Key Takeaways from SMX Advanced: Automation, Measurement and The Role of PPC Pros Moving Forward
As the Spring conference season winds down, in-the-know search marketers have a lot of fresh insight following a packed SMX Advanced in Seattle. Start-to-finish, organizers and everyone at Third Door Media hosted another powerful elite search marketing event.
The impact of machines, artificial intelligence, data, and ongoing innovations from Google and Bing were evident across sessions this week. But it’s also clear we, as search marketers and PPC pros, still have a lot to learn and contribute in the increasingly AI-fueled universe in which we work.
Automation & Your Role in PPC
For one of my two presentations at SMX, I participated in a panel, “Next Generation Automation.” Core to the session, we focused on two levels of automation to consider if you want to grow your business – whether as an agency or the in-house PPC expert:
- Automations provided by the engines (e.g. Smart Bidding)
- Automations you create to streamline your in-house processes
Not surprisingly, many PPC pros spend much more time thinking about the first level than the second. However, PPC rockstars flip that mindset and focus more time and energy on the automations they can do in concert with the built-in automations that keep expanding within Google and Bing. How your own automations interact with the big engines’ automations can set your game apart from competitors.
Think specifically about automations that can streamline workflows. For example, you can set up workflows that automatically assign tasks to the right account managers and present the account managers with a filtered list of things to do. So the machine makes some suggestions for the person to review.
You can also layer your automations. Think about creating a tool that monitors an automation like ‘close variant keywords’ from Google and automatically flags low performance variants, and possibly even automatically breaks these out as new keywords with lower bids or as negative keywords. This is quite easy to do in Optmyzr with the Rule Engine. No scripts required.
The examples above just scratch the surface of what PPC pros can do with automations you can do on your own – in tandem with the expanding automations within the big engines. We explored automation through scripts earlier this year, which is always a good topic to revisit.
SEM Keynote: Machines & Automation
Machine learning, AI and automation were common threads through many SMX sessions, including the Tuesday keynote session that featured four top thinkers in our industry.
Ginny Marvin was part of that keynote group. As SEL Editor-in-chief and one of the people on the 25 Most Influential PPC Experts list, Ginny has authority when she says we can’t reverse the trend of automation so we need to figure out how to coexist with it. She also gave a nice shout-out that my book “Digital Marketing in an AI World” is very topical.
When Ginny talks about machine learning (ML), she likens it to going on an airplane flight with a toddler. When parents attempt this feat the first time, it’s typically horrible because the toddler doesn’t know how to behave and parents have unreasonable expectations – plus they didn’t buy the now-seemingly-giant toddler their own seat. The next trip, that parent takes his or her learnings and decides that buying the child his own seat will help a lot and they teach him how to behave on a plane. Before they know it, the increasingly travel-savvy parent has a teenager who’s a pleasure to fly with and who even helps carry the family bags.
ML is much like flying with kids. You need reasonable expectations and must work hard to teach the machine what you expect of it.
Ginny’s topic snowballed perfectly with the keynote portion by Nic Darveau-Garneau, Google’s Chief Search Evangelist. Nic spoke extensively about how ML can only work well if you give it good goals. When possible, don’t give it proxy goals but give it the real goal you care about so it can optimize for that.
Advertisers have grown so accustomed to measuring and optimizing everything, so they unrealistically expect EVERY click to be profitable. But the new camp of advertisers knows the focus should be on in-channel profitability, which allows the ML to figure out where to best allocate budget and set bids for the overall best performance.
“How your own automations interact with the big engines’ automations can set your game apart from competitors.”
Part of transitioning from the old to the new camp is to shift the expectations of your boss or client. Don’t give a keyword-by-keyword breakdown of ROAS. Instead, show them how their budget can drive profitability over the next three years. Nic laid out a beautiful vision, but I believe the PPC pro still needs to know where to optimize so those more detailed reports are useful to inform new strategies. For example, if you ignore the details of RSA performance, you won’t know that perhaps the ML is stuck because you gave it bad headline variations to choose from. As a smart PPC pro (and possibly one using the new RSA Builder from Optmyzr), you can act on these insights and help get the absolute best performance out of each channel.
Discussing PPC Automation with Ginny Marvin
During a rare moment of “downtime” at SMX, I appreciated the opportunity to catch up 1:1 with Ginny for an upcoming podcast. She graciously did a recorded interview with me about my book, specifically talking about how the changing role of the PPC professional as machines take over more and more of our daily tasks.
Clearly there are opportunities for PPC pros to elevate their game and be much more strategic. The machines may seem like a threat to our roles in marketing, but as Ginny and I discussed, they actually provide great opportunity for us to get out of the weeds and the tasks and put our critical thinking, strategic minds, and our creativity to use much more effectively.
Here’s what is really exciting: We are only scratching the surface of what machines and AI will do for our industry in the coming years. Position yourself well to ride the wave of AI-infused PPC. Don’t fear the machines. Work WITH them. After all, People + machines = always better.
We updated this post on June 14th with a link to the podcast.