Tips, Tricks and Best Practices for Automated PPC Rules

Automation GearsThere are only so many hours in a day. Seriously. Some days I wish there were more, other days less. But there’s really only so much time one can dedicate to paid search campaigns. So, with so much needing to be done, how do you cross everything off your to do list, big and small, and still have a personal life? Well, many people have theories around that, but one of my favorite tools is automated rules.

My goal today is to give tips and tricks for better managing your automated rules. If you’re confused or stuck on how to set them up or need some good examples to get you started, you should check out the links below. Granted, they’re both from AdWords Support, but they’re actually a pretty great rundown of examples.

Setting Up Automated Rules

Common Examples

Determining Tasks to Automate

Nearly every tab within the interface contains a little drop down that says “Automate”. See it? Congratulations! You’ve found where to go to create automated rules! Automated rules can be found in the Bulk operations portion of the AdWords UI on the bottom left of your screen. Their general purpose is to make account management easier by allowing you to automate tasks you would normally have to do manually. Not every task is suitable for automation. Here are some example questions I think about when deciding whether to automate a task or continue manual optimizations:

1. Is this a task I do (or should do) regularly? E.g. every day, every week, every month?
2. Is this a very basic task that takes longer to do than decide the optimization necessary?
3. Is this a task I’m comfortable enough to know it’s running in the background without direct supervision?

If I’ve answered yes to all of those questions, then I’m all set. The outcome being that I’ve determined a task that is labor intensive, mentally unchallenging, and that isn’t going to stress me out if I’m not watching it. Be honest, there is at least one task you stress out over if you don’t know what’s going on.

Tips for Easier Automation Management

This next section I’m going to fill with personal tricks or advice from past failures, as well as some mistakes I’ve seen in other accounts along the way.

Set Opposing Rules
Setting rules to raise bids on low CPA and low average position keywords is great, but what if those keywords start having huge CPAs? Or vice versa? Now you’ve got to adjust the other way. Too often, I see people setting a one way rule and then being confounded when the outcome isn’t what they wanted. Make every rule a two way street. Set a raise and lower or pause and activate rule, even if you’re positive the second will never run. It’s always good to have a safety net.

Get Emails for Errors
At the very least, you should always have errors emailed to you. These emails let you know when your automated rule didn’t run. These can tell you a couple things: you haven’t set your rule up properly, there’s something else wrong in the account, but the most obvious, your rule didn’t run. depending on what it is and it’s urgency, you need to go do it yourself.

Naming Convention
The default names in the AdWords interface are something along the lines of “Change max. CPC bids” or “Pause keywords”. These are not, I repeat, not helpful. When you look at the total list of your rules in the Bulk Operations section of the interface, you need to be able to identify the rule you’re looking for. Be sure to name each rule as specifically as you can. You’re given almost unlimited characters for rules names so give plenty of detail but make them understandable. Some of my rules are as follows:

Campaign Abbreviation | Action Taken | Extent | Reason
PPC | Raise Bids | 15% | Low CPA, Low Position

Use Enough Data
Too often I see rules set up to run before enough data has been accrued to make a decision. If you’re optimizing for average position, be sure you have at least over 100 impressions, preferably somewhere closer to 500. Same goes for CPA rules. Don’t optimize on only a few conversions. Make sure you have enough to make good decisions. Keep this in mind when setting up your rules. Pay attention to your volume levels. Don’t set a rule to run daily on a keyword that only gets 50 impressions a day. Let that one run for a week before having a rule run.

Data Double Dipping
Now that you’ve got enough data based on the rule above, make sure you only optimize on it once. Example: Keyword A has a CPA of $15 with 3.5 average position over the past 7 days. Your rule runs to raise the bid by 15%. Your rule is set to run daily and the next day Keyword A has a CPA of $15.50 and average position 3.2. So the rule runs again. No!

In the example above you’re optimizing twice on the first 6 days worth of data and only using one day of new data. Be sure to set up your rules so you have enough data, but also so you’re not optimizing on the same data twice. In this instance, you would set up a rule to run weekly, maybe every Monday, and use the last 7 days worth of data. Clean data every time with enough to make a decision.

images-1Regular Review of Rules
Automated rules are great, but these should not get a “set it and forget it” mentality. (Always a poor choice when it comes to PPC.) If you’re a complete noob to automated rules and/or ppc, I would recommend checking in on the effects of your rules every week or so. Once you’re more comfortable, maybe adjust that to every month. For the pros, check your automated rules once a week for a couple weeks, just to make sure they’re correct. Then I shift to a once a quarter review schedule. Update the rules based on increased competition, changes in goal KPIs, and effectiveness.


Automated rules can be an extremely powerful management tool. Be sure to follow best practices and review often and you’ll be on your way! What tips to you recommend for automating your account? Do you have any really interesting rules set up in your account? Share in the comments!