Let Adwords Automated Rules do your donkey work for you.

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How do you manage your Adwords in a fierce marketplace?  Chances are, that you are doing this manually online or via Google’s Adwords Editor. However the days of ‘setting and forgetting’ your Google campaign are long gone as more people are paying a premium for search.

Adding automation to your adwords can dramatically improve results. In my case, it was getting 40% more bookings; below are some figures of a trial which I pitted Adword’s Automated Rules against manual bidding. This trial took place for 2 weeks in a very competitive e-commerce category:

2 Week Trial Conversions Cost Per Conversion Conversion Rate
Manually Adjusting Bids 74 $38.60 3.83%
Google Automated Rules 103 $41.23 5.53%

Though the automated bidding cost per conversion was slightly higher (but still well within our business means) – the increase of conversions and conversion rate speak for themselves. Some caveats to mention here: with manual bidding, I adjusted the bids every other day for 2 weeks – this was most time I could allocate to the account. Google Automated rules did management for me daily. In a sense, Adwords worked overtime so I didn’t have to!


Old way: Manually updating bids

The biggest drawback to manually changing bids is that it is time consuming. If you are in a fierce market, your competitors use paid automated systems that can update bids up to every 15 minutes. Bidding frequently like this is just not practical. This is not to say manual bidding should never be done, it is actually perfect for ‘spot checking’ your top few keywords to make sure they are in the game. Here are some pros ands cons of manually bidding:

The pros of manually updating bids:

  • Its great for small accounts with limited keywords.
  • Its great for for ‘spot checking’ top keywords to make changes based on competitive information.

The cons of manually updating bids:

  • Updating bids on online is cumbersome for bulk editing bids
  • You are at the mercy of your internet connection for updates; a slow connection or intermittent connection is almost as bad as no connection
  • Using adwords editor is great way to bulk edit bids however there are some disadvantages:
    a:  If you have a large account account it can take a very long time download.
    b: You can not include the current day’s data into your equations. This makes it difficult to process real time changes.
  • It is very, very time consuming.

A Better way: Adding Automated Rules:

Google Automated Rules are a toolset that you can apply your own business rules to do your bidding for you.  Though they have been around since 2011, the current set of automated rules is very powerful and extremely robust. Nearly every single statistic can be filtered and combined to manage your account. Here is a quick overview:

  • Macro and Micro level rule management: Campaigns, Adgroups and Keywords can all be managed.
  • Pause and Enable Campaigns, Adgroups, Keywords: You can pause for poor performance, and reschedule for activation.
  • Raise and Decrease Bids: This heart of why most people will use automated rules; making sure their bids are competitive in Adwords.
  • Scheduling Rules:  You can schedule a unique rule every hour of the day.
  • Use Previous History:  You use previous trade history from yesterday, last seven day, last 14 days, 30 days and many more time based options.
  • Combo Rules: You can mix and combine any of the above statistics.
  • Preview Results: This is very intuitive – before saving your results you can see what parts of your campaign are affected by your new rule.
  • View Logs: Every rule that takes place logs what changes occur, if any.

Google support gives great online examples. The example below is one that I used for my trial listed above. Its an example of how to pause and enable keywords based on poor performance:

Rule 1: Pause Keywords with no Conversions with $45+ Spend

Action: Pause Keywords
Requirements: Conversions (1-per-click): = 0
Cost: Greater than $45
Frequency:  10 AM using data from the the Same Day

Rule 2:  Resume Paused Keywords

Action: Enable Keywords
Requirements: Cost Less than < 1.00
Frequency:  12 AM using data from the the Same Day

The above rule is a great way to make sure that your keywords get shown and you don’t blow your budget. In this case, the keyword has spent over $45 without any conversions. As a business rule, our ideal cost per conversion is $45. Because it goes beyond this, we pause it at 10 AM. Why 10 AM? In our case we know that 10 AM is an hour after peak booking time so we know that the likelihood of new conversions will decrease.

Once its paused, it gets reactivated with the new rule at midnight. Because there is no cost associated with the keyword using data from the same day at midnight, you can create rule that will ‘unpause’ the keyword with no cost. Your paused keywords now get a fresh shot at converting for you. If not, they will get paused at 10 AM again!

Like any system, Automated rules is not perfect. Here are few things that could use improvement:

Top of Page Bids:
I suspect Larry Page and Sergei Brin were plotting for a ways to purchase islands in the Caribbean when Google came up with this feature. Adword Automated Rules will not tell you what the Top Page bids are – I unfortunately found out the hard way. Your bids can be raised to a ridiculous amount; in my case some bids that were at $1.50 were raised to $21. Google does have one saving grace now in that it requires you to put a Max Bid in place –  this can prevent any blowouts. Use this feature with extreme caution, as its unlikely that google will tell you that your bids will increase over 1000%!

Ability to add custom history options:
While history options are quite large with 15 preset histories to choose from, there is no option to create a custom range. While the current options are great, businesses will want to create rules around previous data peak seasons (eg Christmas Holidays, Easter Holidays etc) from a bespoke range of time in the past.

Lag time in Rules:
This is something to be aware of. You might have a rule set for 8:00 AM, but it might not get executed until 8:32 AM. I suspect its because Adwords has to collate accurate data from the time the rule is applied at 8:00 AM. What this means is that you have to make adjustments to scheduling if you are basing rules around your peak conversion times.

Clumsy Management Interface:
If there is one true bane to Automated rules, its the management of rules. You can not control the order they appear, group them type, apply labels or even search rules. While this is not a problem if you have only a few rules, it becomes problematic if you have over 50 rules. I have a few accounts that use over 100 rules. You currently have to use a very consistent naming convention (which is good practice) and do a page search for managing rules.

This inevitably invites errors. In the successful trial I listed above, I unfortunately used the exact opposite rule I wanted; I raised bids where I should have been decreasing them. Careful examination of the logs help me find this error and I was able to catch it early. Part of the problem was that it was difficult to find the rule amongst others because there was no logical grouping.  I suspect Google will improve this in the future.

In Summary

Adwords Automated Rules is great free way to create scheduled macros to make management of Adwords easier. While not mentioned previously, there are 3rd Party Bid Management software programs that will take a cut of over 20% of your spend in Adwords. This alone makes Adwords tool more attractive. Its ruleset is also robust and feature rich, the main drawback is that the management interface is rather clumsy – but hopefully this will become more intuitive as Adwords improves their product.

Two important notes about using this tool: Always check your logs and manually check your bids from time to time.  Checking your logs will ensure that your rules are running effectively. When working with multiple rules, its easy to make a simple mistake. If its automated, then that mistake may get repeated!

Also Automated Rules should not be used as an ‘autopilot’ system. Business dynamics can change, so its very important to do a few manual health checks to your campaigns. The occasional manual adjustment of bids can do a lot to bring an underperforming keyword, adgroup or campaign in line.

However, the best reason for using Automated Rules is for saving time. Previously upwards to 45 percent of my Adwords  time was adjusting bids and day-to-day management. That has come down to less than 10%, giving me time to work on other online marketing strategies.

Brad has spent many years working on client side, developing digital strategies and managing teams to implement those strategies. He understands the challenges and priorities from an online marketer’s perspective ­ the high targets, tight budgets and the education required to gain internal buy ­in to digital strategies. He also likes riding his Mt bike and telling stories about all the mountains he has climbed before becoming a Dad.

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