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Human vs Automated Paid Search

There is a question that many newer consumers of paid search products face: How much should I rely on automated tools for management and generation of paid search ads and keywords?

It’s one that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Both approaches have their pros and cons, and in my opinion, it’s likely to stay that way. While technologies may come closer and closer to reproducing the ‘gold standard’ of human judgment, accuracy for most automated numerical and natural language tasks continues to lag behind humans, at least for small to moderate paid search accounts.

This trend reverses when you are working with very high volume accounts (websites). When your paid search visit conversions are in, say, the thousands per campaign, you’ll have a better chance of benefiting from the automated tools. Imagine, for example, what you would pay X paid search professionals to manage 500 campaigns, each of which saw thousands of conversions.

Still, before you go about firing the humans and automating even big accounts, you should inform yourself about a tool’s constraints and abilities. Disambiguating important concepts that pertain to your market, for example, is a process where automated tools tend to lag behind. Advertising on the phrase ‘black leather belt’ that an automated tool deems relevant to your market, when you actually sell ‘black belt six sigma’ courses, is not money well spent. Know enough about the tools you use to prevent these types of mishaps.

Automated tools also may come with limits that prevent you from choosing the budgeting. Omniture’s SearchCenter, for example, requires optimization for a price per conversions, and can’t be capped at a specific level per month, to spread out over a month. Naturally, clicks can’t be guaranteed at any given time, but tools that allow the maximum flexibility of budgeting, such as capping and distributing evenly as possible, are the most useful. Sometimes it just isn’t possible to take the market by storm, even if there might be potential customers out there.

Whether automated or human, paid search management requires some ability to detect anomalies, and to hold on spending when highly unlikely patterns suddenly lead to large spending. Find out whether automated tools are equipped to self-pause, or whether your human paid search manager will be accountable on off-hours for period checks on spending.

In short, human search is a tremendously valuable approach, especially when supported by automated mechanisms. This is particularly true now, as more and more affordable and even free automated tools exist, such as   Google Adwords’ Keyword Tool, Google Adwords Desktop Editor, Google Insights for Search, Keyword Discovery, and Google’s Bid Management tool Conversion Optimizer.

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3 Responses to "Human vs Automated Paid Search"

  • Nick
    June 17, 2009 - 10:33 am Reply

    No eye like the human eye! Human monitoring and intuitive decision making can never be replaced.

  • Adam
    August 30, 2009 - 6:57 pm Reply

    In addition to automation (however limited this might be), one of the other advantages of the tools is extensive feature sets. Whether its keyword suggestions, creative testing/optimization, etc., tools can provide a strong competitive edge. Most of them probably aren’t trying to automate paid search fully (i.e., take the human element out), but rather to give paid search professionals better tools to run their campaigns with greater efficiency and effectiveness.

  • CLICK Paid Search
    February 2, 2010 - 8:20 pm Reply

    When it comes to paid search it’s all about ROI. It would be difficult for an automated paid search system currently to monitor, identify, and proactively react to different ad campaign’s failing and succeeding. Though, once automated SEO is perfected and implemented (which it is currently) the only next logical step for big investors would be automated paid search.

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