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This week’s PPCChat session was hosted by Julie F Bacchini where she and guest Frederick Vallaeys discussed all about Artificial Intelligence,Machine Learning and PPC.

Q1: Does AI or machine learning come up in conversations with your clients or your boss? Do they have reasonable expectations around it?


So far there’s been conversations with the bosses that hear AI and ML as a buzzword. They really just want to make sure we’re on top of things. So I’m pushing to do more than just ride the buzz. @mikecrimmins

We hear very little about AI/ML from clients. But then again, B2B tends to be about 5 years behind on technology. They do get excited if we bring it up. @Mel66

It’s strange how often it only comes up reactively. For things like close variants, or scripts etc. @armondhammer

AI & ML have not come up a ton in client conversations for me. Exceptions if they get calls from Google Ads pushing them on it and Smart whatever. @NeptuneMoon

Lead Gen clients don’t generally ask for this unless it’s an ecommerce client, have you seen this? Or when another agency emails them saying we can use Smart XYZ to boost value and then they ask me @andreacruz92

Coming from SMX Advanced I found it interesting that most people speak about ‘automation’. @MSFTAdvertising likes to speak more about ‘AI’ and very few people speak about ‘ML’. @siliconvallaeys

Interest in AI tends to have more to do with personality than actual business needs of the company in most cases. Some people just love the promises of new tech. @amyppc

Internally we talk about machine learning almost daily. So far, mostly in the context of close variants, the dilution of match types, and trying to figure out how to utilize the tech while living with a very long sales cycle. Been a challenge. @SEM_PPC_MattV

Clients have read about it or have heard about it, but they want to know more about it because they don’t know how it works, what it means or how it can help them. @esperanza_scl

It will only come up with clients if they have experience in using certain tools like Optmyzr or have been pitched from someone before! I think expectations still lie on me as the human to deliver campaigns the best way possible whether I utilise AI or not. @scright

Yes, we talk about it, but I’ve never sensed that clients were wondering why they use us. @SEMFlem

I find the average client cares less about whether we’re doing AI or ML or Automation and just wants us to be trying the best strategies that will grow their accounts profitably. Most don’t care if we’re trying Smart Bidding or not unless it’s working/not working. @PPCKirk

Clients don’t bring it up, but it’s something I bring up a lot in audits. If people aren’t even testing bid strategies something is wrong. Because clients haven’t heard much about it, they get excited about what it can do… As they should! @markpgus

I think because of all the hype clients expect AI to work really well and even better than manual bidding already. @lchasse

My current clients aren’t super savvy so I usually pull AI & ML out as shiny new things to test. At my previous job (big agency), having some kind of automated bidding solution in place was a best practice/default for ALL campaigns/clients. @FindingAmanda

Not really I usually just give the explanation of what it does without calling it AI or ML. @StephanieErne

AI comes up in the sense that we are keeping on top of the latest research and if is makes sense, then use it where we can. @ninacofer

Does not come up a ton. Clients more care about the outcome… they don’t care as much as we get there. @duanebrown

For several of my clients, it’s incredibly important since they are location-based businesses. For example, one client we’re promoting summer passes for kids. We’re careful not to promote it more than 10 miles away from each. I wouldn’t want to drive my kids farther.@ScottOmiller

about once a week I hear a client discuss it, usually in the completely wrong context, and often revolves around food orders from GubHub, so needless to say, expectations are low. @JonKagan

Not always. Most of my clients are happy enough with just knowing that we’re optimizing for conversions. They don’t necessarily care how it happens, just want to see growth. @ScottOmiller

It hasn’t really come.up with clients yet. @adwordsgirl


Q2: How much of a role does automation play in your PPC management?


Huge, I wouldn’t be able to do my job on Search effectively without it in my opinion. Automated rules and alerts are a must on every account. @scright

A lot. Bid strategies, budget management, scripts, reporting such as Tableau… it’s super important. @Mel66

Huge role, mostly in that we have to deal with close variants. Our offline KPIs can’t be tied to search queries in a reliable manner so this is a big challenge. Otherwise, we lean on scripts quite a bit for reporting. @SEM_PPC_MattV

There are 2 levels of automation we use. First level is features driven by ML from the engines (e.g. Smart Bidding). Second are our own automations like rules we created and run on a schedule to keep the automations from the engines in check. @siliconvallaeys

I don’t have a ton automated right now – mostly rules and scripts, but doing more to work smarter and get better versed in automation options is one of my priorities for this year! @NeptuneMoon

I keep testing it, because I believe most of us want it to work (especially the manual bidding) portions of it. In some cases it has worked, but well managed manual work still outperforms automated so far. Rules & Scripts are a different animal, my life would not be the same without them. I separate what we call AI with those items (in my own head anyway) @lchasse

