May 3 2019 Courtney Danyel Blog Search Strategy How Much PPC Technology Do Advertisers Really Need? Most PPC marketers today would agree that technology is the key to success in 2019 and beyond. Today, there are countless PPC Martech tools available that can help marketers manage, optimize, and grow their advertising efforts. With the PPC Martech landscape growing year after year, though, the possibilities are becoming overwhelming. Scott Brinker of ChiefMarTec creates a now-famous annual supergraphic summarizing the number and category of Martech solutions available each year. The 2019 version includes 7,040 options, up from a mere 150 in 2011. As more Martech solutions become available, the problem is no longer if you should use PPC technology to enhance your efforts, but which solutions you use. Some combinations of tools are likely to be more effective, more valuable, and less costly to businesses, helping them get ahead of the competition. Even ignoring the rest of your Martech stack and just looking at PPC technology, there are still many tools that could be relevant for success. Categories include (but are not limited to): Digital analytics tools Google ads and paid search analysis tools Data management platforms Website interaction and UX tools Landing page creation and testing tools Digital asset management tools Marketing Cloud, CRM, and campaign management tools All marketers need to carefully build a Martech stack of compatible technologies that work together to help them reach their business goals. PPC marketers, in particular, have some critical choices to make regarding a new category of technologies driven by artificial intelligence (AI). These are poised to change not only the number and type of technologies required but also how advertising efforts are managed overall. The Growth of AI PPC Management Artificial intelligence has been around as an idea and a technology for more than half a century, while PPC is one of the oldest digital marketing strategies on the internet. So why has AI PPC management only just recently become an important topic? The answer lies in exponential growth in technological capabilities. When AI was first integrated into PPC management technology, applications and potential were limited. Fast forward to 2019 and AI is now so useful to PPC management that it became essential before many businesses even realized they truly needed it. Take Google Ads, for example. Google is one of the earlier embracers of AI, actively seeking out new ways to incorporate it into their advertising platform. A few years ago their AI-powered solutions were optional; rarely-used beta features for novice advertisers who needed help to optimize their campaigns. Now, Google’s Smart campaigns are the default campaign type. Many in the industry today argue that AI-driven features easily outperform optimizations a PPC manager could make manually. Applications of AI and Machine Learning PPC Management To understand just how essential AI PPC management is for your PPC Martech stack, just consider the applications. AI can serve many important roles in PPC campaign creation, optimization, and more: 1. Targeting Audiences and Keywords AI and machine learning PPC technology can learn from search practices, demographics, web browsing behavior, and other relevant data points to identify which audience targeting strategies are likely to convert. It can also deduce the value of certain keywords to help determine which queries lead to the most conversions. Using this knowledge, AI can automate keyword and audience targeting decisions for you. 2. Automated Bidding By inferring the inherent value of keywords to meet specific marketing goals, bidding technology can calculate the optimal cost-per-click for keywords and implement this bidding strategy automatically. Using historical performance and market data, it can also surface performance opportunities in real-time, automatically adjusting bids to take advantage of them. Automating bidding rather than relying on manual adjustments from PPC managers reduces wasted ad spend and improves campaign efficiency, freeing up more budget for other advertising initiatives. 3. Forecasting Future Performance Using predictive analytics models and learning from past performance, machine learning technology can effectively predict the future performance of your bid policies. There are many solutions that can forecast performance up to 100 days into the future. Forecasting is a valuable tool for PPC managers who want to either understand the outcomes of new strategies before testing them out, or illustrate PPC potential to clients and business leaders, or both. 4. Improving Ad Re-targeting AI can drive insights from diverse sets of data about your audience and prospects, using it to improve retargeting efforts. For example, call tracking and analytics solutions can use call tracking data to identify offline leads and better retarget them online. AI-powered call tracking can also identify when conversions happen in real-time. Then it can automatically stop retargeting efforts for leads that converted, even when the purchase was made offline. 