PPC Automation – How To Automate Your Paid Search Program

Years ago, I was working on one of my grueling PPC tasks and I thought, “Why haven’t I automated this yet?”

PPC automation can help take care of some, or in extreme cases, almost all of your account management. Through the use of tools, scripts, rules and other features, PPC automation can chip away at the menial tasks that PPC analysts have to perform all day. Automation is the future in many industries, and PPC can certainly stand to benefit from it.

Now, before you PPC analysts get worried that your job may be in jeopardy to automation, fear not. I personally believe that there will always be a need for human intervention and monitoring to maintain optimal results. However, these PPC automation tools and techniques can help you save time, and do a better job.

In This Article:

What Is Automation?

Automation is generally the process of using applications to run jobs automatically. As it pertains to PPC, automated jobs can range from setting new bids to alerting you if your account overspends. Paid Search and other forms of digital marketing are ripe for automation since most tasks are already taking place online and on machines.

Most of the PPC jobs we do involve data analysis, configuration and monitoring. There are a plethora of options for automating some of your daily routine, whether you’re completely new to the notion of automation, or you’re looking to take the plunge into fully custom automated bidding via API integration.

What Types Of PPC Automation Are There?

There are both simple and complex PPC automation solutions. So if you’re just getting started, you may just want to set up a few automated rules to lower bids if spend reaches a threshold. Or if you’re ready to get more customized, there are options for you too.

This list is roughly in order of complexity. First we’ll cover some of the basic forms of automation, and later touch on the more involved forms.

Type Of PPC AutomationHow It Works
Dynamic Ad InsertionDynamically insert keywords, products, prices and more directly into your ad copy. Easy to use and quick to set up.
Automated RulesSet up custom rules that can run on a schedule. Examples include email alerts, lowering bids when certain conditions are met, and more.
Smart BiddingForfeit ultimate control of your bids to Google and allow them to do bidding for you. There are advanced automated bidding platforms available as well, like Search Ads 360, Marin and Kenshoo.
ScriptsBrowser based JavaScript code to programmatically control almost anything in your account. There are huge libraries of free scripts available for use.
VBA & Excel MacrosVisual Basic (VBA) is a programming language used in the Microsoft Office suite to automate time-consuming tasks. Macros are basically applications that can be “run” to manipulate spreadsheets.
API ApplicationsGoogle’s API is pretty easy as far as APIs go. It allows PPC account data to blend with your business’s data to inform and execute changes in your account as often as you’d like.

Google’s Dynamic Ad Features

It happens pretty often. You search for something on Google, and the ads you see are exactly what you searched. It can be oddly accurate:

This is called Dynamic Keyword Insertion, and it allows advertisers to automatically insert the keyword that triggered an ad, into the ad copy.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Using keyword insertion can be a great way to boost your CTR. However, it is also something you should understand. You can end up with UGLY ad copy if you’re not careful.

Here’s how it works.

You have a keyword for “Cheap Used Books” and one for “Affordable Used Books” in the same ad group.

Using a single ad, you can use the Keyword Insert feature in your ad to dynamically insert the keyword that triggers your ad on Google. The formatting looks like this in Google Ads:

You enter backup text in case the triggering keyword exceeds the character limit.

Keyword insert can be used in different fields of the ad text, both headlines and description lines. You can also choose whether it should be in “Sentence case,” or “Title Case” or “lowercase.” This will depend on where you are placing the keyword.

The most important thing to be aware of is grammar and word flow. If your keywords are messy and varied, keyword insert may result in some really bad ad copy. Always make sure to have another ad copy variant without keyword insert for testing!

Ad Customizers

Ad customizers are similar to keyword insert, but work off of an uploaded data feed instead of your keywords. This allows for much more flexibility.

For example, say each of your keywords is based on a single product. You can set up a feed that matches your keyword to the price of it’s corresponding product. You can then insert that product’s price dynamically into ad copy.

The formatting can take some getting used to, but once you have uploaded your feed, you can walk through it by typing “{” in one of your ad fields. Then you can select Ad Customizers and insert the desired data from your feed.

Learn more and start your first custom data feed here (Google’s help article).

Automated Rules in PPC

What are automated rules in PPC? Automated rules are a set of conditions that, when met, trigger an action.

For example, a simple rule could be as follows:

IF Campaign A spends >$300 by 12PM, THEN send me an email alert.

Another example:

IF today’s date is January 1st, THEN pause the selected keywords.

The actions are limited to pausing, activating, changing bids and sending an email. However, the conditions to trigger the action are plentiful. Conditions can also be layered, where more than one condition must be met to trigger the rule.

Here is an example of a fairly robust rule for raising bids when conversions are above 2, and cost is below $25 for a rolling 7 day period:

PPC Automated Rules

I would recommend having a few alert rules, especially if you run larger budget accounts with potential for overspend. If you want to get the most out of the rule engine, check out Optmyzr’s tool for this. The flexibility behind rules becomes even greater.

