Since its launch in 2000, a lot has changed in Google's in-house advertising system: Google Ads offers companies and advertisers more opportunities than ever to successfully launch their campaigns using automated processes. Formats like Performance Max still hold untapped potential in the optimization of your performance marketing. We illustrate which areas of automation exist, how to use them profitably, and what you should keep in mind.
Three areas of automation in Google Ads
The possibilities for automation in Google Ads are wide-ranging. To help you keep track of them, we've divided them into three categories:
1. Automated creative assets for flexible output
- Automated creation of text, image, and video assets
- Examples: formats such as Responsive Text and Responsive Display Ads, Dynamic Search Ads and auto-generated videos
2. Automated activation of campaigns
- Bidding strategies that utilize machine learning
- Automated targeting: proactively identifying appropriate target groups
- Paradigm shift in best practices regarding campaign setup and settings
3. Fully automated campaign concepts
A fully automated campaign setup is achieved by combining automated creatives and automated campaign control. Those who want to go one step further should automate the entire channel control.
- Minimal input is required, but options for monitoring and evaluating the campaign are severely limited
- Examples: App campaigns, Performance Max campaigns
Speech on "Clever automation for better performance marketing" by Sabrina Pantic, SOM Online Conference 2023
Google Ads automation in practice
What do these three areas of automation imply for practical application in Google Ads?
Changes in best practices in ad automation
For a long time, small-scale strategies with several individual campaigns that contained the greatest possible keyword variations and avoided broad match keywords were considered best practice. For some months now, a change has been emerging due to advancing automation possibilities. The trend is toward a Simplified Account Structure, where the number of campaigns is minimized and only one ad group per landing page is targeted. In addition, each campaign should also include a dynamic feature. The focus is also on "broad match catch-all" keywords - ones where there is no precise control over which keywords a company or product appears for.
This focus on Smart Bidding, i.e. no manual bids, means that the data is less fragmented and the bidding strategies can better learn. This approach is easier to handle and provides the algorithm with significantly more signals. However, the logical consequence is that campaigns can be controlled and implemented less precisely. Accordingly, the exclusion of certain keywords ("negative keywords") becomes all the more important.
Schematic illustration of a possible account structure according to the Simplified Account Structure approach. Source: own illustration
Time saving and revenue increase thanks to Simplified Account Structure
Based on the Simplified Account Structure approach and our experience, we designed a customized strategy for Lensvision to achieve revenue growth and greater efficiency. We merged numerous ad groups, which were previously divided into individual match types. This created an efficient setup that fostered further growth and achieved a 260% year-over-year increase in revenue. Simultaneously, the time previously spent on manual campaign management was significantly reduced.
Switch to Performance Max campaign minimizes costs and increases conversions
Webrepublic supported a retail client with a fully automated campaign concept: the switch from Smart Shopping to Performance Max went smoothly. Performance Max combines the various automation technologies by combining Smart Bidding, Budget Optimization, Audiences, Creatives, and Attribution across all Google channels (YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps) in one campaign. Year over year, ads played in 2022 gained both efficiency and relevance: The cost-to-revenue ratio was reduced by almost 50%, while the conversion rate increased by almost 30%.
In this case, the switch to Performance Max achieved very good results, but it is (unfortunately) not a one-size-fits-all solution for all business cases. In the next section, you’ll learn when the use of automation makes sense, and when it doesn't.
Google Ads automation - these are the points you should consider
1. The use of automation must be aligned with the company's own business case
Ensure that the automation is tailored to your needs: Is brand control a high priority for you? Is your focus on performance? Depending on the priority, a different approach to automation is recommended.
Remember: Automation alone is not a strategy. On the contrary: A sensible use should be derived from the strategy and the objective.
Matrix for the classification of automation according to the needs of a brand / a company. Source: own illustration
2. The quality of the data has a significant influence on automation processes
Data quality and purposefulness of the signals determine the success of all automated measures. The more signals and data points are available, the more effectively machine learning can be used. Therefore, a well-thought-out measurement concept and a clean tracking setup are an absolute must.
3. Correctly set-up tests are mandatory
Automated formats or bidding strategies require not only qualitative but also quantitative data. It is essential that tests are set up correctly and carried out with sufficient volume and runtime. We recommend A/B testing or experiment setups with control groups, e.g. with different geo-targeting.
4. Automation can facilitate many processes, but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution
For the correct handling of automation and its targeted use, a critical and realistic examination of the topic is indispensable. You should ask yourself the following questions: What does automation mean for your company? Where does it help you achieve your goals, and where does it not? What can be read from the data, and what cannot? What can you influence and how?
Automation processes in the area of Google Ads are more diverse than ever, will play an even greater role in the future, and can mean significant time and resource savings for companies. And if implemented correctly, they can even improve performance. Nevertheless, you should not immediately rely completely on smart campaigns, but develop an individual approach for your business case.