Over the years, Google Ads, previously known as Google Adwords, has gone through many changes. Some changes are catered to the pros, those that soak up new features like a sponge, waiting for the next thing that will help them to surge ahead of the competition; while other changes are geared toward the novices, the small business owners with little experience and resources to devote to a full scale managed campaign. These two types don’t always see eye to eye, but they do have one thing in common – Google is making it easier and easier to automate every aspect of a paid campaign.
Automation Using Google AI
When you need a Google Ads PPC campaign up and running and you don’t have time to manage a campaign, then Google already has you covered. You just add your website and credit card and you can set it and forget it. Call a Google rep and they can pretty much cover all your bases. Alternatively, we see more and more companies applying a cookie cutter solution for their clients. They set it up using a template, add a couple Google automated features and send you a report at the end of the month. Neither of these are bad per se, but you have to look at what you’re getting. Are you really getting the best ROI? Do these options have you and your business’s best interests at heart? And ultimately, has automation eliminated the need for the human touch? We’ll explore why having a managed campaign is still the best option and how automation can be used judiciously to provide the highest return on your investment.
The Problem With Using Only Automation in Google Ads
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with using automated features in your pay-per-click campaign. Google’s search algorithm consists of user search data, a myriad of online partners that provide statistics and 46 billion data points to be able to predict a user’s intent and behavior. That’s certainly information that even the most skilled PPC expert can’t replicate. Automation can keep budgets in line, streamline labor intensive processes, create dynamic ads and alert you to potential issues. So why not just let Google do all the work? And to answer that, we need to get into the issues that can and do arise when you take your hands off the wheel.
Probably the most visible and important aspect of a Google Ads campaign. Your budget. Ask any expert in the field and they’ll say that as long as you see a solid return on your investment, the budget should be flexible. In reality though, this is usually a strict number that can’t be deviated from. Maybe you only have that much allocated to your marketing budget, maybe you rely on another party to be reimbursed for that budget… Whatever the case, you can’t go over. Here’s the tricksy thing that Google does. If you go fully automated, you set your campaign budgets to a certain number and they won’t spend over the monthly total allocated. ($10/day set = $304/mo.) Unfortunately there are a couple issues with this.
Google can and will spend up to 2 times your daily budget ($10 to $20 eh, $1000 to $2000 ah!). The reason for this is based on traffic fluctuations and their prediction of when to best spend your money for the highest return. This leaves the possibility of spending all your budget in the first half of the month. It also doesn’t allow for optimizations during the month. Let’s say you spent all your money and you find out that all of it was spent on a keyword that is bringing subpar leads or profit loss product sales. You now will have to wait until next month to take action.
Manual bidding can be labor intensive, making micro-adjustments across tens to hundreds (even thousands!) of individual keywords. Google Ads managers look for average cost, average position, cost over time, cost per lead generation over time, importance of a keyword to the business, et cetera. When you automate the bidding process, you eliminate the overall need for this. Google has a couple great options based on your needs. You can target a specific cost per action or return on ad spend (ROAS), maximize for conversions or clicks or even target your competition. Each of these have their place and each of them have their potential problems. Ecommerce has a leg up here. Using ROAS targeting is pretty much a slam dunk – unless it doesn’t convert, then either you can’t spend your budget or it just doesn’t work. For service based businesses or those that don’t have a set revenue, here are a couple things you should monitor.
Target Cost Per Action (CPA)
This is a popular option, especially when starting a new campaign. You know you want the most conversions possible, but you also want to control your costs. Target CPA allows you to target a specific cost per action (clicks, generally) while using Google’s algorithm to increase conversions. This is a good way to learn your key performance indicators (KPIs). The biggest challenge here is setting the right target. Too much and you risk spending too much on little return. Too little and you’ll find you aren’t eligible to show for most searches, especially the ones that are most relevant to your business.
Two aspects to Maximize Conversions. First, are you counting phone calls and form submissions as conversions? Do they have the same back end conversion rate? Chances are they do not. But Google sees them both as a conversion with equal weight. Let’s explore. Phone calls convert to a sale 10% of the time. Form submissions convert to a sale 30% of the time. Would you rather get 10 phone calls = 1 sale or 10 form submissions = 3 sales? You’d choose form submissions. But you still want phone calls, right? Here’s where manual adjustments and optimization comes into play. Otherwise you could be under performing.
Maximizing clicks is a great way to generate traffic to your website – or specific landing page if you’re savvy. Here you want the website to do the heavy lifting and you just want people to find you. This type of campaign tends to focus on broader key terms and that’s where things can get messy. Getting a click on a broad match key term is easier to get than exact match . However, exact match is generally more profitable. (Read more about match types here.) Managing your keywords will help avoid throwing money down the drain, but if you’re completely automated, you have the potential to get a lot of irrelevant traffic that won’t convert.
Google does it’s best to extrapolate data and combine it into something extremely relevant to a user’s search query. There’s two ways Google can do this for you in terms of ad copy. The first is dynamic ads and the second is generated ads.
