Birds eye view

Why is there a boom in search automation?

By Jodie Brookton, Digital Account Director

In the previous search article, we explored the rise of automation over the years. With all the recent products from Google focussing on automation, there has been a clear display of their intended direction. There are plenty of automation sceptics who quite rightly have reservations; however, there has been a recent boom in adopting these tools.

This article will unpack the pros and cons of automation and how brands can utilise it effectively.

Three main reasons we are seeing this surge:

Time is money

Back in the day, setting up campaigns used to take a long time, and we were all guilty of over optimisation and making campaigns too granular. One of the only routes to automation was dynamic search campaigns that use your landing page to generate the keywords you appear for.

This high volume of workload led to teams of 5 – 6 people running campaigns for one brand. However, the year-on-year growth and sophistication in automation tools mean these teams are now 2-3 people cutting workload in half for some teams.

This helped brands to save money on paid search agency fees and allowed agencies to focus on the strategic direction of campaigns.

Less complexity

Creating the most suitable structure for a paid search account has always been the best way to achieve great campaign results. However, when the set-up of ads was very manual 1st-time users of the platform didn’t know where to start.

I have heard the quote, ‘PPC is like the dark arts’, which doesn’t ring true these days with more streamlined campaign set-ups available such as performance max. I have seen a lot of small businesses starting out on their paid search journey by setting up their own performance max campaigns and achieving profitable results.

Google’s machine learning is pretty incredible

We manually define the sentiment behind search queries by creating frameworks for keyword journeys based on what mindset the user is displaying via their search query. However, this approach takes a long time and doesn’t cater for all variations, which automation can assist with.

Now that Google’s machine learning is so advanced, we can create broader keyword selections and allow Google’s algorithm to determine search sentiment. 15% of searches we see daily are entirely new; therefore, it is impossible to cover all opportunities in manually operated campaigns.

What should we be aware of when using automation?

Google controlled

More than 80% of Alphabet’s revenue comes from Google ads, which generated $147 billion in revenue in 2020 and is growing between 30-45% yearly.

Google uses algorithms which are black-box probability machines that aren’t public knowledge, and advertisers have no control over these. This means that advertisers need to pay close attention to performance and ensure that automation is beneficial for the campaign goal.

Therefore, it’s important to understand how the fundamentals of paid search work so we can use it to our advantage and within Google’s constraints rather than accepting the performance of automated campaigns that foster bad habits. Our digital team at TKF have processes and training programs for new and existing team members to build this knowledge.

There are also non-biased tools, such asĀ squared.io, that you can use to optimise and audit your paid search accounts.

Do brands have everything they need for automation?

Based on working with a multitude of businesses, from those with large internal teams of 50 people to businesses with a 2/3 person team, I have experienced very varied knowledge levels on paid search.

Due to the rise in automation, we have accidentally spurred on a knowledge gap within Google ads:

It is difficult for everyone that activates paid search campaigns to keep informed about the ever-changing best practices. I have interviewed and worked with people who have been around for a few years in paid search and have experienced nothing but automation. They are being taught that setting up a campaign should be quick; your keywords should be a broad match underpinned by a bid strategy; with the addition of 1 RSA, your get-rich-quick scheme is up and running.

However, we need to be cautious and not run before we can walk. How does the auction work? What is a quality score? What levers can you pull beyond automation? Understanding these building blocks will help you get the best out of automation.

Top tips for using Google’s automated features:

  1. Test, Test some more and Test again

2. Understand the core principles of paid search to understand better how your automated elements work e.g.

    • How the auction works
    • Quality score
    • Ad copy nuances

3. Focus energy on things automation cannot improve

    • Success metrics
      • Quality site metrics
      • ROAS
    • Then what are the optimal targets within this
    • Optimising account structure, messaging & product feeds

Our digital specialist team at TKF are constantly testing what automation is beneficial in the Google ads accounts that we optimise. The team have a wealth of knowledge about the best practice approach and can provide advice across your automated needs.