Jun 28 2019
Basis Technologies

Manual Bidding is Inefficient: Why You Need Automation for Paid Search Optimization


Paid search automation has become increasingly popular in the past few years, striking a huge debate over the merits of manual versus automated bidding in Google ads. Advertisers have managed PPC optimization manually since the beginning of Google Adwords. As a result, many push back against automation technology as a tool for people who don’t know how to optimize campaigns themselves.

On the surface, manual bidding would seem to give advertisers the most control over their accounts and campaigns, allowing them to make any necessary changes to improve performance. But paid search automation technology has a lot more to it than providing shortcuts for campaign optimization. You can automate ad creation, market research, bidding, and more. The truth of the matter is that automated bidding is likely the most valuable and necessary feature for search advertisers in 2019 and beyond. Here are some of the benefits it brings.

Fully Leverage Market Data

There’s a wealth of data out there that advertisers can leverage to improve campaign performance. First, second, and third-party data can tell you more about your target audience, their needs, points in the sales funnel, and more. Data can also help you discover new audiences and understand how campaign elements are performing.

Market data provides valuable insights that advertisers use to adjust bids for different audiences and ensure their max CPC is optimized for every keyword. But there’s simply too much relevant data for PPC managers to work through manually.

Automation solves this problem completely. Paid search automation technology can process large amounts of data and make necessary changes to bids in real-time. Google’s Smart Bidding technology considers your historical performance data and competitor bid strategies to make the optimum bids to maximize campaign performance. Third-party PPC automation tools like QuanticMind by Centro can take this benefit even further by utilizing all relevant market data you provide, such as first and third-party data.

Even if you had a team of data scientists working around the clock to make manual changes, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with automation capabilities. This leads to inherent inefficiencies in campaign optimization that weren’t a reality before bid automation was invented.

Improve Your CPA

Even modest advertising campaigns include a long list of keywords to target. Calculating the optimum cost-per-click (CPC) for each keyword is time-consuming, to say the least. If you work in e-commerce or have a lot of product groups, the task becomes even larger.

Advertisers that rely on manual bidding can simplify things using keyword filters or automated rules to make changes when necessary. But these are limited in scope and are still dependent on manual changes from a PPC manager.

On the other hand, paid search automation technology can calculate the best CPC for every keyword in real-time. The ability to make changes quickly and at scale ensures you don’t spend any time under or overbidding. Instead, you receive the best margins for each conversion, improving your cost per acquisition (CPA) immensely.

Expand Your Account with Better Budget Spend

Paid search automation not only saves you time but also saves your budget. By calculating the best CPC for each keyword based on the latest market data, PPC automation tools can reduce unnecessary ad spend.

When you use Google Ads Smart Campaigns for PPC management, you select a bidding strategy based on your specific advertising goals. Some strategies include:

  • Enhanced Cost Per Click (eCPC)
  • Maximize Conversions
  • Target CPA
  • Target ROAS

Google’s Smart Campaigns use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology to bid towards the goal you select. Their algorithms can also make strategy changes based on past performance data to better allocate your budget spend.

Say, for example, your goal is to improve return on ad spend. Through manual bidding, you set a higher max CPC for high converting keywords and a lower CPC for low converting keywords. By analyzing historical performance data and the competitive bid landscape, automation technology could discover that actually increasing bids for more low converting keywords brings better ROAS than your original strategy.

Rather than optimizing spend on individual keywords, automated bidding algorithms consider keyword performance overall to improve budget spend. Advertisers who traditionally rely on manual bidding for Google Ads can see the improvements themselves when they try out paid search automation. Improving spend efficiency, in turn, frees up more budget that you can reallocate to new advertising initiatives.

Improve Targeting with Bid Adjustments

Paid search automation isn’t just about optimizing budget spend to meet advertising goals. You can also improve audience targeting with automated bid adjustments. As you may know, bid adjustments allow you to optimize performance by showing ads more or less frequently based on where, when, and how people search. Most advertisers set bid adjustments manually, increasing or decreasing bids based on relevant circumstances.

Google currently offers the following bid adjustments:

  • Device
  • Location
  • Ad scheduling
  • Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA)
  • Interactions
  • Demographics

For example, you could infer from your performance data that click-through rates from mobile devices are higher. So you create a +20% bid adjustment for mobile in order for your ads to show more often.

Optimizing bid adjustments manually is often about trial and error. Advertisers create an experiment, increasing bids for a certain audience to see if it improves conversions or other campaign goals. But this can all be automated using technology for PPC management.

Google Ads allows you to apply bid modifiers to Smart Campaigns with automated bidding. It will automatically make the necessary bid adjustments to prioritize an audience and target your set campaign goals.

Third-party PPC automation tools can also handle automated bid adjustments. QuanticMind by Centro allows advertisers to create bid adjustments for all audience types, including Remarketing, Custom Affinity, Affinity, and In-Market. It also uses all your relevant business data to create granular bid adjustments to improve performance and maximize the value of audience targeting to drive advertising goals.

Free Up Time for Strategy Development

Manual bidding for Google Ads gives advertisers complete control over their accounts, but also the responsibility of fully managing them. Analyzing performance and making necessary campaign improvements is a never-ending task for PPC managers.

