With more and more budget being directed towards digital media, the PPC auction is becoming ever more competitive, making it a tough world for digital marketers. Could Artificial Intelligence (AI) be the answer?
Today, AI is making great strides forwards, as computer processing power is at last able to afford experts in the field the opportunity to deploy increasingly sophisticated AI programs. We’re still a way off what is known as “general” AI; essentially the ambition to create robots that think, feel or behave like humans. However, ‘narrow’ AI is being seen more and more regularly in everyday life. Narrow AI isn’t about chasing sentience (although it is to some extent on the path to this), but applying AI to specific problems, such as directing efficient PPC spend.
So how can AI work in this field? This guide explores five ways AI can improve your PPC and aims to give some insights on how AI can drive lead generation or sales, reduce cost per lead or per sale, free up your time to focus on other tasks and take your business to the next level.
1. It decides if you should bid on your own brand terms
Some brands are still unsure about whether to bid on their own brand terms. Typically, this decision comes down to a number of factors, including monitoring competitor behaviour (are they bidding on your brand terms?) and SEO performance for those terms. For some brands, they choose always to bid on their brand terms, irrespective of the CPC and resultant ROI, in order to ensure maximum brand protection. However, this isn’t always viable, particularly for challenger brands in highly competitive markets. For brands with good PPC management, they may already be doing well here. Where AI can add value is that it automatically and optimally ensures efficient use of budget against set ROI targets. It can also be given set parameters to work within, or report on, whether it is necessary to bid on brand terms, if that is one of the parameters. Essentially, when using AI, it’s no longer necessary to ensure the PPC team is up to scratch on this score, as the AI does it for you.
The AI is always on, always checking things like competitor behaviour and performance against targets, always reacting in real time to market changes. Always ensuring efficiency and effectiveness.
2. It decides if you should bid on your competitor’s brand terms
Of course, the same methodology can be applied in reverse. For some brands, to compete using competitor brand terms would go against their brand so much that the performance gained isn’t worth the perceived losses in brand positioning, even if logically they are in the same space. Again, the AI can be set parameters in which to work for those concerned about this. But for others, where performance outweighs all other considerations, the AI can be given free rein to spot opportunities and bid to beat the competition at every turn. That may result in some counter-intuitive terms, but the AI will only ever do what it does based on evidence of previous successes. And should the competitor (or competitors) “wake up” and drive up CPC for a particular term, such that it ends up detrimentally lowering ROI, the AI will spot this too and adjust its strategy accordingly.
AI is especially powerful here as it can assess endless variants in real time, which unless competitors are also running automated AI software, is likely to result in significant gains as it’s a task that no solely human team could possibly keep pace with.
3. It can automatically manage PPC in multiple regional locations
For brands with complex business requirements across digital and physical store presences, running PPC campaigns that keep pace with the demands of national presence as well as being tailored to individual store requirements can for some be overwhelming. And while many a complex PPC campaign exists that does this well, for AI, handling this complexity is a breeze. Reactions to local changes such as capacity, opening times, local competition, local demand spikes, local search behaviour and so on, happen instantaneously. This ensures every nuance in every campaign for every store or every variable is handled simultaneously in real time.
4. It expands your keyphrase universe
Without the use of more sophisticated tools, the number of keywords and phrases in campaigns may be kept to a small, manageable number, which can be reductive and based on our own cognitive bias about ‘what will work’, our own need to ‘organise’ and our limited capacity to implement, test and evolve.
And even where sophisticated tools are doing a good job, integrated AI will still have the edge as it is free from any cognitive bias or the limitations of any human intervention to discover and test new terms. It is able to perform the task constantly, moving instantly with consumer trends and competitor activity to find as much of the market as possible.
5. It drives relentless bid management efficiencies
Finally, the key difference AI offers is its ability to learn. You don’t program AI where it follows lines of code to a known logical conclusion, you train it on the success criteria and outcomes you are looking for and it learns what works and what doesn’t. And it does this in a fraction of the time it would typically take to deploy test and learn processes.
AI pursues an unlimited number of strategies to achieve your objectives and optimise according to CPL, CPA, margin, ROI, customer value, stock levels or whatever other factors are important to your particular business, as long as it can access the relevant data. It makes infinite numbers of bid adjustments to chase available opportunities for growth and efficiency to meet commercial objectives.
Is AI for me?
AI is never far from the news these days. With countless examples of where AI has taught itself complex tasks, and the wider debate rages on about things we humans worry about, such as job security, being unable to see the inner workings and safety (in this case perhaps brand safety). All of which are valid concerns, but in this case, ones that we can address. Fundamentally, there are brands out there already embracing AI in this field and, more importantly, benefitting from it significantly. Which means others are losing out.