resources

Optmyzr Blog

Automation Layering: The PPC Expert’s New Secret Sauce

PPC Strategy Feb 21, 2022

Dominos have been falling all around PPC specialists for a while. The first one toppled in February 2021, when Google decided that advertisers no longer needed access to Broad Match Modifier as a keyword match type. And ever since, it’s been nothing but fallen pieces:

  • Google withheld much of the data in your Search Terms Report
  • Target CPA and Target ROAS were absorbed into other Smart Bidding strategies
  • Expanded Text Ads will be replaced by Responsive Search Ads in June 2022
  • Performance Max is absorbing Local and Smart Shopping campaigns
  • Topics will be the new interest-based targeting option to replace cookies

Here’s the ugly truth: Google’s AI and machine learning now do most of what PPC marketers have been doing for the past decade.

Fortunately for PPC experts, there’s little doubt that you’re still needed. A study by Boston Consulting Group from 2019 proved that automation performs best with human input. The question is: what will be your new role?

What exactly is automation layering?


It’s not easy to leave behind something you’re used to controlling and let Google handle all the lever-pulling, but that’s the hand PPC specialists have been dealt. Monitoring all that automation can be time-consuming and mentally exhausting. You’re human, so it’s impossible to keep an eye on everything all the time.

Instead, your focus should be on:

  • Managing the periphery of Google Ads
  • Creating and maintaining the right account structure
  • Setting better, more realistic targets
  • Optimizing structured data like feeds and creatives
  • Feeding more accurate conversion data back to Google

Think of automation layering like insurance for your PPC campaigns and accounts. Those layers scour your account for anomalies (that you define). You can choose to be alerted when intervention is needed or build rule-based logic to tell your automation what action to take.

Take the example of a campaign running on Smart Bidding. Since Google’s setting and adjusting your bids, you save a bunch of time and energy. But you also open yourself up to risks like spikes in CPC bids caused by machine error.

Without automation layering, it could be hours or even days before you notice that one of your accounts is spending 5x more per click and throwing your profitability out the window.

Now imagine you’ve set up an alert to know the moment your average CPC rises beyond a given threshold, or created rule-based automation to pause an ad group or campaign when spend exceeds a given value.

That’s automation layering. It’s all of those buffers between the automation in Google and their impact on the performance of your campaigns. More importantly, it’s automation that you configure and control, so it works in the interest of your campaigns.

Why every PPC team needs an insurance policy (or three)

Our role in PPC management is shifting towards the big picture while Google handles the details

In his presentation “Beyond Click Metrics”, Mike Ryan of Smarter Ecommerce draws an interesting parallel between PPC automation and the act of driving a car.

“Google’s automation is often described as a black box – I’ve even described it as a black hole. But I’d like to take the heat out of that conversation and simply unpack the automation concept a bit, inspired by research in the field of automated driving.

“In plain words, driving is the sum of monitoring and control activity at multiple levels. These range from navigation, event detection and response; to physical actions like braking. We could use this same framework to describe how campaigns are controlled as well.

“Navigation could be thought of in terms of goals and budgets; steering in terms of keywords, schedules, and modifiers; and the gas and brake pedals in terms of CPC bidding. Automation seeks to overtake those different control loops, while humans occupy different states along a spectrum of awareness and control, from in the loop to out of the loop.

“Not only are Google campaign actions being reduced, but observability and reporting have been limited as well. I see a two-fold challenge there. How can we best guide the platform toward our objectives with fewer tools at hand, and how can we differentiate from competitors using the same technology?”

Advertisers need to overcome three key challenges to avoid, as Mike puts it, “merely participating in Google channels, rather than controlling them”.

1. Ad platforms have selfish goals.

Google and other ad platforms have one primary goal: generate revenue. Helping advertisers reach the right audience and improve business performance is a benefit, but not the key mission.

This makes automation layering an important tool to regain control.

Image by Joseph Johnson via statista.com

While some PPC experts view this automation as disruptive, Google sees thousands of brands and businesses who don’t use Google Ads because they find it too complicated. Automation opens up a huge market and untold millions in revenue, but it also puts Google at conflict with PPC experts who’ve mastered ad management through years of hard work.