5. Addressing Performance Issues PPC management technology driven by AI can identify performance issues and make the necessary changes to minimize their impact. For example, if an ad starts performing poorly, AI will flag and pause the ad, giving PPC managers time to diagnose and fix the problem. Continuing to bid on a misbehaving ad, even for a short while, can impact your quality score and waste valuable advertising budget. AI offers a safety net to help advertisers minimize the impact of account or campaign issues on performance. 6. Creating and Improving Ad Creative AI can automatically improve your PPC ads as well as targeting. Google’s Dynamic Search Ads feature is a great example of how AI can help you create the most relevant and effective ads. Dynamic Search Ads refer to your product landing pages then automatically generate relevant headlines and subheadlines based on your page copy. Machine learning can then test out different headline/subheadline combinations and identify which ad copy combination is most effective when it comes to driving clicks and conversions. ~ These are just a few examples of the growing number of AI applications for PPC management today. AI can also help with competitor analysis, identifying growth opportunities, split testing, scenario modeling, and many other important tasks. Should You Invest in AI-Enhanced PPC Advertising? All these AI-enhanced PPC advertising benefits are powerful reasons for PPC marketers to add this key technology to their Martech stack. But it still leaves two important questions unanswered: Which AI PPC management technology should you invest in? How much of a role should PPC technology play in your advertising efforts? The answers to these questions depend on a number of factors and the goals laid out for your business. For many CMOs today, investment in technology is high enough before even considering expensive machine learning PPC solutions. Indeed, according to Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2018-19, chief marketing officers are spending significantly more on marketing technology year after year. In 2018, Martech made up nearly one-third of CMO budgets. Google Ads already offers a variety of free AI-powered solutions that PPC managers can take advantage of without breaking the bank. On the other hand, though, paid third-party solutions offer unique value that can improve your PPC Martech stack even more: 1. More Features Google Ads’ AI solutions are more limited in capabilities and scope. Look at Google Ads automated bidding, for example. It draws on market and audience data from the Google network to make informed bidding decisions for advertisers, yet the business world isn’t limited to Google properties. Third-party automated bidding solutions can draw on relevant business and market data from across the web to make smarter automated bidding decisions. 2. More Compatibility If you prioritize choosing a PPC technology that’s compatible with other key tools you use, you’re able to avoid PPC Martech overload. It’s possible to minimize the number of technologies needed to optimize your PPC campaigns when you use a comprehensive solution. For example, the ability of some third-party bid optimization technologies to aggregate, analyze and optimize based on all relevant business data eliminates the need for additional data analysis tools to derive insights. 3. More Customization A big challenge advertisers face is deciding how much of a role AI and automation should play in their PPC strategy. Google Ads offers options to partially and fully automate different aspects of PPC campaigns, but when you allow automation to fully run your optimization strategy, you have less control over what kind of goals to optimize towards. Third-party automation technologies tend to offer more customization options, giving you more control over how you use automation. Advanced analytics and forecasting capabilities give you the control you need to make strategic optimization decisions while benefiting from full automation. You can also set automation technology to work towards more specific and nuanced key performance indicators that are unique to your business goals. Third-party options for AI PPC management require financial investment, but their benefits and features offer more growth potential in turn. Improving the efficiency of your budget spend and the effectiveness of your campaigns allows you to invest more in new initiatives, growing revenue, and offsetting the cost of PPC Martech in the process. The Bottom Line How much PPC technology advertisers need really depends on their unique business goals and budget. The key to building an effective PPC Martech stack that brings ROI is balancing the number of tools you use and the value they offer as a whole. If you just keep adding on new PPC technology to a growing list of necessary tools, you’re going to end up spending far too much of your budget on technology without seeing worthwhile results. Instead, always be on the lookout for comprehensive solutions that cover different business needs. And remember that AI-enhanced PPC advertising technology is essential for businesses that want to improve performance, save time, and stay ahead of the competition in 2019 and beyond. ~ To learn more about how you can drive improved PPC performance through Centro’s automated technologies, connect with our digital media experts today.