Selecting a Paid Search Agency – Automation vs. Human Judgment

When selecting an agency to handle your Paid Search marketing there are, of course, many important factors to consider. These range from management fees to the agency’s record of success.

This post will cover a topic that is many times overlooked by in-house marketing teams during the decision making process and should definitely be an important factor in your evaluation of prospective Paid Search agencies. This is the topic of automated account management.

Many SEMs use automation as a selling point, touting that the software’s ‘algorithm’ learns and makes campaign decisions based on a set of predefined goals. There are many Paid Search activities that can be automated. Some tasks perfectly fit the automation model, many have pros and cons, but others can severely stunt the long-term growth of your campaigns.

Keyword research is one SEM activity that many agencies automate, at least to some degree. Automation makes keyword report generation and data gathering much more efficient. Beware of agencies who claim that they fully automate keyword research. If they do, clarify to make sure that they aren’t automating keyword selection and implementation. Oneupweb uses several different sources to gather data regarding keyword selection and traffic volumes. All keyword research services will provide both highly targeted keywords as well as keywords that shouldn’t ever go into a search campaign. Without human intervention & decision making there’s a good chance that these poor keyword choices will end up spending your budget with little to no return.

Another Paid Search activity that is often automated is bid management. Automated bid management has pros and cons. Both automated and manual methods can be effective by using the right strategies. One bidding strategy will not be effective for every business, nor every business vertical. Make sure that the agency you select has a specific bid management strategy in mind that is custom to your goals, competitive environment, and overall business objectives. No bid management solution can be effective using a cookie cutter approach.

Ad copy development and testing can easily be automated, though the result is usually less than desirable. The result of automated ad copy construction is usually an ad template with keyword insertion and a generic tagline or offer. Just search for a keyword related to any product that either Target.com or Ebay.com would sell. You’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. High quality (high converting) ad copy will accurately describe the product/service, speak to a searcher’s desired benefits, and disqualify low quality searchers. This result is achieved through creative decision making and testing. Automated systems can run ad tests but cannot think critically about a competitive environment then make decisions based on your competitors’ weaknesses.

Automated SEM programs cannot determine why something isn’t working and correct it. All automation can do is determine that a keyword or ad isn’t performing and then take it offline. This type of action can severely hinder the long-term health of a Paid Search campaign. It’s common to see the competitive environment change frequently, and it’s important to have the ability to recognize the reason for the change, learn, and counter it. This is vitally successful for long-term growth and campaign scalability.

Make sure you select an agency that intelligently combines automation with creative problem solving and consulting.

Editor’s Note: Surprise! Oneupweb provides Paid Search Marketing Services that work just as Adam describes in the previous paragraph. Check us out.