Automation in Search is Here to Stay… But it’s Missing a Few Things

Inplace #2

For the last few years, there has been a big automation push in search advertising, with Google leading the way. Since Google rolled out AdWords, it has looked for ways to streamline operations. They’ve had great success at weaving automation into the search ad workflow. This push has continued with the announcement that Google would now provide AdWords users with automated “Ad Suggestions,” powered by AI and machine learning. The point — to further optimize their AdWords operations and overall performance.

For those who may have missed it, AdWords Ad Suggestions will automatically “suggest variants of existing ads to use in your ad groups” — including tweaked adcopy — based on previous information that has been used in ads. Google sits on a trove of data. So introducing this type of automated functionality only makes sense. It will help influence campaigns in a more “hands-off” way, and keep advertisers happy with AdWords and their results.

This automation will help campaigns evolve more quickly. But, when it comes to optimizing search campaigns, automation is only part of the battle. Advertisers cannot rely on automation alone and take their “eye off the prize.” Here are three reasons why automated intelligent search advertising suggestions are helpful, as well as where growth is necessary.


Ad Suggestions is too insular. 

AI and machine learning are proving to be the “wave of the future,” which is why 80 percent of enterprise businesses are investing in it today. Yet for all the perks of being able to optimize your search actions autonomously, this technology will only get you so far. There is still a lack of competitive intelligence that’s necessary to close the loop.

For example, it’s great to know where you could improve ad copy or adjust adextensions to get the most from your search ads. But how do these tweaks help you stack up against competitors? Or how are your competitors adjusting their ads? To understand that, automation needs to be married with external intelligence, folding in competitive movements and strategies to build a fuller picture about what tweaks need to be made. Right now, Ad Suggests don’t do that.


Ad Intelligence and strategy needs to be outward facing. 

Feedback is key to understanding how you can best strategize and boost ROI. However, the best SEM strategies sometimes requires more insight into the entire relevant auction before reacting. Inward-facing campaign automation doesn’t deliver this.

Why make wholesale changes when tweaks in strategy to only a few different “keyword battles” are needed? Again, this is where competitive intelligence factors in. By embracing external competitive intelligence, advertisers can see exactly which keyword battles may need new approaches, and which ones can largely stay the same. Automation doesn’t help here.

Search is already competitive as it is. So having granular insights that illustrate the competitive landscape on a term-by-term basis is a must, that way advertisers don’t end up forfeiting any ground by making unnecessary alterations. In addition, search strategy needs to incorporate signals from around the operations and bidding process, not just on what performance looks like at a single point in AdWords.


Voice-based search & automation. 


With the proliferation of voice-based assistants such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home — 39 million Americans owned a smart speaker at the beginning of 2018. The search ecosystem is much broader than it used to be and is about more than just clicks. So how will automation factor in here?

Traditional search isn’t going anywhere. However, optimizing search campaigns will now be much more intricate as “cross-platform search” becomes the norm, and campaigns rely on all touchpoints working together. Additionally, while Google continues to lead the way with traditional search, voice-based search has the potential to be more diverse as users search through different services and apps on device, making matters even more complex.

How inward-facing campaign automation and optimization addresses these challenges — and where it fits into the landscape — is something that needs to be examined over the next year.

Automation — and the technology behind it — is one of the most exciting disruptions in search. However, advertisers need to be careful of becoming overly-reliant on Google and its related automation, which only represents a snapshot of the search intelligence picture. But by thinking more broadly about where it can fit into a larger search strategy, advertisers can really drive success in search moving forward.