Are You Automating Your PPC Campaigns Incorrectly?

HALquotes.004-e1363830156673As technology advances, we’re now able to automate nearly any part of our PPC campaign management. This can be as focused as adjusting bids on a keyword based on performance or as large as creating a new campaign that includes all platform suggested keywords. But when setting up rules, it’s important that they’re not getting you into unforeseen trouble. Check out these common mistakes and make sure you’re not making them in your accounts.

PFBeing One Directional

No, I’m not referring to whatever that group of lads from England is. Depending on the kind of changes you’re looking to make, you might only need to make a single adjustment going one way (increasing, decreasing, activating, pausing, etc.). For example, if you’re wanting to end your holiday promotions on December 31st at midnight, that’s a simple one time rule to apply. But when the changes you’re wanting to automate can eventually get you to a point where you’ve gone too far one way, it’s important to have a system of checks and balances.

Let’s say you want to increase impression share in your current list of keywords but need to keep CPA in check. You set a bid rule to look at keywords with acceptable conversion performance and low impression share to raise the bid on those keywords by a certain percentage. Done, right? Not quite.

Since performance is always fluctuating, let’s say your rule has adjusted that bid up 3-4 times. Then, for some reason, your conversion volume falls off. People are still clicking through, but they’re not converting. You’re being charged an increased CPC and not seeing conversions. This is a sign of a bigger problem that needs investigating, but in the short run, it would have also been beneficial to have a rule that lowered the bid on that keyword once conversions fell off.

When writing automated rules, I try to always come up with the opposite strategy of the one I’m currently working on and see if it makes sense to write that rule as a balancing measure to my current strategy. Next time you’re writing rules, see if that makes sense for you.

Assuming Everything Always Works Properly

Whether platform provided automation or tech available through campaign management platforms, nearly all systems allow for automated communication about your rules. These can range from as all inclusive as “Email me every time this rule runs” to as hands off as “Never email me”. I recommend always putting the communication setting on at least “Email me only if there are errors”. Despite how handy these automation pieces are, sometimes they simply don’t work for one reason or another. Depending on the severity and importance of these changes, it’s necessary to know when they didn’t get made so you can make them yourself if need be.

Not Accounting for Business Trends

When you’re trying to automate the optimizations of your campaign to either take further advantage or limit the impact of recent performance, it’s important your data window is reasonable. Some campaigns might see an average of 1,000 conversions a day with little variation. Although I’m not a fan of this frequency, these campaigns could be decent candidates for daily rules to adjust bids based on the previous days performance.

But let’s say a company who sees 100 conversions a month would like to adjust bids automatically based on performance. That’s great. But with an average of 3 conversions a day, daily rules absolutely don’t make sense. There may be some keywords in there that only gain 1-3 conversions each month. First of all, this might not a be a great keyword to automate, but if you insist, set your rule to look at a monthly set of stats. Daily bid rules here are only going to get you into trouble.

Choosing the Wrong Frequency

Similar to the problem above, setting the wrong frequency means there’s a disconnect between how often your rule runs vs how much data you’re looking at. For example, your rule won’t be as impactful as you want if you have it run monthly, but only look at the past 7 days of data. Here, you’re missing nearly 3 quarters of the data you should be including in this rule.

On the other side, it could be very harmful to have a rule run every day that looks back at the past 7 days worth of data. Here, you’re adjusting (at least partially) based on the same data up to 6 times. What was first included as yesterday’s data will then be included each day until it’s no longer in the past 7 days. Yikes.

Set It and Forget It

This isn’t a turkey. (Mmmm…turkey.) Your automated rules are something you should check in on every once in a while. No matter how thorough you are in set up, see points above, there’s always the potential for an unforeseen consequence to your rule. Check in on your set of rules regularly to make sure you’re only making the changes you set out to make.

Campaign automation is a great advancement in our field as it can help us move some of the time consuming, tedious tasks off of our desk and into the hands of computers. But without a human touch, those efforts can go a bit off the rails.