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Frederick Valleys has been hosting some interesting PPC Town Hall sessions that are discussing about the impact of COVID-19 on PPC, what areas to look into, what measures to adopt and more. We looked into the first four of these session, and the thoughts shared around Automated Bidding .

We couldn’t agree more with Kirk Williams when he said, “It is a completely new and weird situation.” Everyday is a day for learning and unlearning things. So here we start with the learning’s from the PPC Town Hall sessions (we picked up the first four sessions to start with) being held to share real-time experiences

Machines are struggling

Overall this unpredictable turn of events, has disturbed the course of action of the machines. The customer behavior has changed and so the machines are behaving differently. But how much are they able to cope up? Here is what the experts had to say.

Martin Rottgerding said that “You can’t tell Smart Bidding about things that cannot be translated into signals, such as your inventory going down. You can just set goals and they will try to achieve that goal. You can’t tell it to go slow in certain areas.”

Referring to the pandemic, Julie Bacchini said “The machines have zero context for this unheard event, everything is unfolding in real time”. The one thing that she is recommending is to accounts is to keep a close eye on their bidding strategies, manual or automated  bidding”.

Frederick Valleys pointed out, “The prediction models that are expecting a certain signals might be confused right now, because what used to be a pattern is no longer a pattern. It’s important to look at how automations are working because the model it used to rely on may not be so valid any more”.

When Elizabeth brought the question about attribution window during this time, Frederick said, “Differed conversions are happening, we might be more in a branding stage as opposed to trying to get the sales. If you’ve been running last-click attribution, you are not valuing those early-stage interactions. Automated bid management systems don’t know what to do to get you more top-of-funnel activity if .”

Manual vs Automated Bidding

Peter Oliveira shared the pros of automated bidding and said “Smart Bidding is more proactive. It has the ability to combine the signals and pair them up with other similar auctions in the industry. So even if you don’t have the volume coming through, it takes the signals it has access to and compares it to other things going on in the market in order to make those bid adjustments.”

Jeff Allen had an alternate view on this. “Whats happening is conversion rates have dropped..There is no sense of history right now, no sense of normal. For some the conversions are so high they had to slow down as they can’t fulfill the orders. In these cases we can’t put lot of automation, but to manually control it”

Christi Olson gave her opinion saying, “Right now, people are doing panic buying, which automated systems don’t handle well. I would personally start looking at manual bidding to make up for what we are seeing as peaks and valleys from what you might not have had previously.”

Addressing experiences from one of her travel clients, Benu Agarwa explained why they had turned off automated bidding.”We had some soft conversion and some hard conversion. When we looked at soft conversion, we had phone calls as one of the metrics for soft conversion. But the number of phone calls were the same and not going down. But people were not calling to book for travel, they were calling to cancel the booking. So they removed the automated bidding.”

Kirk Williams found out from the accounts he handles, that conversions rates were worse with Automated Bidding, but ROAS was better. His explanation for that is because CPCs are low and that is resulting in driving more traffic. So, in that way Automated Bidding was working well, despite having low conversion rates.

Seasonality Adjustment

Whether seasonality adjustment is a way to tackle the unpredictable scenario or not was subject to discussion. An interesting piece written by Ginny Marvin was referred to and further Martin added, “Using seasonality adjustment to handle short term changes, but you can’t tell it to disregard certain things. There is limited things that you can do with it.”

For using seasonality adjustment Peter said, “Seasonality adjustment captures short term spikes…something like Black Friday sale or cyber Monday, where the spike shoots up, back down and then normalizes If the massive change in conversion rate happened for short period of time then seasonality bid adjustment is great but if not then it is better to control it with target ROAS or target CPA.”

Monitor Your Automation

PPCers across are relying heavily on this one tactic – Monitoring Your Account.  Not that you have not been doing that. But making it a daily affair is what will help keep you in track with the pace at which things are changing.

Frederick Valleys said that you can’t completely rely on Automated Bidding as it is not a seasonal event (its behavior is uncertain and unpredictable), it is not going to be consistent, so monitor what these automatons are doing.” He also mentioned, “It is not a set it and forget it type of a thing. You have to change those target CPAS to help the campaign do better.”

Julie’s thoughts on actions and measures taken in Google Ads account with regards to automation features were (most of the time it depends on industries)

  • Keep a closer eye (Checking more frequently)
  • Micromanaging your account
  • Checking your extensions and checking other automated things going on in your client’s account (shifting messaging in your extensions and ad copies)

Suggested Bidding Strategy

PPC experts had their take on what bidding strategy is working for them or their clients. Again, it would differ depending on the industry you are in and what your goals are.

Peter Oliveira suggestedIf you have business constraints you should consider sticking to Efficiency Based Strategy instead of volume based strategy, like, Target ROAS, Target CPA. If you are expanding into different industries and you want to capture as much volume then strategies like Maximize Conversion or Maximize Conversion Value will be pretty good.” He also shared that using Performance Planner will give an understanding of things such as, if you increase ROAS by x much then how many conversions will you be missing out on etc. 

For Kirk Williams from Klientboost, “Maximize Clicks used in the right and with the right purpose, tied to the campaign with the right strategy actually is doing really well for us”

Christi Olson said “As far as the bidding strategy is concerned, the metrics to use are going to change as the decision journey lengthens or shortens across the board. What you might have previously used say, Target ROAS or Target CPA, might want to look at where you are at with where the market stands today. Looking at those market share metrics will be of use”

Useful Scripts Suggested

Martin shared a useful Google Ads script which would analyze your account and give advertisers insight on their account performance before the corona outbreak and post that.

Frederick Valleys shared a handy script that pulls Google Ads data and generates a spreadsheet with COVID-19 markers on Google Ads core performance metrics. 

To view more of these session click here

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