This is a great way to make your website do all the work for you without the pesky business of researching and setting up keywords. A user’s search query is used to scan your website for content matches. Google then returns a customized ad to the user, using the copy on your site and generating the relevant landing page. Example: user types in the search bar “training tables with power”. Google returns with an ad that says “HON Motivate Training Tables | Arenson Office Furniture” with the landing page https://www.arensonof.com/product/hon-motivate-training-tables/
Very relevant. And works well… when set up with best practices.
The easy way to set up dynamic ads is to have one campaign that scans the entire website. Sounds great! But it really isn’t. When you do this, you risk paying for a lot of things you don’t want to include, such as blog posts. Best practice is setting up a dynamic ad for each section of your website you want to include, so telling Google to only scan specific pages for content. You’ll also want to avoid cannibalizing your standard search campaigns by negative matching all keywords associated with that campaign in the Dynamic search campaign. Dynamic ads are a wonderful way to find those keyword gaps that you may have missed on your standard search campaigns.
The other issue with automatic ad copy is generated ads. Google looks at the ads you are currently running, search terms users are inputting to find you and your website to come up with unique ad copy that they believe will return a higher click through rate. For many these are fine, but caution should be used. First to note, these ads do not follow Google’s own best practices. So review them before you approve them to run. Second, and the most important, are legal issues.
Before embarking on any advertising campaign, you should be aware of the legalities associated with your business. The Federal Trade Commission is a good resource for federal guidelines, but remember to check your local state laws as well. Industries such as automotive have strict language rules and therefore all ad copy should be reviewed for compliance. Auto approving generated ads could spell trouble. If you are an agency and writing ads for another company, check with their advertising guidelines first and clarify whenever necessary.
Many companies have tried Google Ads in the past with the conclusion that it just doesn’t work for them. While it is true that Pay Per Click ads don’t work for everyone, the more likely reason for this is that the campaigns were not optimized properly – either generally or for their industry segment. There are some companies that can get away with minimal effort and turn a profit. In that case, if you don’t have to pay a management fee, then all power to you. Remember though that Google is a for-profit corporation with a near monopoly on search engine ads. That means that they’ll keep costs low enough and try to provide you enough results to keep your business, but keeping costs low for your sake is not their main priority.
Using automation in Google is a must. It will save a lot of time and provide powerful insights that you wouldn’t get otherwise. And in some cases, it does make sense to keep things on autopilot. However to leave everything up to Google’s Algorithm means you lose out on valuable opportunities and optimizing your campaigns so that they provide the best value for your money.
Do You Need a Managed Google Ads Campaign?
All this leads to the question – do you need a managed campaign? There are a couple factors that weigh into the decision. First, do you have the budget? If you have a small budget and can’t afford a managed campaign, then it doesn’t make sense to hire an agency to do it for you. You can easily forego this cost by learning to manage your account on your own. Google provides all the information you need to get started. After you get the processes and ideas down, it comes down to analysis, intuition and time. Not everyone loves to dive deep into the data. If that’s you, you may want to consider hiring a professional that is trained to see the numbers and act on them accordingly.
The second major factor is time. Do you have the time to manage the campaign yourself? Setting up a fully automated campaign can be a simple and relatively quick process. Google sales reps are also there to help in every step of the way. If you decide to go this route, check your results frequency. If you’re turning a profit and you’re satisfied, then you don’t need to go the managed route. But if you’ve decided that you do need a managed campaign or you see the promise of results but it’s just not there and don’t have the time to manage the account yourself, consider hiring a professional.
Large agencies may spend only a couple hours in an account, with the resources to see the big picture. There are many software programs out there that will analyse the account, make suggestions and even implement the changes directly. These programs tend to be pretty expensive though and not for the casual user. Smaller agencies that offer boutique services may spend several hours in your account, doing manual analysis that is directly reflective of their client’s KPIs and business goals. These agencies may be more expensive, but you can be assured that your account is being managed with the utmost care.
Google Ads campaigns can be easy, quick and straightforward. Or they can be in-depth, time consuming and complex. It’s all how you approach it and how you want to manage your account. Automation helps in both aspects, providing valuable insights and time savings. For the best return on your investment and to get the results you want, a managed campaign by actual humans with elements of automation is the way to go. Humans can see the real story, see how the results affect your sales, which goal conversions make a profit and which ones just keep your salespeople busy with time wasters. When it comes down to it, a machine by itself doesn’t know your business and cannot go beyond the data to know what is actually right for you and your money.
“Why costs might exceed your average daily budget”. Google, https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/2375423?hl=en
“Determine a bid strategy based on your goals”. Google, https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/2472725?hl=en
“AdWords Match Types: How Do Keyword Match Types Work in Google?”. WordStream, https://www.wordstream.com/keyword-match-types
“Advertising and Marketing on the Internet: Rules of the Road”. Federal Trade Commission, December 2000, https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/advertising-marketing-internet-rules-road
The Public. “PPC Campaigns: 3 Things to Consider Before Taking The Plunge”. Public Advertising Agency, AUGUST 16, 2019, https://publicadagency.com/ppc-campaigns-3-things-to-consider/