The classic Disney cartoon “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” presents both the temptations and the consequences of an over-reliance on technology. At first, Mickey Mouse enchants a broom to help him carry buckets of water into a cistern. The broom helps, so Mickey enchants another, and another… until things get out of hand and Mickey can no longer control all the brooms.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Fantasia

PPC management tools can seem like an ideal solution to paid search challenges. These tools promise greater efficiency, and therefore lower costs and higher ROI. It’s easy to believe that choosing the right automated tool will make the difference in paid search success.

What Does PPC Automation Look Like?

On a technical level, PPC automation is the use of tools that handle repetitive, tedious, or overwhelming tasks in paid search accounts, such as bid optimization, building campaigns, testing ad copy, and gathering data for reporting.

On a conceptual level, PPC automation is the vision that tools can use AI to make improvements in paid search faster, in higher volume, and even smarter than humans can.

On a practical level, PPC automation is a double-edged sword that can improve or hinder paid search performance depending on how wisely it’s used.

What Could Go Wrong?

Two clients experienced the down side of using paid media management tools:

  • A financial services provider had let a pay per click management tool handle all their bidding and bid modifications, but performance was suffering. In the last 3 months they used this tool, conversions dropped by 33% and revenue was down by 42%
  • A property developer was using a solid PPC automation tool, but they weren’t using it correctly. Applying the tool to their paid search account at the wrong level resulted in inconsistent bidding practices and turbulent performance. Conversions were erratic, conversion rate was dropping, and cost per lead had increased significantly – the opposite of the efficiency and higher returns they hoped to get from automation

(un)Common Logic’s paid media experts recognize the risks of relying on automated tools and understand the many reasons not to do so, such as:

  • The complexity of paid media marketing: Paid search isn’t an assembly line; it’s a constantly changing market and that requires intelligent oversight
  • The complexity of AI: Automated tools require data to make decisions, but if an account isn’t producing enough data, the tool can’t make a decision, or it makes a decision based on statistically insignificant data. Human guidance is required to direct the tool at all stages
  • The nature of tool development: Automated tools built into a PPC advertising platform are more likely to make decisions that benefit the platform rather than the advertiser

Taming PPC Automation

The financial services client was returned completely to manual optimization to pull them out of the “death spiral” quickly and put them back in the right direction. In 120 days, their conversion rate increased by 264% and their revenue by 276%. Not only did this correct the previous downward trend, it brought their conversions 65% higher than they were before the losses caused by the automated tool, and their revenue 59% higher.

Graph showing decreases in cost per lead and increases in conversion rate over time

For the property developer, applying their paid search automation tool on a more granular level and making manual adjustments when necessary produced much better results. Within the first 90 days, their conversion rate went up by 84% and their cost per lead went down by 36%. This was the start of consistent improvements in their paid search performance that could never have been delivered by a tool alone.

What Does Smart PPC Automation Look Like?

Smart PPC automation occurs when a good tool is used strategically by a team of smart people who keep a close eye on paid search performance.

We like to say, “It’s not the racecar, it’s the driver” about digital marketing automation tools. But that’s not entirely true; a Chevy Nova could be driven by Michael Schumacher, but it probably wouldn’t make it past the finish line, let alone win the race. When it comes to using automation in PPC management, both the racecar and the driver are crucial, and they have to work together in harmony.

If you’re curious about what results you could get from that combination of good tool(s) and great management, let’s talk about your paid media concerns.