About 25%, but working towards increasing. But working on increasing it with everything from more tCPA (and testing other “smart” bidding), scripts and rules. @mikecrimmins

Very little. I find automated bidding tends to under-perform manual bidding. (Which is odd, as it should be better.) @stevegibsonppc

A lot for FB/IG. They automate: – budget (CBO) – audience targeting (LAL) – bid (OCPM) – and creative testing. @jdprater

That totally depends on the size and budget of the client. The more data the better it works, if I have enough data I tend to use it or at least test some things. @StephanieErne

Automation that we control is huge (natch). AI that we don’t I still tend to under utilize. Heck, I hardly use dynamic ads, let alone AI written ones. @armondhammer

I think we forget how much automation is actually happening within the engine. There’s no such thing as truly manual paid search marketing. @amyppc

Great question. We are making use of automation more and more every day (literally). We have developed a series of data studio reports, @Supermetrics -supported sheets for data curation, scripts and other tech which saves ever-increasing amounts of time. @jphebdon

Somewhat. We try to test as much as we can to see what works from automated bidding to responsive search ads. @ninacofer

A ton, but only where automation can truly help me get better results. I don’t tend to use it if it just makes things easier. But, it depends on the account of course. @SEMFlem

An increasingly important role. We have some sort of automation in every account. Automated Rules for bids, budgets, scripts, etc. @PPCKirk

Quite a bit. Bid strategies and ad rotation are big. I see manual cpc as a last resort. I think I’m smart but I can’t perform the same analysis in real time. Sure, I’m analyzing if everything performs but it’s about working smarter and realizing where ML is “smarter”. @markpgus

Automation in the form of bidding, rules, alerts, scripts, reporting etc are essential to my business! The less day to day tasks I have to complete in the account the more time I have to spend on creating $ making strategies! @FindingAmanda

I would say 30-35% or so. We recently found success with tROAS and heavily adopted it. We also have scripts running that save a sign. amount of time in managing negatives to keep structure sound. We also have large automated reporting for account alerts. @danlewis8

I think it is progressive, early stages of a campaign between 0 and 10%, once an account is established, I’d say up to 75%. @JonKagan

Being a small team… a lot. We try to automate as much as we can. Scripts being a huge player in that. Or just working our tech vendors to smooth our processes. @duanebrown

I mainly just use scripts at the moment. @adwordsgirl


Q3: Do automations save you time or do they take up more time in testing, monitoring, explaining?


I’d say overall, automation is saving time…but there’s a lot of testing involved, especially when it comes to bidding. @mikecrimmins

automation saves a TON of time. We no longer spend hours every week on budget pacing and bid management. Also we use which has completely transformed our ad copy testing. @Mel66

The risk / liability of automations isn’t so much the time lost in building them, but the consequences of scaling the wrong thing. So many jump into automating without a strategy. @amyppc

The end result far outweighs the initial setup time for any automation. @danlewis8

The scripts I run definitely save me quite some time. But sometimes I go into a blackhole and want to look at all the data too granularly. @ninacofer

Automation is heavy on the time-commitment in the beginning. You need to take the time to set it up slowly and thoughtfully since you’re giving something free rein in your account. After that, definitely a time-saver. Overall = time-saver. @PPCKirk

It saves tons of time. It allows us to be more strategic as managers and offload some of the tactical optimizations to the platform. IMO our roles are shifting to Conductors rather than hardcore musicians. It’s true that you need to monitor more. @markpgus

they almost always take additional upfront time, but the beauty of automation is the time saved on the back end and the reproducibility of those efforts across clients/platforms/etc.. @jphebdon

The rules and scripts save a ton of time and are worth setting up and monitoring. AI bidding, currently takes time to test and build out properly. Intuitively we all know at some point it will be worth it however. @lchasse

how soon do you jump into testing a new automation? Do you wait for others to test it first? What’s the payoff in terms of being on the cutting edge but also spending more time figuring it out on behalf of the whole industry? @siliconvallaeys

Save time mostly. Although if we talk about ads… now they take me way more time because of all the headlines and descriptions. Creativity takes time. @StephanieErne

Do automations save you time or do they take up more time in testing, monitoring, explaining? If done right, automation absolutely saves time. Putting in extra time up front can save you from regular repative tasks and it adds up! @FindingAmanda

Depends on type of automation. tCPA/autobidding/smartwhatever have poor performance so far, but sales funnel is very long + KPIs are offline metrics. Tough to manage through all that. Scripts & rules to automate functions & some ops have been great! @SEM_PPC_MattV

