If you set up a Google Ads account well… with sensible budgets, appropriate bidding, and your targeting all pointing in the right direction… Surely then you can just sit back as it converts your spend into profits? Especially now that so much of the day-to-day fine tuning we used to do is covered by automation?
We come across some surprising ideas and expectations about what Paid Search management looks like (even among clients and prospects…)
If you find yourself having to explain why Google Ads is not a set-it-and-forget-it affair, it might be useful to refer to these reasons.
1 The Shifting Landscape
The first reason why performance doesn’t continue in a straight line, is that your activity doesn’t run along a static surface…
You can have your campaign contents set up as precisely as you like but the action only happens when those keywords, bids and settings interact with the messy outside world.
And not only is the outside world of the Google Ads auction complex, it also changes over time.
Two main forces come together alongside your ads at the auction:
the users – with all their history, desires and expectations – and
the competition with its vastly varying sets of aims, tactics, budgets and skills…
All of the above make up the marketplace in which the rubber meets the road… and none of it is static (so… less of a road, more of a pan-directional travelator!).
• The loss or entry of a large competitor…
• A fall in the popularity of a major fad (remember daily deals, when Groupon thought it was a good idea to turn down a $6Bn buyout offer from Google?)…
• Technological innovations or world events (like a pandemic) that shift user behaviour…
These things happen (in small ways, they happen all the time) and they change both the look of the auction you’re entering, and the click behaviour of the user whose search initiated it.
When the landscape changes, someone needs to be there to recalibrate what the ‘right direction’ actually is.
2 Admin Things
Let’s get the boring one out of the way.
There’s a certain amount of admin that needs to be dealt with for your account to continue running as expected.
• Ads get disapproved – often
stupidly surprisingly :
• Billing issues (usually the expiry of a card) sneak up on you
• A policy changes, meaning (e.g.) you can no longer target by postcode if you’re advertising in certain industries
• Google suddenly emails to say you need to
Again, someone needs to be there to read and act on this kind of thing…
3 Smart Bidding
It’s true that ever more of the fine-tuning activity in an account – particularly bid management – is going towards ‘The Algorithm’. On the surface, this might seem like less day to day today knob turning for us (hence, less reason for us to be there, right?)
And yet… because of the greater levels of automated action, we also often see more sudden and unexpected changes in the behaviour or performance of our campaigns.
To put it another way, it’s no longer just our (relatively static) campaigns versus the (changeable) market… it’s now our campaigns and whatever changes are being made to their bidding, targeting and dynamic elements under the shell of the black box, versus the (still changeable) market. So there is in this sense more to keep an eye on as campaigns simply continue to run.
The Algorithm is a fickle beast, and not as predictable as we would like it to be…
For all its improvement, it is still subject to wild individual bids, odd targeting choices, and unexplained dips in impressions.
4 System Changes
Not to mention that the algorithms themselves change… all the time.
And in a complex system like the algorithm for a smart bidding strategy, a small tweak to a given point in the mechanism can lead to a large shift in the output…
Then, beyond Smart Bidding, our toolset has also been changing at an increasing rate recently, whether it’s certain ad types or match types being deprecated, or a shift in the way ad extensions work (which can suddenly activate old extensions you didn’t want to show… Watch out for that one BTW)
…and it’s not just the internal workings of your account that Google fiddles with… it’s also frequently dabbling with the way search results are presented…
Again – any of this can have an impact on how your campaigns perform, and adapting to these kind of updates is a big part of the job.
5 Data = Opportunity
So – most of the above is about being there to put out fires and repairing bridges – but we can set our sights a bit higher than that 😄
The opportunity to optimise grows with our data, so the opportunity cost of inaction increases over time.
We could expand this idea to encompass the whole point of optimisation…
Pointing an account in ‘the right direction’ isn’t really how it works in practice.
For a well-managed account, every ad, bid (or bidding target), keyword, and setting, is essentially a little test, with trial and error being the ongoing mode of operating.
While automation plays on the same field, it doesn’t play well enough not to need a coach (not even close).
In Google’s Search Summit last year, chief evangelist Nicolas Darveau-Garneau described Google’s systems as moving towards being like a self-driving car.