Director of Client Operations Donna Lagow explores the danger of automated paid search tools and depending on scripts for your paid media bidding. As in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from Fantasia, what seems like a great tool for efficiency can turn into a legion of grimly determined brooms with a terrifying single focus. Taken from Donna’s presentation at Digital Summit Portland.


A big round of applause, talking about paid search, Donna Lagow.

Who doesn’t love scripts? We all do, I’m assuming. They make our lives much easier. They can scale quickly, they take into account a myriad of conversion touch points to inform the automated decisions that they’re making. So, you know, what’s wrong? What’s the problem?

It’s really our brains and the fact that we’re stopping using them. Overall, when people implement scripts, oftentimes what we’ve seen is an over-reliance on the technology and, really, the removal of those periodic checks that you do in the manual format generally,

The over-reliance on scripts: it’s so convenient! They’re built right into the platform! They give the illusion of management and efficiency but, again, you have to be able to go through and check that how the tools are actually performing, or in line with the overall product goals that you’re setting.

Who’s really in charge? That’s the biggest question. The thing that you have to look to, again, is the manual review of those specific tools. So your script and your tools are going to be as good as the person behind them, right?

You have to know your accounts, you have to set up your scripts in line with the overall budget goals and strategy of the company, and then you have to check them and check them often.

A thing that we’ve seen quite often in reviewing script implementations is what I would call an erroneous layering approach. Some of the scripts that I’ve seen—and within bidding functionality, you can do things like “I want to manage my bid to this target CPA, I want to also hit this average position, I also want to hit this max CPC.”

Well, what happens when you continue to layer and layer? What’s really driving performance? How do you know? It’s a compounded impact, really, and what it leads to overall is a heavy reliance and a removal, as we call it, of performance.