The Shift to Automation

Search marketing seems to be shifting from complexity to simplification.  A few years ago, the best practice was to build out campaigns very granularly, customize ad copy and separate out match types.  The goal was to have higher quality scores and more control over bidding.

This required a lot of manual work for clients with a lot of products (especially ones that went in and out of stock) and for clients with a lot of promos.  With the emergence of shopping as an option, clients started to see the benefits of automation.  New features such as automated bidding, Ad Customizers, and DSA allowed us to automate portions of traditional search campaigns.  Now, the pendulum of how we structure accounts seems to be swinging the other way.  We are simplifying campaigns and consolidating them to allocate more data to each campaign and to leverage these new features.


The big win has been that we see great results with automation.  Algorithms can calculate bidding tradeoffs among thousands of keywords quickly and accurately.  Ad Customizers can save us from loading up promo ads over and over and restarting our quality scores.  On the agency side, we see a freeing up of time that was previously spent managing complicated account structures and doing tasks like calculating audience bid modifications and bidding keywords manually.


However, it is said that “automation is a great servant but a poor master”.  There are things to be careful of as we shift towards less manual search management.


  1. The big caution for me is that automation allows you to not think about the underlying dynamics of your business. When your remarketing audience bid modifications are automatically calculated, you lose the ability to know “Who is your customer and just how loyal are they?”  There can be a loss of knowledge of what types of ads work and discussion of why one type of messaging outperforms another.
  2. Machines work the best when your results are more important than your understanding of the model. This is the “black box” that we usually refer to when we talk about Google’s algorithm.  You may see big increases in performance, but it makes it difficult to explain to clients “why”.  Which makes it more difficult to get buy-in from the client for testing or expansion ideas.
  3. In addition, algorithms don’t develop new ways to respond to situations. They are not creative in the human sense, they work off of given data.  Some of the most impactful search optimizations come from knowing your business, your competitors and the market, and using search tools to capitalize on that knowledge.

At Point It, we are all using automation to serve our clients better.  We know that using these tools judiciously will drive gains in our accounts.  But we also know that it is crucial to add our human innovation and ingenuity on top of that to produce the best results.



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Lindsay Walker About the author

Lindsay Walker is a Senior Search Strategist for Point It, and has been managing search accounts for ten years. She has a B.S in Math/Econ from UCLA and an MBA in Marketing from USF. Lindsay lives in the Bay Area with her two teenage sons and her basset hound Bubba. When not in front of a computer, she enjoys stand-up-paddle boarding, tennis and yoga.

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