Automated capabilities – be it Smart Bidding or Responsive Search Ads – can turn disruptive when you apply a “set it and forget it” mentality. We saw this last year when Smart Shopping CPCs went through the roof and advertisers remained unaware for hours.

2. The real world is a volatile, unpredictable place.

If global conditions since 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that any marketer should always expect the unexpected. From unconventional windows for holiday shopping to supply chain issues, the past few years have been anything but short on situations that sent PPC strategies haywire.

External events will always dramatically shift consumer behavior, so you should have safeguards ready to go. In PPC, automation layering can minimize losses and limit added expenditure. Alerts, scripts, and automated workflows and rules can’t stop a health crisis from invalidating recent data and trends, but they can limit the damage until the system corrects itself.

3. Do what’s right for your business.

Google might have the world’s biggest data lake, but it doesn’t know the nuances of the businesses you manage

From paper-thin margins to creating a healthy runway, there are a number of motivating factors behind why businesses chase greater success with fewer resources. Of course, success means different things to different businesses.

For an agency, it could mean doubling your managed ad spend or improving the quality of your service without hiring additional marketers. Enterprise brands may want to automate any creative strategy they can write down, while retailers seek to optimize campaign management to focus on long-term profitability rather than immediate sales.

Giving your team a third-party automation solution like Optmyzr – rich enough in insights and flexible enough to let you apply them as you see fit – is a great way to achieve that and stay in control of what Mike calls a “closed-loop system where you have only input and output”.

“Measure the right things, measure them better, and offer smart inputs,” Mike adds. “This could mean offering Google first-party audience data, optimizing on profit rather than revenue, bringing in more detailed product data – or any number of efforts to educate Google’s automation. In a supply chain crisis, for example, it could be more important than ever that your ecommerce campaigns consider availability, sell-through rate, and on-order status.”

Insulate your PPC campaigns with Optmyzr

As big proponents of automation layering, we’re building capabilities that give PPC pros the power to make their campaigns do what they want.

Rule Engine

Build and automate workflows with the Rule Engine’s simple ‘if x, then y’ logic structure

One of our most popular tools, the Rule Engine saves advertisers a tremendous amount of time, money, and hassle by automating rule-based workflows, including applying bulk changes or pausing expensive keywords. In fact, the Rule Engine is so versatile that you can automate any task or process that you can write down.

Alerts

Rule-based automation is powerful, but it’s only one layer. It’s often good to deploy other methods too, and Alerts are one of our most popular. Optmyzr users can create alerts for any trackable KPI or budget at the account, campaign, label, bid strategy, or campaign type level. Define the date range and values, and set up notifications via email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or any other software (via Zapier) to know the moment something looks off.

Enhanced Scripts

Optmyzr started out as a scripts tool and despite having evolved significantly, it’s a reputation we’re still shaking off. That’s because few tools do scripts as well as we do, giving you a variety of options to leave the heavy lifting to us. Our selection of Enhanced Scripts require zero coding experience, can be customized how you like, and can be used for a variety of purposes including budget management and checking for broken landing pages.

Changing the way we think about PPC

Feeling like Google is replacing you is a tough pill to swallow, but the truth is that human PPC experts offer so much more than the ability to push the right buttons. Your real value is your ability to contextualize and think creatively, so look at Google’s automation as a complement rather than as a competitor.

  1. Set up monitoring systems to keep an eye on performance
  2. Go hands-on to test for optimal solutions for messaging, structure, etc.
  3. Sharpen Google’s decision-making by sharing post-conversion data

While Google’s automation feels like a blanket solution for advertisers of no particular type, we know that one size never fits all. Automation layering is how you shape what Google does to suit your brands and accounts.

“This is a digital marketing journey, and even a total business journey,” Mike adds. “You’ll need to align with finance teams, business intelligence teams, and use test-and-learn practices along the way. Those with the best hypotheses and the fastest speed of learning will out-compete.”

Connect with Mike Ryan of Smarter Ecommerce on LinkedIn


Author

Frederick Vallaeys

Co-Founder & CEO

Optmyzr

Take control of PPC and save time with our PPC expert's toolkit.