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The era of automation is here

Since launching on 23rd October 2000, Google Ads has come such a long way. Starting with just 350 advertisers and a cost per thousand (CPM) model, Google quickly started evolving its offering: introducing a cost per click (CPC) buying model, bringing in relevancy as a key factor and consistently releasing new functionality and ad extensions. Over the next many years, the focus shifted towards automation and machine learning.

While Google has been pushing ahead with full force, Microsoft is mirroring the drive towards increased automation as well. From the 5th April, any new campaigns being created will no longer be able to run manual CPC. By the end of April this year, all campaigns without automated bidding strategies will be migrated to enhanced CPC.

And Google isn’t quite done yet either. Automated bidding strategies have been constantly evolving, to move advertisers away from manual bidding. But it’s not just bidding that’s impacted. Keyword match types have also been changing over time. First, it was close variants included in exact match, then expanded to broad match modifier (BMM) and phrase match too – and now, BMM is being phased out entirely in favour of phrase match. As of July 2021, it will no longer be possible to create BMM keywords. While this simplifies keyword targeting, it also shifts control away from advertisers.

Automation has been extended to ad copy too. In 2019, responsive search ads were made available to all advertisers – an absolute game-changer. Responsive search ads allow advertisers to enter multiple headlines and description lines, and let Google do the rest. Over time, the headlines and description lines are tested to enable Google Ads to learn which ad combinations perform best and are most relevant. While this increases our reliance on machine learning and some advertisers may struggle with the loss of control here as well, it also enables us to test far more variations than if we were running manually.

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Automation is happening, whether we like it or not. While it means that we may not have as much control as we had before, it also opens the doors for a far more advanced and superior way of optimising and managing activity. And there is no doubt more to come: Google isn’t done with its journey towards automation. Just recently on the 18th February, Google announced that responsive search ads will now be the default ad type for search campaigns. The best way to ensure that advertisers are still achieving the results they need is to embrace change rather than fight it. Relinquish control and let machine learning do what it does best – learn and deliver.

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