands of ads based on inventory and prices. Only in use for one very specific task. – Martin Roettgerding
  • Mostly using Scripts to track QS. Starting to use them for bulk labelling things. – Tamsin Mehew
  • Bulk labeling ads and Account level QS. – John Budzynski
  • AdWords Scripts are pretty cool, but we prefer the API for most things. Scripts just for fun. – Martin Roettgerding
    • Same. 3rd party tool automates a lot of the same stuff scripts do. – Luke Alley
    • API access is not something I get, sadly. I’ve got to make due with what I have. – Leo Sussan
      • Why no API access? I heard they take their time, but didn’t know they reject applications. – Martin Roettgerding
        • I applied four months ago. My AM tells me that the API team is a black hole. – Leo Sussan
    • I would categorise anything performing script-like behaviour using the API as a script. – Josh Devlin (@JayPeeDevlin)
  • Would like to use scripts for ad groups based on inventory files, anyone know if this is doable without a third party? – Katie Patton (@kpatton6)
    • Yep, totally doable, that’s the exact structure of what I have running. DM me, I can help you out there. – Leo Sussan
  • Quality score tracker, useful for flagging major drops & increases. – Timothy Jensen
  • daily/monthly reports (clicks, impr, ctr, cpc, cost, conv, etc) into Google spreadsheet to create pacing doc. – Michael Knight (@MichaelAKnight)

Q3: For those not using 3rd party platforms, what types of automated rules do you setup directly in AdWords?

  • Turning on/off ads with certain labels. – Robert Brady
  • Changing ads on Sunday morning is my all-time favorite for automated rules. – Martin Roettgerding
  • Bid adjustments based on performance. Sometimes pausing/reenabling ads around known down times. – Michelle Morgan
  • Bid to position, flexible bidding strategies like ROI for ecomm clients. – Michael Knight
  • AdWords real-time bidding is certainly the type of automation that 3rd party tools cannot provide. – Martin Roettgerding
  • I’ve got a couple that email my task management software when keywords are underperforming. – Leo Sussan
  • Helping to find campaigns that aren’t cost effective. – Emma Pellegrini (@emmypelle)

Q4: What is your biggest fear of at least testing out AdWords bidding strategies? Or, if you have what were the results?

  • AdWords bidding strats are hit & miss – but you can dial them all the way down to keyword level, so you can do 3 kws if u want. – Michael Knight
  • For whatever reason, they have a very bad rap within my team — don’t want to lose face by trying them. – Derek Martin
  • Had no fear before I tried out ROAS bidding… still can’t comprehend how Google could release that into the wild. – Martin Roettgerding
  • I’ve tried flexible bidding…it worked OK, but cut down conversions even though CPA was within goal. – Matt Umbro
  • Setting up my own rules, and having those rules hurt account performance in the end. Specifically, bidding. – Luke Alley
  • The rules that seem to hurt the most is max clicks and bid to position (bid strategies). – Michael Knight
  • My actual fear about the AdWords bidding strategies is that there may not be a way to do without them at some point. Take search partners, tablet modifiers, and now close variants – all of those are problems that only Google’s bidding can solve. – Martin Roettgerding
    • From my experience & direct Google Q’s – I don’t think they’ll ever add tablet modifiers or specific tablet bidding. – Michael Knight
    • Oh you mean like close variants, tablet bidding, ad rotation? – Matt Umbro
      • I mean they take so many controls from us – and only their own bidding tools still can use things like exact match bids. – Martin Roettgerding
        • I agree, they will make more money that way. – Derek Ostler (@DerekOstler)
  • Talking about Google’s built in automations, I just can’t bring myself to trust that they do what’s best for my account. – Josh Devlin

Q5: What task(s) would you like to automate that you currently can’t?

  • Budget pacing.. no actual way of doing this well in automated form.. too many factors and scenarios. – Michael Knight
  • Turning my thoughts into on-paper processes. – Michael Knight
  • Negative keywords and daily alerts are definitely something that i would want to automate. – Utsab Saha (@sahautsab)
  • There are a couple of Google reports I’d like to recreate (Bid recommendations, negative keyword audits, etc). – Leo Sussan
  • In general, automation around the minor details (but huge if you miss them), ie: having at least 2 active ads in every ad group, ideal settings, cross pollination, correct remarketing audiences, etc. – Matt Umbro
  • better budget pacing. Still a manual process for me no matter how you shake it. – Sarah Peduzzi (@sduzy496)
  • Expense reports. Scheduling meetings. Making powerpoints. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • Query Structuring. Not just mining for new keywords/negatives, but automating creation in the most effective campaigns/adgroups. – Cameron Cowan (@SEMCameron)
  • Monitoring ppc experiments like A/B tests, Bidding strategy etc. – Utsab Saha

Q6: How much time do you spend reviewing your automated tasks (if you do at all)?

  • Minimal – I skim notification emails to see if anything needs my attention and if so delve further. – Timothy Jensen
  • Generally not a ton, but I do make sure to receive emails after all tasks are run so I can at least review that email. – Matt Umbro
  • I don’t always review my automated tasks, but when I do, I make them better. (…usually cause i’m not seeing the results). – Michael Knight
  • It depends on the kind of task. Normally I’ll spend about 5-10 mins reviewing in the case of something like campaign creation. – Utsab Saha
  • I’ll also sometimes manually check that certain ads went live, especially around the holiday season! – Matt Umbro
  • Occasionally check if they need to be adjusted but don’t automate if I wouldn’t be OK if the changes were made w/o me knowing. – Michelle Morgan
  • But something like changing ads for black friday etc. i’ll wait for the email and then do a random sample test for a minute. – Utsab Saha
  • But for real, I usually double check them at least 1x/wk just to check in, check results, see how to improve. – Michael Knight
  • I mostly do the automating, others complain when I break something. – Martin Roetgerding
  • In case of bid management, i usually don’t review unless something goes drastically wrong in which case i have feedback mechanisms. – Utsab Saha
  • If I have AdWords Scripts change stuff, I write it to produce a changelog. It’s slow, but great for when shit goes wrong. – Leo Sussan
  • With Googles automated bidding it’s too much of a black box. Only thing to do is check results and intervene if necessary. – Martin Roettgerding

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More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
• Aniket Khare (@AniketKhare2)
• Brett Stevens (@BrettStevens1)
• Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
• Cameron Cowan (@SEMCameron)
• Derek Martin (@derekmartinLA)
• Derek Ostler (@DerekOstler)
• Emma Pellegrini (@emmypelle)
• Ginny Marvin (@GinnyMarvin)
• Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
• John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
• Josh Devlin (@JayPeeDevlin)
• Katie Patton (@kpatton6)
• Leo Sussan (@lsussan)
• Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
• Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
• Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)
• Michael Knight (@MichaelAKnight)
• Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
• Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Sarah Peduzzi (@sduzy496)
• Susan Waldes (@suzyvirtual)
• Tamsin Mehew (@TamsinMehew)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Utsab Saha (@sahautsab)

I wish I could automate the Streamcap

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking Director of Technology in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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