There is always a sunk cost for testing and trying out something new or early. When you find something that works, huge time savings. We automate . 95% of all reporting, which gives us time to focus on other bits. @duanebrown

In the end they save time, especially if you were intending to do all the checks and changes the script is doing! They save me time so I can focus that saved time elsewhere. @scright

Great question. They definitely make the optimization part of my job easier, but also add some complexity in monitoring. Scripts and custom notifications help a lot to make sure things don’t go overboard. @ScottOmiller

When talking automated rules / scripts they also save f*ckups and ‘oops I forgot’ or ‘I didn’t notice’. So sometimes they save your life instead of just time. @StephanieErne

so this is a double edged sword, I lose time testing, but I save time at an aggregate level with reduced overhead needsI think back to search teams 15 years ago, prior to real automation, and the staff was often 2x-3x. @JonKagan

Both actually! The summers are insanely busy for me personally due to weddings and what not so I’ve got scripts that alert when something has gone wrong and if there’s any account declining which helps me move faster. @adwordsgirl


Q4: What automations work well for you? Any must-haves that everyone should implement?


Bid strategy can be hit or miss on non-brand campaigns but does wonders on brand campaigns in competitive industries. Scripts and rules work on most accounts since they function with If and then statements. @duanebrown

One of my favorite automations isn’t anything fancy, but just pausing sales copy when the sale ends. That used to cause so much anxiety, having to stay up til midnight, etc.. @amyppc

Well, (and I swear I don’t work for them) has been super valuable in automating reports, templates and tools. We use it to prep/curate data in (sheets) that feed into a variety of client-facing reporting & internal pacing tools/analysis and of course.. there are a wide variety of super-valuable scripts we’ve used from the likes of and , as well as some internally-developed ones, that help make life easier.@jphebdon

Definetely broken links and flatlining campaigns notices. @StephanieErne

Housekeeping items are no-brainers. Negative conflicts, ad groups w/ no active keywords, camps w/ no active adgroups, and several others. Great timesavers. @SEM_PPC_MattV

I have to hat tip to here, because I love the rules you can build out in + the alerts you can build into it for when things are not looking right (traffic, conversions, etc. @lchasse

Setting up alerts to warn you of potential account issues are a must-have for all PPC managers IMHO – high spend/no conv keywords and big fluctuations in performance, for example. @FindingAmanda

Specific favorites are scripts that auto-add keywords as negatives that don’t meet defined criteria in queries. Web-queries for reporting.@danlewis8

My favorite is brand keywords maximize presence/clicks, its a no brainer. @JonKagan

Anything that takes a lot of time and not a lot of thought, I’m trying to automate. @mikecrimmins

Custom alerts for account health at the campaign, group, and keyword level. I’d begin there. From there you can identify where time is being taken up and then focus on that specifically. @danlewis8

Automated reports at the campaign level save me a ton of time. Also, alerts to significantly overspending campaigns or significant changes in keyword traffic. @anna_arrow

Bid strategies FTW. Max Conv for most campaigns where you are limited by budget are Automated rules though? Send me an email when things are in a downward spiral of death. Helps us get out in front of the problem. @markpgus

the script to not exceed the daily budget (& end up spending 2x) is a must have I guess. @bufoting

We’ve struggled to make some of the in-engine automated-bidding work well consistently. But otherwise, tasks that can be broken into steps are almost always good candidates for automation. If you can proceduralize it, there’s a good chance you can automate it. @jphebdon


Q5: What automations don’t work well for you? Have you found tricks to make them work or did you give up?


Years ago I made an automated rule to increase max CPC daily if a certain condition was met. One of the dumbest things I’ve done on an account. You don’t automate that stuff! @amyppc

We’ve found that targeting page rank, especially on non-brand keywords, can often lead to a financial catastrophe. @JonKagan

Use target IS top at 100% even for branded can be VERY expensive – that final 5% is very pricey. @andreacruz92

The automated bidding has not worked very well for accounts yet when I test. I have had some come close though. I read a book many years ago that was named “always be testing” and that is what I will continue to do. @lchasse

Unfortunately, so far no performance-based automation systems have worked well. Offline KPIs and very long sales funnel are both significant barriers. Even using math-based proxy targets/goals has mostly gutted volume w/ little or no efficiency gain. @SEM_PPC_MattV

DSA does not always work but DSA RLSA does for most accounts. @duanebrown

Anything in Google before 2017. We were massively burned by the rule to change a bid when a specific domain was in the SERP. There was a flaw in the logic that stopped showing our ads entirely. Watch your data. Ask for credits, you’ll get them if you persist! @danlewis8

I never had much success with the hourly bidding script – despite a lot of analysis that went into implementation across accounts it wasn’t really worth it on a granular level. @scright

I think everything works, just not always for the goal you want. And of course it needs to be set properly. Like using max clicks with no set max cpc, is something I will never do again. @StephanieErne


Q6: What technologies or tools have you tried for automation? BQML, AutoML, Scripts, API, …?


