Last month, I covered a checklist for SEM success and made the point that great AdWords management requires a lot of hard work. Luckily, there are ways you can automate some of the 26 steps in my checklist.
While I’ve covered many of the techniques for automation in my previous posts about AdWords Scripts, there are a few new features in AdWords that are worth checking out if you’re looking for ways to make managing the day-to-day just a little bit easier.
Custom columns were quietly launched in December 2014 to little fanfare, even though I think this is one of the more useful new additions to the AdWords interface in a long time.
While it’s not as significant as a product like Shopping Campaigns, it is exciting because it makes managing accounts a whole lot easier. Let me explain…
Say you’re tracking multiple types of conversions in your account, like orders and newsletter signups. Before Custom Columns, the only way to see which campaigns drove which type of conversion was by using the “Segments” button. While this showed the data, it also cluttered up the screen with lots of old conversion types I don’t use anymore.
Because segments add additional data in new rows, and because the sorting is done on the total number of all conversions, it offers no quick way to see which campaign has driven the most newsletter signups.
When looking at segmented data, it’s also not possible to filter the view –for example, to see just campaigns that have at least 10 newsletter signups and an average CPA below my target.
The custom columns feature changes all that by making it possible to create new columns in the interface that contain just the one piece of data you want to see.
In my example below, I use it to show a new column for newsletter signups and another one for just orders. I no longer have to look at all my defunct conversions just to see the two I really care about.
Now, instead of cluttering up my screen with rows of data for segments, the data I want to see are shown in columns — that means less filtering and sorting work, letting me further refine my view into the data I need to make decisions.
So, how is this relevant to automation? The trick is that columns can be used in AdWords’ Automated Rules.
You may already be familiar with creating automated rules that pause or enable ads, or change bids based on metrics like clicks, impressions and CPAs; but now, you can make these rules work with new metrics that are based on your own custom columns.
The example I’ve shown also works at the ad group and keyword levels, so you could set up an automated rule that decreases a bid or notifies you via email if a keyword’s cost exceeds some limit without driving any orders.
Even if the keyword has a lot of newsletter signups which are added to the total conversions column, now I can set my automations to use just the right segment of data that makes the most sense.
The AdWords Scripts team has been busy building new capabilities that don’t get the attention they deserve.
Recently, the team launched Bid Strategy support in Scripts, as well as several advanced service integrations that open up a plethora of new possibilities.
While AdWords’ automated bid management is by no means perfect, you can’t beat the price (free!), and it works very well so long as you keep an eye on it and are ready to intervene as needed.
For example, I’ve found it sometimes gets confused during periods of conversion rate fluctuations due to seasonality. By the time it figures out what’s happening, the seasonal opportunity may already have ended, and the bids may not have been adequate to capitalize on the opportunity.
Here’s how we deal with bid management at the agency where I’m a partner, SalesX:
We let Google’s strategies handle the granular bid decisions at auction time, but we frequently evaluate the performance of each keyword and ad group and assign them to the most appropriate bid strategy.
A keyword that is picking up conversion momentum gets assigned to more and more aggressive bid strategies so that we can capture its full potential. On the flipside, a declining keyword will get assigned to less aggressive strategies until its performance falls in line with the ROAS expectations.
The problem until now has been that all of this work had to be done manually because bid strategies weren’t covered by AdWords Scripts – but now, AdWords Scripts support Bid Strategies.
Applying a bid strategy is as simple as changing a setting through a script. This means that if you already have a script that automates things like assigning a label to an ad group, it would take exactly one line of code to make that same script able to set bid strategies.
This line that sets a label:
could be changed to this line that assigns a bid strategy:
Unfortunately, bid strategies can only be set down to the ad group level, so there remains a significant amount of manual work. But at least, it’s one fewer thing we need to do manually.
The Scripts team also recently made available a way to connect with advanced Google APIs through Scripts. The supported APIs include Google Analytics, YouTube, BigQuery, Prediction, Calendar and Tasks.
The integration with BigQuery and Prediction opens up some really interesting possibilities like predicting which keywords may do well for a massive account. However, if you’re thinking about those integrations, chances are your company has enough engineers that you could have built this solution with an API integration.
The advanced services that I think are more immediately relevant to marketers who aren’t coders are Calendar and Tasks.
With the Calendar integration, you can use Google Calendar to keep a list of upcoming sales and promotions and connect that with your AdWords campaigns. This means your AdWords bids could automatically be raised the day a sale starts and then lowered at the end of the sale period.
This automation is especially powerful if you’re working on a team where different people are in charge of the promotional calendar and managing AdWords. Now, the promotions team can use a simple tool like Calendar to add its data, and then the AdWords Script team can ensure the right changes are made in AdWords.
You no longer need to give AdWords access to someone who’s not intimately familiar with it, and you no longer risk missing a promotion because the AdWords team and the promotions team had a lapse in communication.
There’s another new, advanced API integration that can help ensure you don’t miss a beat when managing accounts: Google Tasks. This provides an alternative to using a project management tool to maintain a list of tasks that can be assigned to different owners and tracked to completion.
An integration of Tasks with AdWords could be useful if you have a checklist of tasks that need to be done when certain conditions are met.
Here’s an example: say that you always want to make sure all ad groups are doing A/B ad testing. You could find, or write, a simple script that looks for ad groups with only one ad text variation, and with just a few small tweaks make the script add a new task for every ad group that needs to be updated with more ad text variants.
Not all AdWords launches get a lot of attention, but these three are worth taking a look at in more detail if you want to automate your AdWords routines: Custom Columns used for Automated Rules, Scripts integration with Google Calendar, and Scripts for Google Tasks.
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