Ad Platform Automation: Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity
For me, there are a few types of automation which have become more and more prevalent in my work and home life.
When I’m working at the kitchen table, Alexa plays my favourite music. While I’m driving, Siri types and sends text messages, like my very own personal assistant. This kind of automation is all about making life easier, but for many people, it’s still considered “futuristic” and certainly not common place. It’s from this kind of ‘home automation’ that voice search will become increasingly important.
Ironically, the older generation (the core target market for most of The Agora businesses) may be quickest to adopt this technology. Failing eyesight, reduced mobility and fat fingers make voice search and automation particularly appealing. Look out for future articles on this topic that could revolutionise search as we know it.
But today, I’m going to focus on an area even less well known by the general masses but incredibly important to those lucky enough to work in the digital space. I’m talking about…
Automation within the Ad Platforms
You might not know it, but if you are running ads on any advertising platform including Facebook, AdWords, or native networks you’re already using automation. In fact, the less sophisticated your campaigns are, the more automation you are using…
Before I get into how to use automation it’s worth asking the question…why use automation?
In short, it’s because you’ll get better results.
There’s a natural fear of automation and artificial intelligence (AI).
People are concerned they’ll make themselves redundant or that the ad platforms are simply trying to get them to spend more money.
But there are big benefits to letting the machines do some of the heavy lifting for you. If you’re able to embrace automation and understand how to use it to your advantage you’ll become even better at your job… and even more indispensable.
And while it’s true, the ad platforms do want you to spend more money, they also recognise they’ll get more of your ad budget over the long term if they provide good results.
Facebook’s algorithm is a conversion machine. It’s able to take data from thousands of different sources and use it to get you more conversions (to leads or sales) at the price you’re prepared to pay.
Google is smarter than you or I will ever be… at least when it comes to finding you the results you’re after in AdWords.
So, now that you’re ready to play nice with the machines, how do you embrace automation and make it work for you?
The pixels we use to track visits to our landing pages and conversions on our order forms aren’t just working to report a number in a dashboard. They have a far more sophisticated role in your advertising. The new Facebook Pixel, for example, uses ‘Standard Events’. These help FB understand your funnel, and every other advertiser’s funnel. Below are some of the events it can track:
Typically, the ones of most interest to us are:
- Lead = someone who decided they were interested in what you have to offer, and gave you their email.
- Add Payment Info = someone who entered credit card details but hasn’t completed the purchase yet.
- Purchase = someone who did what we all want our audience to do – converted to a paid customer.
Because these are now standardised, Facebook understands that your definition of a “Lead” is roughly the same as Company ABC’s. It can now build up an understanding of your goals and of the behaviour of its users, so it can better match the two.
For example, let’s say I enter a lot of funnels, reach the “Add Payment Info” page but never check out. If you are optimising your campaign for a “Purchase”, Facebook may determine that I wouldn’t be a likely purchaser and therefore won’t be as likely to show me your ad.
Facebook is gathering data on its users from its own platform, other websites as well as third party data from offline and online activity. It’s becoming better and better at finding the right customer for you. Most of this can be attributed to …automation.
Both Facebook and AdWords have rules within their platforms. These “If this, then that” style rules, aren’t too sophisticated just yet. But they allow you to receive an email if your CPA is too high, and even pause campaigns based on results, automatically.
(Note: AMM members can read this recent article for a deeper explanation of how to save time and costly mistakes with FB’s automated rules).
When starting a campaign on Facebook, we always let Facebook find the right bid for us based on our objectives, by using the default setting of “Automatic” bidding. FB’s machines don’t like you to try to set manual bids out of the gate. They will likely punish you by barely giving you any impressions at all.
With AdWords, once we have found the best CPC and have a stable, converting campaign, we might switch to CPA bidding.
Both of these scenarios allow the platform a significant amount of automation, and trust they will get it right in terms of spend. It makes the campaigns easier to manage and honestly, often the platform is better at bidding and managing all those variables than we humans are.
Smart Display Ads are the latest ad type from Google, which we wrote about in detail here:
In a nutshell, you supply Google with your creative (multiple pieces of copy and images) and a CPA. Then, you let the ad do the rest of the work. With zero input from the marketer, these ads automatically find you the right placements, show your ads to the right audience and get great volume. The caveat is that they don’t allow exclusions of any type… they are THAT automated. This means we have seen high numbers of duplicates on lead gen campaigns. But I see this flaw as a good thing; it means that AdWords is so good at finding the right people, it has found them twice!