On the other hand, paid search automation can handle the majority of bid optimization tasks for you. Rather than eliminating the important role of account manager, it provides them with an opportunity to focus more on strategy development. When advertisers aren’t spending all their time executing campaigns, they’re able to search for and pursue new growth opportunities. They can discover new keywords or audiences to target, create better ads or ad groups, or make other account adjustments to improve campaign performance.

Predict Future Performance with Forecasting

PPC managers need to forecast future performance in order to secure and optimize their budget spend. Creating accurate forecasts can seem like a challenge when you use paid search automation. You can’t predict what changes your automation software will make and can’t factor them into your forecasts.

But you can actually avoid this problem altogether using PPC optimization technology with forecasting capabilities. You can create automated reports that are more accurate and actionable than those you’d create manually.

QuanticMind by Centro is one example of bid automation software with internal forecasting features. It considers historical performance, seasonality, bid landscape data, and other important data to create an accurate forecast of predicted performance up to 100 days into the future. The tool’s algorithms also rely on these forecasting insights to make informed bidding decisions automatically.

Tips for Success with Paid Search Automation Tools

Paid search automation can outperform manual bidding in a lot of ways. But if you want to get the most out of the technology to meet your business goals, here are a few tips for starting out:

Try Experimenting with Automated Bidding

If you’re still not sure if automated bidding is the right choice for your advertising efforts, there’s no need to take everyone’s word for it. Test out the technology yourself and see if it brings better results.

Instead of switching an entire campaign over to automated bidding, you can create an experiment to compare the performance of automated vs manual bidding for Google Ads.

For example, you can spend a month comparing how your manual bidding strategy performs versus an automated strategy targeting ROAS.

Here are the steps to create an experimental campaign:

1. Go to Drafts & experiments from the side menu bar

2. Select + NEW DRAFT

3. Select the campaign you want to duplicate

4. Name your campaign draft

5. Hit SAVE

Then go back to Drafts & experiments and click +NEW EXPERIMENT.

On the next page that comes up, you can name your experiment, select what date range you want it to run, and how much traffic you want to direct to it (e.g. 50%).

Once you set this up, you can make any changes you want to your experimental campaign without affecting your original one. So you can test out an automated bidding strategy for a short time to see if it drives the results you’re looking for, and with more spend efficiency than manual bidding.

Choose the Right Bidding Strategy

Another very important thing to consider in the beginning is which automated bidding strategy you should choose. All seem to shoot for valuable campaign performance goals, but they approach bidding very differently.

Different bidding strategies will be more valuable for you depending on your current campaign performance and composition. For example:

  • Maximize Conversions is a good focus goal for campaigns that have a high impression share and/or budget limitations.

  • eCPC involves increasing conversions while staying in control of your keyword bids. So it’s a relevant bid strategy for campaigns targeting low traffic keywords.

  • Target CPA is relevant for search or display campaigns that already have a high conversion rate but want to improve budget spend efficiency.

  • Target ROAS is also valuable for campaigns that already have a high conversion rate, but on search, display, or shopping.

If you’re not sure which bid strategy is most valuable to reach your business goals, you can also experiment in creating different automated campaigns to test and compare performance.

Use Scripts to Expand Your Automation Capabilities

Google Ads offers a lot of internal automation capabilities for PPC management. But there’s a lot you can do beyond these features to automate and improve campaign performance. Google ads scripts are a way to make custom automated changes to your accounts using JavaScript code.

There’s a wealth of premade scripts available that advertisers can use to automate actions in their Google Ads account, such as adjusting bids, adding keywords, or pausing ad groups. Scripts can also address some of the challenges of automated bidding, giving account managers the control they need. For example, Google’s automated algorithms are able to overspend by up to 200% in order to reach campaign goals. Advertisers who want to cap or control overspending can do so using scripts.

Scripts can also prevent poor campaign performance due to data quality issues. If there’s a problem with your campaign data and automated algorithms refer to it to make bidding decisions, it can hurt performance without your knowledge. But a script can automatically pause problem ad groups or campaigns when performance deviates too far from forecasts. This gives account managers the chance to address the issue.

Consider Third-Party Tools to Improve Precision

Advertisers who use manual bidding in Google Ads find it easy to switch over to automated bidding options on the same platform. Google has a strong solution that continues to introduce new features, but it’s not the most powerful solution for automated bidding. Third-party tools are uniquely capable of considering all relevant business data in calculating bids, giving advertisers an important advantage over everyone using Smart Campaigns today.

Third-party tools like QuanticMind by Centro can also integrate an array of automation features to work in unison to improve campaign efficiency and efficacy. Automatic built-in forecasting, performance reports, and anomaly detection technology eliminates much of the manual optimization necessary with Google Ads automation.

The Future of PPC Management is Automation

There’s no denying that automating paid search offers many more opportunities to improve campaign efficiency than manual bidding. It allows you to utilize all relevant market data to make quick, accurate changes to improve CPA, reduce wasted ad spend, and more.

Still, some advertisers cling to the idea of manual bidding because it offers one thing: complete control over campaign decisions.

But once you learn about how automation works and the flexibility of options available for utilizing it, the choice becomes more clear. Automation offers all the control you need to utilize the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to meet your business goals. Meanwhile, the number of advertisers adopting paid search automation continues to grow, making it more of a necessity than an option to keep up with the competition in 2019.