PPC Automation

PPC marketing is now officially in the new age of automation.

Machine learning and automation are the future of PPC, whether we like it or not.

Every major PPC platform, from Google to Facebook, is fully embracing automation, and manual optimizations are becoming a thing of the past. 

We’re moving toward a future where humans have less technical involvement in PPC, and where automation & machine learning takes over to drive more efficiency.  

The Shift Towards Automation

There's been a steady shift towards automation in PPC marketing over the last few years.

It used to be that marketers would implement very technical optimizations in order to target their audience based on geography, interests, age and a whole host of other factors.

The truth is, most of these manual optimizations are now completely redundant. 

The machine learning and AI capabilities of major advertising platforms like Google and Facebook are now so advanced that their algorithms can find your target audience for you, without much manual intervention required.

AI is now at a stage where it's significantly more powerful at processing information that any living human. 

As marketers, this means we must now embrace automation as a technology, and use it to our advantage.

What is PPC automation?

PPC automation graphic

PPC automation involves using tools, platforms & technology to completely automate certain aspects of PPC advertising and Google ads.

Many PPC automations right now are AI-driven, with the key idea being that AI and machine learning is significantly better than any human (even the smartest of us) at optimizing PPC campaigns for improved performance. 

In fact, most of the major ad platforms like Google ads and Facebook ads have been rolling out AI-driven PPC automations to their platforms for years, and this trend will only continue.

The Benefits of PPC Automation

There's some very clear benefits to automations within PPC marketing, let's get into them.

How PPC automation improves performance

1) Saves Time

Before any PPC automation existed, it was the responsibility of marketers to identify target demographics, audience behaviors, and preferences.

We literally had to tell the advertising platforms exactly who we wanted to target, in granular detail.

In addition to this, we had to constantly update our bidding strategies to remain competitive, and work through mind-numbing amounts of spreadsheet data just to stay profitable.

Automation completely removes these repetitive tasks, using an AI system that never makes mistakes, and never gets tired.

This allows marketers to focus on the more important high-level tasks involved in a successful PPC campaign.

2) Improves Performance

Analyzing PPC campaign performance and adjusting strategies accordingly used to take forever. 

You'd need a very strong and data-driven PPC marketer in order to make optimal adjustments, and small companies just lacked the resources to perform in-depth analysis.

With PPC automation, you now have a situation where platforms like Google ads will automatically let you know which are the areas of biggest concern and why your campaigns may be underperforming.

3) Automation is Goal-Driven

PPC Goal Driven Automation

The most beautiful thing about most PPC automations within Google ads, is that they are 100% goal-driven.

What does this mean?

It means you can literally tell Google what your goal is, and let machine-learning work towards that goal.

For example, if you're running PPC campaigns for an Ecommerce brand and you tell Google Ads that you want to acquire new customers for a target ROAS of 4.00, then their system will automatically work towards that goal! 

4) AI Learns Over Time

AI and machine learning algorithms continuously learn and improve over time as you feed them more data.

Imagine a staff member with the following attributes:

  • With an IQ of 1,000. 
  • Never takes days off (or minutes off). 
  • Never makes mistakes.
  • Can analyze 1000s of data-points in seconds to optimize your PPC campaigns.

The truth is, a human is just never going to be as powerful as an AI-driven algorithm when it comes to optimizing PPC campaigns.

5) Growth & Scale

PPC automation is completely geared toward growth & scale. 

There's a couple of key benefits to automation in this regard: 

  • Automation allows marketers to manage larger and more complex campaigns without a proportional increase in workload.
  • You can discover new keywords, audiences, and ad formats that drive growth because you can tell the 'machine' to work towards a goal, rather than just running random experiments and hoping for the best.

Top PPC Automations In Practice

Let's dive into some of the specific tasks that are commonly automated now within PPC marketing.

1) Smart Bidding

Smart Bidding

Smart bidding is another name for Google's automated, AI-driven bidding strategies.

It used to be that marketers would manually set their desired maximum bid for their keywords. 

But with smart bidding, you don't set any bids manually other than your overall budget. 

Instead, you set one of the following goals:

  1. Maximize Conversions - The automated bidding system will aim to get you as many conversions as possible with your budget. 
  2. Target CPA - The automated bidding system will aim to acquire new customers at a price set by you. 
  3. Target ROAS - The automated bidding system will make sure that your return on ad spend matches a level set by you, and means you can keep your campaigns profitable. 
  4. Maximize Conversion Value - The automated bidding system will find conversions with the highest value (aka the best customers) within your budget. 

2) Keyword Expansion

Broad match keyword expansion

Traditionally speaking, most PPC marketers were absolutely obsessed with using tight, exact-match keywords.

But that is slowly starting to change.

Google ads in particular is pushing "broad match" keyword campaigns more and more with each passing year. This is a more hands-off, automated campaign type where you're essentially letting Google select the keywords for you.

Allowing broad audience parameters allows marketers to find more efficient conversions, by allowing machine learning to discover the best impressions for your advert.

Experimentation is key here 🔑

Allowing AI 🤖 to process as much data as possible is going to help us uncover wins we didn’t know existed.

Too many restrictions to keywords can negatively impact the machines ability to serve ad to the best possible people.

It's actually often advantageous now to use broad match keywords for many campaigns that want to achieve scale, for the following key reasons:

  1. Broad match will show your ads for a much broader range of keywords that you didn't know may be profitable.
  2. Those keywords will often be much cheaper than the highly competitive exact-match terms.
  3. Google uses a ton of unique signals within broad-match campaigns that they don't use in other campaigns. These include your landing pages and the user's previous searches. 
  4. This allows Google to find customers that are much more likely to convert, even if they search for a seemingly low-intent keyword.
  5. Eventually, advertisers looking to scale their PPC account have no option but to use broad match campaigns in order to find more customers.

