In the last 24 hours, I’ve said the following three things at least once: “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like today?” “Hey Siri, give me directions to get home.” “Alexa, add coffee to my shopping list.” I can’t even turn on my living room lights without yelling for Alexa’s help — and I know I’m not unique in this.
Machine learning is everywhere. As paid search marketers, we’ve read article upon article and sat through countless conference sessions about how we should be utilizing machine learning in our optimization of accounts. We all know that publishers are investing countless dollars into creating and improving all of their automated solutions. Automated bidding, scripts, custom audiences, dynamic search ads, and suggested ad copy fill our working days. As we deal more and more with automation, it’s easy to wonder where the limits of its reach are.
So are robots coming for our jobs? I’ve heard many answers to this question. Some marketers think “Automation can’t do what I do. I’ll never be automated out of my job.” And to those people I say: you’re wrong.
Now, let me clarify my position. Will a fully automated account ever perform as well as an account that’s constantly receiving optimizations, testing, expansions and overall PPC TLC? Absolutely not. However, can a junior marketer with a year or two under their belt have some pretty decent performance with the help of automation (and likely at a much cheaper cost than us lifers)? Well… Still no. Not yet. But I’ll bet you the whole 2.1% of a Bitcoin that I own that they will be able to soon – and maybe sooner than you think. It’s coming fast.
So how do we combat this dystopian future and keep our (human) selves from obsolescence? I’m so glad you asked.
1. Utilize machine learning and work smarter, not harder
First of all, save yourself some time. The best way for digital marketers to begin getting ahead of the machine learning wave is to embrace it. Publishers have spent the last few years investing in machine learning, and it’s important for us to evolve with them in order to stay relevant.
If you haven’t started really utilizing these automated features, there are endless resources to help you get your feet wet (I recommend these two lists from some of my favorite PPCers: “Amazing Automated PPC Rules You Must Use” and “5 Ways To Automate More Of Your PPC This Year”). If you’re looking for important (but general) areas of focus, I’d start with the following:
- Automated Bidding
- Making use of automated audiences (similar audiences, smart audiences)
- Testing automated ad rotation settings
- Find ways to automate reporting, utilizing publisher’s dashboards, 3rd party tools or an in-house tool you create
2. Take the PPC hat off, put the marketing hat on
The real fun begins once you’ve automated some of the tactical work it takes to manage an account. I’ve been throwing this saying around a lot lately, and I think it’s the best advice I can give anyone: “Be a marketer, not a paid search marketer.” Paid search is a mature channel and most of your clients (or internal stakeholders) will understand the basic concept of search queries driving to keywords driving to ads. Focusing on these simple things does not provide value.
Take a step back. Look at the forest, not the needles. How does paid search feed into the overall marketing program? How can you share learnings from other channels such as email or traditional advertising to further integrate paid search into their program? Since our client base tends to skew more B2B, it is part of our DNA to partner with our client’s creative marketing department to make sure we’re incorporating our paid search strategy with their lead nurturing strategy and effectively guide users down the funnel.
Paid search is so much more than just bidding on keywords. It’s all about capturing existing demand. Marketing teams put so much time and effort into driving demand for their business using a wide variety of tactics, and it’s our job as digital marketers to make use of that demand to drive results for our clients and fill their pipelines.
3. Embrace your inner storyteller
Controversial statement time: digital marketers suck at storytelling.
Of course we do! We’re a bunch of type-A personalities who love data, Excel, and other business intelligence tools. We can’t help ourselves. That’s what it took to get into digital marketing ten, or five, or even three years ago.
Today, the game has completely changed. Now that advertisers have an understanding of how paid search works, they don’t want to talk about CTR or CPCs or quality score. They want to talk about how the money they’ve invested has impacted their business. I’m certainly not saying you should completely forego your weekly/monthly reporting, but I am saying to shift how you talk about it. Learn to speak the language of the C-Suite.
It is our job as digital marketers to talk about how digital is impacting the business. So learn to do just that, but in a much broader sense. Don’t simply talk about an increase in conversions or an increase in revenue — work with your team to find ways to connect that to business profit.
To sum up
Overall, machine learning isn’t coming to take our jobs. It’s coming to save us time so we can be better at our jobs. Machines will never be able to have high-level, C-Suite focused strategy conversations. So the more we learn to work with it and flex those muscles now, the more prepared we will be once the robots actually end up taking over — I mean… becoming an even larger part of our everyday life and work.
If I leave you with one thing, let it be this: embrace change. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Your clients and internal stakeholders will respect you for it.