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Has Google Completely Removed the Human Element From PPC Management?

Advertisers have always been wary of the looming presence of Google automating all of paid search; selfishly, we ask ourselves, will it replace our own paid search jobs? As the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning continues to build, let’s investigate if these recent paid search updates by Google really mean that actual people aren’t needed for PPC any longer.

Back in Q4 2014, Google’s made their first attempt at providing and implementing extensions on paid search campaigns with Automatic Ad Extensions, in essence making decisions on delivering PPC extensions in place of human manager decisions. Since iProspect manages sitelinks, callouts and structured snippets in order to meet advertisers’ needs for customized ad extensions that support frequently changing product messaging, the threat of automation is minimal.

When Google launched Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) in Q3 2015, it was their initial attempt at completing a search marketer’s “entire job” by writing ad copy and determining the best landing page by leveraging insights from analyzing advertisers’ websites. While DSA does have the potential to completely replace traditional paid search campaigns, it does require strong SEO best practices and must strategically implement negatives, audiences, targeting, etc.

Google later followed with Close Variant Matching in Q1 2017, which updates to search query matching to capture traffic previously limited by matching definitions. While the time savings improve the overall process for keyword management, PPC marketers must still provide strategic selection and interpretation of base keywords.

Next up, their 2017 Enhanced CPCs (eCPC) was the first bid strategy to leverage query level data exclusively available to Google. While eCPC has less proven performance vs. traditional bid strategies, we are excited about its ability to integrate query level data into an automated bid strategy. Automated bid strategies have become commonplace and still require paid search marketers’ oversight to align with ever-changing client goals and new data sources of truth to power the strategy.

Discreetly announced in late 2017, 2x Daily Budget Flex was the first evidence of Google using AI to better predict and forecast peak periods and low periods of search activity and dynamically shifting daily budgets to accommodate projections. While this update was met with great skepticism from advertisers, but Google has proven that its forecast adjusted automated budget has provided a better budget management experience and has been swift to issue automatic credit with no issues when overspend occurs. Ultimately, this update is a time saver and isn’t a serious threat to SEM marketers.

Earlier this year, Google’s most recent attempt to provide stronger, more compelling ad copy than human PPC managers was with Responsive Search Ads (RSA); these set up numerous headline and description line options to test and provide the highest performing ad copy unit. While the first iteration of RSA still requires human input since PPC marketers write the ads, the future state may include Google writing the ad units which would take control away from advertisers. However, strategic oversight from the paid search marketer is still required to align with ever-changing business objectives and messaging such as promotions, priority markets and brand voice initiatives.

From search to selection to purchase to fulfillment, Shop On Google is their first attempt circumvent the advertiser’s landing page experience by providing their own consumer experience available entirely within their platform. While Google is optimistic that this new approach will drive more conversions, will advertisers be able to offset additional costs by using Shop On Google when compared to site direct conversions? If Google can provide a similar/better experience than advertisers, then the role of advertisers’ websites could be greatly reduced. However, the PPC marketer is still needed to provide the pre-conversion steps of path to purchase and the strategic approach.

So what does this all mean?  While the day-to-day management of paid search is constantly streamlined with automation, advertisers still have the upper hand by providing their own strategic thinking. AI and Machine Learning continue to optimize but they’re based on current metrics and do not have the capability to adapt to new client goals and strategy. Paid search managers, don’t worry. You won’t be out of a job anytime soon.