3) Audience Expansion (Performance Max)

performance max

Google ads introduced performance max in 2022, which allows advertisers to access all of their advertising inventory (search, display, YouTube, Gmail etc.) from a single campaign.

And what's more impressive, is that Performance Max is 100% automated.

This is clearly a huge win for advertisers - Because now you can expand campaigns to reach your audience pretty much everywhere around the internet from a single campaign type that's running on autopilot.

Right now it's much more efficient to use Performance Max for Ecommerce advertisers, and actually many Ecommerce advertisers are seeing significantly better returns from this campaign type compared to standard shopping campaigns.

Automation has changed where we should deliver ads.

For example, it’s true that Google display network ad clicks might be 90% less valuable than search ads. But if Google’s AI is adjusting our bid to be 95% cheaper then it could still be a very profitable bid to make.

If a given ad auction has a predicted conversion rate above 0.00% then in theory, it’s always worth bidding on.

The cherry 🍒 on top:

Because a lot of PPC managers opt out from bidding on search partner clicks, this can allow us to capture that traffic at a cheaper discount!

4) Testing & Experiments

PPC testing

Of course, humans still need to come up with the ideas on what to experiment, but automation can do the heavy lifting in terms of running things on autopilot and giving us the results. 

Here's just a few ways that automation helps in this regard:

  1. You can test broad match vs. exact match campaign performance with ease inside Google experiments.
  2. You can get really 'meta' and actually test each of the automated bidding strategies against each other! This allows you to quickly discover the best strategy, and it's a completely automatic, hands-off experiment.
  3. RSAs (responsive search ads) automatically optimize the best possible headline from a large combination.
  4. Google will let you test performance max, their new AI-driven campaign type, against any of your other advertising campaigns to see if you get an uplift in results. You can set this up automatically in a matter of minutes via the experiments tab in Google ads.

Read more about PPC tests & experiments in this guide.

5) Predictive Analytics

Predictive Analytics step by step process

Predictive analytics is the 'crystal ball' that lets advertising platforms like Facebook & Google identify customers who may be ready to convert.

Here's how it works:

  1. It takes a huge amount of historical data on users behavior.
  2. It mixes that it with thousands of other factors like the weather, location, time of day, device etc.
  3. It also leverages the existing data within your advertising account.

With all of this data, it can essentially predict the future, spotting subtle relationships between the data from individual customers and using all of this to target the right person at the right time.

This part is all very complex, but the important takeaway here is simply to know that predictive analytics is what helps the advertising algorithm to find users more likely to convert.

In The Age Of Automation, What Should Humans Focus On?

Human marketer vs AI marketer

It may sound like we're telling you that PPC automation is going to take over 100% and that humans are no longer required, but that's not the case.

Here's a list of things that real human PPC managers should be focus on in the age of automation:

  1. Post-Click Experience - I'm putting this at number 1 because it's by far the most important. Absolutely no advertising platform has any say whatsoever in the post-click experience of your website. It doesn't matter if the World's most advanced, superhuman AI is running your Google ads campaign - If a customer lands up on a bad website with terrible messaging, they're not going to convert. 
  2. Lead Nurturing - This follows on from the above point. Real humans have to be the ones that implement processes and sales teams to actually take leads from the point of discovering your brand to actually buying from you. So setting up email flows, remarketing campaigns, conversion rate optimization and ensuring that sales are making the most of those leads is all part of the process for the modern PPC manager. 
  3. Strategic Planning - We still need humans to set overall campaign goals, come up with new offers to attract customers and identify new market opportunities. Additionally, you must work closely with the operations & sales side of the business to ensure that marketing is providing the 'right' amount of new customers to the business. 
  4. Data Validation - The biggest problem right now with automations and algorithms is that they're 100% goal driven. So if you tell an algorithm to go and get you as many conversions as possible, it will do that. The problem is that for many business in the lead-generation space where there's an initial enquiry then delay before purchase (think law firms and professional services) the algorithm does not care about lead quality. This means a real human has to validate and qualify leads that come in, and send that data back to the machine in order for it to find more of the good leads and less of the bad ones. 
  5. Ad Creative - Yes, some AI automation tools exist out there that claim to design beautiful ad creatives, and yes they are all still absolutely terrible. You cannot replace real human interaction and material like user-generated content, testimonials and authentic stories. So for the time being, it's still up to PPC marketers to lead the creative process. 
  6. Experiments & Testing - Yes, you can use automation to help speed up the testing process, but you still need a real human to come up with a hypotheses and put that into action. In fact, the very best marketers in the World test 10x more than anyone else for a reason - Testing is one of the most important things a marketer can do.

Proactive Mindset

Humans are still the most critical part of the puzzle when it comes to PPC marketing.

AI can only optimize based on existing data &  patterns

So if you've only ever run campaigns to mediocre landing pages and used weak offers to attract new customers - Then the machine is only going to be able to make very modest gains & improvements in performance.

But imagine you, the real human, all of sudden start experimenting with brilliant new offers & creating beautiful lead magnets that entices everyone to sign up on your website - You've just changed the game entirely.

You're now feeding the machine completely new data, and that's going to be far more impactful than any marginal gain that can be squeezed out by an automated algorithm.

So fear not, humans are still absolutely the masters of PPC.


There's no point in fighting automation and AI - it's clear these technologies are here to stay.

As PPC marketers, we should embrace the benefits of automation and consider them a blessing that allow us to focus on the more interesting and creative aspects of advertising. 

If this is a subject that interests you, I'd strongly recommend reading "Join or Die" - a book all about automation in advertising.

Stewart Dunlop