If we’re talking automation, check out (Fred’s company). They have PPC tools that assist the human (suggestions based on ML), rather than replace the human.  @PPCKirk

just 3rd party platforms overlayed, i am regrettably under educated when it comes to scripts. @JonKagan

scripts and rules. When I was at an agency rather than in house and free lance we used and it was the bomb. @anna_arrow

I use filters, scripts and mainly. I also build out processes and checklists in my boards so I don’t miss anything. @lchasse

A lot of rules and scripts, some ML bidding. @mikecrimmins

So far stuck to free scripts. Hacked a few of these to adjust to internal needs. Search query N-gram scripts most impactful so far, really great!@SEM_PPC_MattV

Scripts, rules and some tools. You gotta keep testing and finding things that work.@StephanieErne

Smart shopping…. and all the data it houses. Beyond that, wish I made the time to understands Ads API better as I know that would be huge for us. Though I can only do so much each day. @duanebrown

I’d really, really REALLY like to see Auction Insights data accessible via scripts or the API. @jphebdon


Q7: What is the one automation you would die to have access to?


One that attends meetings and pretends to be me so I can get some actual work done? @Mel66

Transparent reporting in Smart Shopping. Placement/Query/Video exclusions possible in Smart Shopping. @PPCKirk

Not even a pure automation, but more ability to help train. It feels too unsupervised right now. I’d spend 5 minutes giving feedback every time I log in on what I think of suggestions if it made the machine better. @armondhammer


I want an automation that not only customizes the ad to include the location name, but that then also drives to the most relevant (location specific) landing page. @amyppc

Not a pure automation, but let me help train the tool. Lawyer and Atty might be the same intent, but have different values. and there are thousands like that. I’d spend 5 min training to make the engine better. @armondhammer

I want a bad match reporting tool for keywords. If we have to let the machines figure stuff out, we could at least get the ability to help them get better at understanding language, nuance and intent better! @NeptuneMoon

I really really want autobidding to scale volume & cost efficiency the way we need it to. tCPA, Smart whatever, any autobidding! @SEM_PPC_MattV

It exists but I cant get it, realtime online to offline store purchasing for optimization. @JonKagan


Q8: Is there any PPC task you feel you will never trust to automation?


Reporting insights. You have to have intimate knowledge of the campaign in order to have the right insights into performance. Ad creative is a close second. @Mel66

Writing ad copy or putting together creative without me giving it the pieces. Have you seen AI created “art”? @NeptuneMoon

Creative. @SEMFlem

This question made me think about it harder than I expected. I honestly can’t think of anything after the account is set up… which leads me to account setup. Automation is fantastic with an established process, but onboarding is still a distinctly human trait IMO. As a follow-up, I mean. Something has to tell the automation what to target, what to ignore, what the client’s goals are, what the client said their goals are but what they should be to actually drive growth, etc, etc @PPCKirk

Everyone will say it but creative… Ad Copy? No Bumper Machine? No Dynamic Stock Photo Insetion? No Analyze the data of what I create please and automate away… Don’t create tho.. you’re a robot. @markpgus

Client communication. Wel… never say never. @StephanieErne

The creative process, is the one area I feel like we will always need to be our best in. Bidding, audiences etc… can be automated one day w/enough data and decision making capability, but the offers, copy, and engagement will be driven by smart marketers. @lchasse

Reporting insights. You have to have intimate knowledge of the campaign in order to have the right insights into performance. Ad creative is a close second. @Mel66

Never say never, but when people ask for a tool to automate campaign / ad group and keyword generation… that’s not something I’ve ever wished for. I like doing it and like what I learn from it. @amyppc

Ads/creative. Things can go very bad there in a hurry b/c they’re public-facing. I’d need to see the automation perform consistently for other adverts before fully entrusting.@SEM_PPC_MattV

Not sure….it comes down to making sure context is taken into account. Looking at a mattress brand who is heavy into automation… from an agency doing the work… and this is the case where maybe you lean to much to one side… if you see spiking CPAs. @duanebrown

adjusting to outside traffic drivers like the news. @JonKagan

Writing ad copy, probably. We’ve, kind of, seen what it can do right now and I’m not impressed. @adwordsgirl

Maximise conversions strategy without historical conversion data. @bufoting


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