Google Ads Smart Bidding for Bid Automation

Google’s smart bidding gets smarter every 30 seconds. Okay, maybe not that often, but during my career, I have noted a significant improvement in results from using automated bidding.

There are different levels of automated bidding available. For example, Enhanced CPC allows you to set your own bids, but will modify the bid slightly based on user signals. For a more hands-off strategy, you can use Maximize Conversions. This allows Google to take full control of your Max CPC bids, setting different bids for each keyword, for each auction.

What are the benefits of using a smart automated bidding strategy? Well, Google’s data on individuals who are searching is far greater than yours.

What Does Google Know About Searchers?

  • Operating system used
  • Browser settings (like language, private window, etc.)
  • Geographical location
  • Historical search behavior
  • Internet navigation behaviors

And the list goes on and on. Google is a data mining machine, and they put this to use in their “black box” smart bidding strategies.

This is hands off automation coupled with machine learning over time. So in theory, your smart campaigns should improve as more impressions, clicks and conversions take place.

The drawback is that you have no idea how much Google is bidding for each search or why. You just have to set it up and wait to see if it works out. Thankfully you can set a Max CPC limit for most smart bidding campaigns in order to prevent Google from spending all your money in 10 minutes.

Smart bidding is always worth re-testing. If you tried enhanced CPC a few years ago and are skeptical, try again. Test smart bidding out and see if it can out-perform your manual bidding.

Tip: Use campaign drafts & experiments to create a true A/B test. If it fails, you can simply revert to your original campaign with all original settings.

I wrote a beginner tutorial on PPC bidding, learn more about smart bidding options here.

How To Use Google Ads Scripts To Automate

Scripts are where PPC automation starts to get very interesting, as well as complex. But first, what are Google scripts?

Google will allow you to upload JavaScript to your account to automate tasks and even communicate with other data sources. One of the key benefits here is that you can use scripts across multiple accounts in an Ads Manager account. This becomes very powerful for reporting purposes.

Don’t know any JavaScript? That’s okay, because Google has many pre-written scripts that are ready to be used in your account: see them here.

Also, the PPC community have put together hundreds of free scripts to help manage your account.

Some examples of scripts that I have used over the years are:

Note that scripts can be set to run on a custom schedule, but must first be authorized to manage your account.

Get started with scripts in Tools & Settings > Bulk Actions in your account.

How To Use Microsoft VBA To Automate Excel Tasks

This form of automation could apply to you if you are a heavy Microsoft Excel user.

Excel is the ultimate tool for working with large data sets. It is a great place to paste in a few thousand rows of data, and manipulate it to make sense of the bigger picture.

However, these tasks are often repetitive, with formatting and formula writing taking up the bulk of your time.

With VBA, you can write a custom application that will take care of as much of your task as you want. VBA macros can copy, paste, write formulas, copy formulas down, apply conditional formatting and so much more. And all of these tasks can be done in seconds instead of minutes or hours.

There is one problem: VBA is complex. It is a long road to becoming a master, because after all it is a programming language.

A great place to start is by recording a macro. You can create a new macro, record your actions, save it and the macro will repeat your actions whenever the macro is run. This video explains it in more detail.

The drawback to recording your macros is that the code is sloppy. If the macro is doing a lot of work, it may take longer than it has to, or you could run into errors as your data sets change.

If VBA seems like a good fit and you’d like to start learning, check out the available course on CourseEra here.

Full PPC Automation via Google API

If you thought VBA was complex, working with APIs can be even more so. However, the effort can pay off in a big way.

During my career, my team was using the Google API and the Bing Ads API to generate new campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ad copy on a 4 hour basis. It helped replace hours of our daily routine, and allowed us to focus our efforts on doing more deep analysis and testing.

There’s just one thing though: We had a full development team to help us.

There is almost nothing that an API application can’t do in your Google Ads account. You could build an application to read current day sales, compare them to current day spend, and modify bids and budgets accordingly. You could have your application look at local weather data in your business location and adjust based on the temperature or precipitation. The sky is the limit.

However, I have two issues with using the API for too much of your work.

Problems With API Automation

  1. You need developers (not everyone has developers).
  2. There’s no guarantee it will actually help you.

If you have a solid PPC strategy that you have perfected, it may fit perfectly into an API automation model. You can have a team write an app that perfectly mimics your formula, and just check into your account to monitor.

But, if you’re building an application, it can be easy to make the assumption that more is better. More ad copy, more keyword expansion, more coverage and location targeting. This is a slippery slope. I have seen this lead to failure, rather than success.

This is not to say that an automated API program can’t work wonders. Just a word of caution to the gotta-move-fast business owner with a few too many ideas.

Learn more about the Google API and how to access it here.

So, what do you think? Where are you going to start automating your PPC account? Hopefully this article helps alleviate some of the unnecessary stresses of PPC management through automation. It is easier than ever to start with PPC automation, with so many options and skill levels. Thanks for reading, and feel free to share with anyone else who might benefit!

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