Ever heard the word “automation” or phrase “machine learning” used in the context of advertising? Chances are that you have – especially in the last 5 – 10 years. But what exactly is it and how does it impact those trying to advertise online?
A good place to start answering these questions is through Google Ads. The platform, almost synonymous with PPC, is a multi-campaign advertising platform that contains a vast assortment of campaign types advertisers can use to run intent-based, awareness, and demand generation campaigns.
It’s no secret that Google Ads leverages its automation capabilities and an unfathomable amount of first-party data to roll out new campaign and ad types (Smart Shopping, Responsive Text/Display Ads, Dynamic Search Ads, Performance Max, etc.) while aiming to reduce friction for both newer and more experienced advertisers alike.
On paper, this should only lead to positive results and for less set-up and hands-on labor and, many times, it does. But how do businesses and brands looking to grow capitalize on the ever-expanding catalog of automation options available to scale leads or sales with their PPC efforts?
Unless you have a specified percentage of your budget set aside strictly for testing new tactics, campaign types, and strategies, it may be difficult to decide if it is indeed worth trying something new out. This is all before you even consider what kind of budget makes sense and where that budget goes.
Let’s take a more detailed look at some ways Google has introduced automation in the past as well as some of the newer ways advertisers can leverage these campaigns and ad types as a core tactic within their growth marketing strategy.
Google Ads Automation – An Intro
Though Google Ads is inherently “automated” foundationally and this article will focus on some of the ways Google has introduced automation to their platform in recent months, it’s important to provide a little bit of background on Google Ads’ use of automation.
Every time a Google search triggers an ad, whether a traditional search ad or a shopping ad, basic automation is being used to instantly determine:
- the pool of advertisers that wish to be present in the auction based on their targeting
- which advertiser(s) are most relevant to the searcher
- whose bid and ad rank is deserving of the placement and opportunity to be clicked.
The same could be said for YouTube ads – how does Google/YouTube know which ad to show you, when to show it, and how do the specific advertisers know who they’re reaching and how much they’re willing to pay to reach a certain user? To keep it simple, automation.
Initially, advertisers would select a manual max bid to determine how much they would be willing to pay for a click (CPC), impression (CPM), or view (CPV). Automated bidding strategies came next, which use different goals to optimize campaigns automatically; some automated bidding strategies include Target ROAS, Maximize Conversions, Maximize Clicks, Target Impression Share. If set up and deployed correctly, these could save advertisers hours upon hours a week.
Ad Type Automation RSA + DSAs
In Summer 2021, Google announced that it would be sunsetting Expanded Text Ads in favor of the newer, more automated responsive search ads. They cite the fact that 15% of search queries every day are new searches that have never before been searched on the platform and that automation is the key to keeping pace with the ever changing landscape of how users interact with search engines.
So how exactly do Expanded Text Ads and Responsive Search Ads differ?
Expanded Text Ads used to be the new and shiny toy, allowing advertisers to include a 3rd headline, a 2nd description, while increasing the description text length to 90 characters, effectively giving advertisers approximately 50% more ad copy space.
With Responsive Search Ads, marketers are tasked with adding up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. Google utilizes their algorithm and machine learning to decide which combinations work the best, serving the most successful ones more often than others. These will show up to the user as the same as an expanded text ad, while constantly improving and offering the marketer insights into which combinations perform better.
While Responsive Search Ads utilize the same type of targeting that Expanded Search ads use, Dynamic Search Ads take the automation to another level, leaning on it heavily for both creative and targeting purposes.
With these ad types, advertisers don’t target keywords but rather Categories and URLs from your website. Categories will pull from current web pages that an advertiser is sending users to via paid search. Google is also capable of categorizing your websites pages into themes which can be selected from a drop down menu. For example, if you advertise for a brand that sells athletic clothes, categories may include Mens, Womens, Tops, Bottoms, Shoes, etc.
Using URL targeting would allow you to target specific pages. Google will crawl these pages to automatically serve ads to search terms it deems relevant to the landing page copy. Additionally, you can exclude specific URLs from being targeted.
Similar to how Dynamic Search Ads can leverage existing data and assets to improve performance, Smart Shopping uses a similar approach in order to display a variety of ecommerce shopping ads across multiple google networks, mainly Google Shopping network. This campaign type takes the place of Google’s standard shopping, allowing machine learning to capitalize on the most successful products in your shopping feed.
One of the key differences between Smart Shopping and Standard Shopping is the overall structure. Keyword and ad group structure is no more when it comes to Smart Shopping. You have all of your products in one place, with easy set up and viewing. The downside is that you don’t have control over negative keywords, so be sure that your shopping feed is optimized and set up properly.
Another big change when it comes to Smart Shopping is the automatic inclusion of Display Network. Your new Smart Shopping ads will also show up across other Google properties as display ads. This is a great supplement for your products that will help you build brand awareness in the long term.
Performance Max – Advanced Automation
In late 2021, Google published this Blog, introducing the masses to Performance Max campaigns. In short, these campaigns are “a new way to buy Google ads across YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps from a single campaign,” pointing out that “automation is the solution businesses and agencies are using to stay ahead of ongoing shifts in consumer demand.”
Instead of traditional ad groups or ads, the Performance Max campaign type is built out into asset groups, which contains assets that could potentially serve on all of the Google platforms outlined above. These assets include videos, photos, logos, final URL, Headlines, and Descriptions. Similarly to RSA ads, you upload your assets to these specifications, and Google algorithmically pairs them together to find the best serving option.
Targeting is automated completely except for the addition of audience signals. You can add audiences using custom segments, your own data, and demographics to help steer Google in the right direction when serving your ad.
With most forms of automation, insights on performance are more limited than their predecessors, though marketers can still report on top-level campaign performance, location metrics, and time-of-day or day-of-week performance. Unfortunately as it stands today, it is not currently possible to compare how asset groups perform against one-another or even how those assets within an asset group are performing.
Like everything we do here at Tuff, we test, learn, and retest, always looking for ways to help our partners grow to the next level. Whenever a new, automated campaign or ad type is introduced, we immediately test it against it’s less automated predecessors.
When Smart Shopping was introduced, we measured it up against the Standard Shopping campaigns that predated before making any long term decisions in regards to potential shifts in budget or strategy. The same with Responsive Search ads and Dynamic Search Ads: we tested them vs their predecessors to gauge performance and efficiency before making any long term decisions.
Automation has been a key aspect in our growth process and there is no slowing down anytime soon.