Search Supplement – Automation

Navrit Johal

A More Human Touch on Automation

Automation is amongst the most hotly debated topics in Paid Search today.

I have been a PPC agency specialist since 2010 and have seen first-hand how automation is rapidly changing the lives of people like me. Whilst opinions differ as to which direction this will take, one thing, which I think everyone does agree on, is that automation is only set to change how we work ever further.

The benefits of automation are clear. With the advent of automated reporting and bidding functions, we can now analyse PPC performance immediately, providing better insights and using machine learning that allows us to optimise in a smarter way than humans are able to. The impact on PPC specialists however, to whom manual reporting, making bid changes and writing ad copy has been at the core of their role, is less clear.

Friend or Foe?

Amongst my industry friends and colleagues, understanding how we can adapt to the changes that automation is driving is a hot topic of conversation and the variety of perspectives wide. I recently attended a Google Firestarters event covering ‘The Powers and Perils of Automation’ and the discussions clearly highlighted how some practitioners view automation as a potentially troublesome threat, whilst there are others who have fully embraced automation’s role in the future of PPC and are successfully adapting their roles to facilitate greater automation by learning coding and developing scripts, for example.

On the ADSTAGE Blog, Dave Walker, founder of Segmatic, a PPC tool, believes that “Automation is essential to everything we do in PPC.” However, he has also said “Paid Search can be split into 2 parts. Strategy and Execution. I don’t expect strategy to be ever fully automated.” In an old blog post from 2008 on the Testing Google Blog, Patricia Legaspi, Test Engineering Manager, mentions the term “Partial Automation” and states “Ideally, complete or total automation would not require any human intervention” but findings show “having a person in the loop dramatically reduces the time spent trying to over engineer the automated tests”. Popular Industry blog, Search Engine Land’s columnist Frederick Valleys in 2017, echoed this need for human contribution with a more cautious perspective. Frederick believes “we must be vigilant about understanding the capabilities of the systems we’re relying on.”

Looking to the future

So regardless of your perspective, how do we as PPC practitioners future-proof ourselves in this the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution? Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum states that leaders and citizens alike should “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.”

At Manning Gottlieb OMD, we are committed to developing understanding and implementation of automation across the team, from graduates to heads of department. We commit to a programme of extensive learning and development such as Google Automation Bootcamps, bespoke training sessions and encourage attendance at multiple industry events. This knowledge is then shared across the wider team. We have also held a series of successful Automation workshops across different client teams to ensure wider agency understanding, with many more in the pipeline.

Through exposure, our objective is to enable our team members to use the time-saving benefits of automation to focus on devising more creative, strategic testing ideas whilst maintaining focus on developing ourselves and our accounts in a more considered way.

Automation can be embraced as a route to a better quality of work and more options in our work life and I for one am looking forward to being a part of it.