Why Automated Bidding is SMART

by Neil Morse on Thursday 5 July 2018

For some people, combining the words “automated” and “bidding” can provoke a feeling of distinct unease. But like that person who continues to turn up at an airport three hours before a flight, if you don’t keep pace with change you risk wasting a whole bunch of time.


When I first started running paid search campaigns bidding was the element I really enjoyed. I was operating in the belief that there was such a thing as the perfect bid and by optimising it I was working towards some mythical “sweet spot”. 


As paid search has evolved that dream has been steadily crushed under an avalanche of alternative bidding and targeting options from devices to audiences. Don’t get me started on location, time of day and demographics. To borrow Google’s terminology, user context or “micro-moments” are the new sweet spot and if you are clinging to the idea that your manual bid changes are keeping pace I imagine you spend a lot of your time looking like this:

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That’s not to say that manual bidding is obsolete. We encourage our teams to test anything that might have a beneficial impact for our clients either by moving the needle on a particular KPI, or indirectly by automating a process that saves an analyst’s time be that bidding or otherwise.


In the latter sense automated bidding is a bit like checking in for a flight online. If automation can only match the performance of manual bidding, our teams have still freed up time to attack more complex optimisation opportunities. Are we prioritising the right products in our shopping campaigns? Can we incorporate profitability, margin or sell through data into our account structure? What is happening in other channels that paid search activity can support and how should we measure the impact of that? 


The illusion of control means that bidding will always come up as part of optimisation conversations but we should move away from the idea that bidding itself is a magic bullet. Behind the bids there is a world of complexity from targeting to messaging that paid search teams are actually in control of. Automated bidding isn’t always perfect but if it increases focus on more impactful optimisation or insights then it’s a smarter use of time.