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…
Automated Advertising: 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 recognize 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.
Automated Rules & Alerts on Facebook & AdWords
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.
For a more in-depth look into Facebook’s automated rules, read our latest article on 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
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!
The Next Step in Automation: Scripts
Yes, Scripts. They brought fear to my bones too… they sound technical, and feel like a lot of responsibility is being given to an automated process.
But, as with anything, if you start small you’ll get the hang of them before you know it. First, let’s backtrack:
What are AdWords Scripts?
AdWords scripts are pieces of “code” which are added into an AdWords account either at account or MCC level. They are added within the Shared Library. They can be managed from there and scheduled to run on specific days, paused or deleted.
If you search ‘AdWords Scripts’ you’ll see just how many sites there are hosting scripts for free for you to use.
If you have something really specialised you want to do automatically, you could probably have a script written for you.
AMM Warning: Scripts are like magic powers… they can be used for both good and evil. If you don’t know or trust the source, be very cautious about implementing it. My advice is to either use AdWords own scripts, Optmyzr scripts, or have them built or modified by your in-house or trusted development team:
How will Scripts help me?
There is a plethora of AdWords scripts to help an advertiser manage their accounts. From basic reporting outputs, all the way to managing bidding on your behalf, based on the weather in Baltimore… and everything in between. They can even change bids based on the stock market… certainly something of interest to financial publishers.
Essentially, any “maintenance” tasks you do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis within your account, can be handled by scripts. They save you time, money, and deal with millions of pieces of data in order to make a decision; far more than our brains ever could.
More time, more money, and less stress? Sign me up!
Ok, to get started we won’t use any scripts that modify our accounts in any way. Instead, we will use scripts to produce actionable, useful reports and alerts which will give you an at-a-glance view to check everything is OK.
Here my 4 favourites:
- Account Summary Report: https://developers.google.com/adwords/scripts/docs/solutions/account-summary
An at-a-glance report showing the performance of an entire AdWords account. Additionally, it sends an HTML-formatted daily email with current account statistics, like below.
- Declining Adgroups Report: https://developers.google.com/adwords/scripts/docs/solutions/declining-adgroups
I really like this report, because it tells you at a glance information you just can’t see easily within the platform. Declining Ad Groups Report fetches ad groups whose performance Google considers to be worsening. For example: Ad groups’ Click Through Rate has been decreasing for three consecutive weeks. Personally, I use this report weekly to check nothing is amiss without me realizing.
- Account Anomaly Detector: https://developers.google.com/adwords/scripts/docs/solutions/account-anomaly-detector
Alerts the advertiser whenever an AdWords account is suddenly behaving too differently from what’s historically observed. When an issue is encountered, the script will send the advertiser an alerting email stating “Your AdWords Account is Misbehaving”. Only a single email for an alert is sent per day.
- Live Link Checker: https://developers.google.com/adwords/scripts/docs/solutions/link-checker
Live ads may be pointing to non-existent pages, meaning you end up paying for clicks that yield 404 errors. This script emails you when error responses are found, and saves the results of its analysis to a spreadsheet.
Warning: This script has a label automatically enabled so once it has completed, it labels all of your campaigns to say it has checked the links… it’s pretty easy to remove this line from the script without breaking it if you’d rather not plaster your accounts with irrelevant labels… like I did… J
Whether we like it or not, automation is creeping into our everyday and working lives. But something has become clear to me. Despite the day-to-day work within our accounts that must be done, time spent on creative, on strategy and on executing good copy and campaigns is far, far more lucrative than time spent pressing buttons and pulling levers.
Anything the platforms can do to make our jobs easier, and reduce the heavy lifting within accounts, is a good thing. It means we get to spend time adding real value to our businesses. Yep, I’m all for it!
Marketing Director, AIM
P.S. I participated in a webinar latestly for our Agora Marketing Masters members. I was joined by several members of the AIM squad, debating our top trends in digital marketing. It may be no surprise to learn that Automation was my takeaway. If you haven’t listened to the webinar yet, you can hear me discuss automation and discover what my colleagues think are the most important aspects of digital marketing you need to be pay attention to.