Earlier this year, Google started telling advertisers it’s going to take a more hands-on approach with its Google Ads management. In late January, the search giant sent out an email to certain account holders, explaining that its Google Ads reps will start optimising their accounts for them – unless they specifically opt out.
Google has introduced a growing number of automation features to its advertising platform in recent years, as it aims to make Google Ads management easier for its customers.
They state that their automated features provide impressive potential for both results and time efficiency. However, the chief concern for advertisers is whether the lack of control and understanding of individual business needs will result in a lower ROI. As every business and every market is different, there remains a need for an expert human eye to optimise strategy based on a deep understanding of these nuances.
‘We’ll focus on your campaigns, so you can focus on your business’
This is what Google told advertisers in the email sent out in January. It appears these emails were only sent to advertisers managing single accounts, not advertisers or agencies managing multiple accounts.
The email was first reported by advertiser Aaron Levy on Twitter, who received a copy in relation to an old legacy account.
The reaction hasn’t been entirely positive. A lot of advertisers fear Google is going to undercut agencies with this move and there are always concerns about giving away too much control over advertising accounts when it introduces more automation features.
Some of this concern is justified too. After all, Google is in the advertising game to make money, which it does when people click on your ads. The more you spend, the more Google makes and this isn’t in line with your advertising goals, which means there’s a conflict of interest.
However, if you look at who Google has sent these emails to and the automated features it has released in recent years, it’s easy to see who they are aimed at.
What can you automate with Google Ads management?
The email mentioned above says “Google Ads experts” will start optimising accounts on behalf of advertisers, but this really means they will be implementing automated features and making changes based on Google’s recommendation engine, which is powered by machine learning.
Essentially, Google is going to push these advertisers closer towards automation, which will likely include:
1. Smart campaigns for small businesses
When Google announced smart campaigns last year, it was clear about the fact this feature was designed for small businesses. If you look at the benefits it lists on the Google Ads page for smart campaigns (included below), you can see this is clearly aimed at small businesses who can’t manually create campaigns for themselves.
- Create an online ad quickly and easily.
- Pay only when people click your ad.
- Attract more customers to your website or Google Maps listing.
- Minimal ongoing management – Google Ads runs your ads for you.
- Reach customers on desktop computers and mobile devices (such as mobile phones and tablets).
- Review the effectiveness of your ads in your dashboard.
For small business owners with very little time to devote to marketing activities and analysis, this sounds fantastic.
2. Smart shopping campaigns
In the same way smart campaigns are designed to help smaller businesses get involved with Google Ads, the search giant also rolled out smart shopping campaigns to get smaller retailers on board.
Here’s what Google says about the feature:
“With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks… Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube and Gmail.”
Essentially, Google looks at the product feeds and ad assets of retailers and creates the ads it thinks will be most effective, while automating ad placement and bids at your given budget.
Related reading: Google Shopping – seller vs product ratings
3. Dynamic Search Ads
With Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs), Google essentially takes keywords out of the equation and creates ads for you, based on the content of your landing pages. Google creates a headline to match the search query of a relevant user and then uses your page content to create the ad copy.
Google offers the example of a luxury hotel chain using Dynamic Search Ads. When someone searches for “Luxury hotel New York”, Google might create an ad with the headline “Luxury hotel – NYC” and take the most relevant piece of content from your New York landing page for the ad copy.
The idea is to save advertisers from keyword research, keyword targeting and manual ad creation.
4. Automated bidding
Google Ads has six different automated bidding strategies advertisers can use for different objectives:
- Maximise clicks: Automatically sets your bids to help get as many clicks as possible within your budget.
- Target impression share: Automatically sets bids with the goal of showing your ad on the absolute top of the page, on the top of the page, or anywhere on the page of Google search results.
- Target CPA: Automatically sets Search or Display bids to help get as many conversions as possible at the target cost-per-acquisition (CPA) you set. Some conversions may cost more or less than your target.
- Enhanced cost-per-click (ECPC): Automatically adjusts your manual bids to help you get more conversions, while trying to achieve the same cost-per-conversion.
- Target ROAS: Automatically sets bids to help get as much conversion value as possible at the target return on ad spend (ROAS) you set. Some conversions may have a higher or lower return than your target.
- Maximise conversions: Automatically sets bids to help you get the most conversions for your campaign while spending your budget.
Essentially, Google aims to optimise your bids so that you bid higher at times when your ads are likely to perform most effectively. If your aim is to maximise clicks, for example, Google will up your bids for searches and times where your ads are most likely to generate the highest volume of traffic.
Related reading: Google’s data-driven attribution model
Is Google Ads management right for you?
Automation features can certainly be useful for advertisers large and small – with some options being tailored to higher or limited budget levels. They provide the potential for small businesses to ‘set and forget’ their campaigns if they otherwise don’t have the time to manage them themselves.
However, the true value of automation is when it’s combined with an expert eye that understands individual business objectives in detail. For example, automation cannot optimise for high quality leads vs low quality leads. Nor will it distinguish between high margin sales vs low. These are the obvious examples, but the small differences between one business and the next are what often lead to success or failure in the market.
Automation should be used in a controlled environment where manual campaign management techniques are split tested against them to define the highest return on ad spend (ROAS) approach. This needs to be done in liaison with the business stakeholders on the frontline to ensure that good ROAS results in good total ROI.