Manual PPC Bid Management is Dead
When I started QualityScores as an agency* several years ago, I was proud of the crazy results we were able to achieve with manual pay per click management techniques.
We used massive custom spreadsheets (customized for each client! no ‘rubber stamp’ approach!) with rules that would tell us to move a bid up or down or change the ad copy or revise the ad group…it was really quite an amazing ppc management tool and I would often brag that we had tested a handful of ppc management software in the space only to outperform it manually every time!
That was before most web-based or desktop based ppc management software had extensive, customizable bid rules to the extent we had in our spreadsheets.
A Little Challenge
Recently, I was challenged to manually manage $7,000+ ad spend in one day ($200,000+/mo) while striving to maintain somewhat strict average cpc and cpa goals.
My initial thought was “piece of cake, this won’t take too much time so I can focus on other campaign and business metrics that I think will make a bigger impact on future ROI and the business itself.”
I ended up spending most of the day downloading stats into all of the Desktop Editors and utilizing the regular user interfaces at the search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft only) to strive to project what would happen 2 to 4 hours in advance because I knew that most stats reported were going to be behind by at least that much.
Here’s how it worked: Basically, you would raise a bid by 150% for an hour or two and your average will definitely be much higher for those two hours than it was prior to that bid change. Therefore, it would make sense to have to lower it before you even see the stats update for those two hours while studying past metrics and analytics for day parts that you think should help the overall volume of conversions while striving to maintain better than average costs per click for that specific day. Then you would go back to adjust to 85% of the original starting bid to continue the semi-intelligent day part based on your studies and continue your way hour by hour at a minimum to end the day with a hope that the next day proved you reached your average cpc/cpa goals the prior day! Wow that is a mouthful to…say…in your head…as you read those words…
Are you still with me? If not, don’t worry! I’m basically saying that rather than spend my time on important business metrics and letting software help me manage the tedious bid management…I spent my day barely studying historical data in time to make day part adjustments not just on a campaign level but on a keyword by keyword level too!
The Results of the Challenge
It wasn’t a waste of time because I DID hit the cpa/cpc goals (/sarcasm)…but I would have achieved a lot more for this advertiser than I did in that single day challenge if I didn’t have to spend so much time adjusting bids and making tweaks and paying minute by minute attention to where my averages were.
If you are managing any decent volume of ad spend manually…then I can almost guarantee that you are wasting your time and your employer needs a wake up call. Is it really efficient to pay an expert to try to do what a robot does for most of your competitors? Humans aren’t supposed to be robots! We’re intelligent! You’re intelligent! Should you really spend most of your time changing bids day in and day out? What value are you really bringing to a company if you do that?
Sure, your value in producing decent profits might be there…and you will know the accounts better than anybody…and you will be susceptible to lack of experimentation and unrecoverable errors…and your competitors are probably running circles around you with their fancy schmancy software…but hey, at least you’re profitable and you can grow spend and profits manually with the best of them.
Wow, manual ppc bid management is glorious!
7 Reasons Why Manual PPC Bid Management is Dead
1. While you’re adjusting bids manually, your competitors are writing and testing creative ad copy.
2. While you’re adjusting bids manually, your competitors are creating new landing pages to test and driving incremental improvements in conversion rates on the website.
3. While you’re adjusting bids manually, your competitors are collaborating with their designers and programmers to improve landing page speed, usability, and solving other bottleneck problems in the conversion process…improving conversions even more!
4. While you’re adjusting bids manually, your competitors are developing a strategy and mapping out future promotions/offers with their sales and marketing teams.
5. While you’re adjusting bids manually, your competitors are utilizing ppc management software to change bids for them – and not only that…
6. While you’re still adjusting your bids, your most advanced competitors are utilizing truly automated algorithms that perform millions (and even BILLIONS) of mini-tests between keywords and ads in every ad group and every campaign at every hour of every single day…and THAT technology is learning with statistical prediction models that your brain (and my brain) could never comprehend or test fast enough to compete with…and what’s spooky is that they’re accurate most of the time!
7. While you’re adjusting bids manually…your most advanced competitors who are using self-learning technology to manage theirs are scaling much faster than you can dream of it!
Seriously, all is totally lost for the manual ppc bid manager. I honestly don’t know why I was successful with reaching my goals with the advertiser described in the challenge above. Perhaps it is because I have been in the space for quite some time…instinct…I would love to believe that. Realistically, I’m inclined to think it was luck mixed with a little skill. Skill can only take you so far when you’re up against a robot that performs thousands of tests each day and you can only get in a manual dozen on a good day…
If you’re currently managing pay per click advertising manually, I recommend you start looking at software immediately. Not just any software though – you will want to look for (and encourage your company to purchase) true self-learning ppc management technology.
What do I mean by ‘true self-learning ppc management technology’?
I would love to tell you right now…but I’m going to have to ask you to tune in next week for the answer to that question so DO NOT purchase ppc technology until then!
(Update: Here is the follow up post that answers the question “What is Truly Automated, Adaptive PPC Bid Management Technology?“)
*QualityScores is not an agency any more, it is simply a search engine marketing blog now.