Automated Rules Within AdWords – The Basics

Pay-per-click advertising can be great way for small companies to get off the ground, and help large companies control their brand and raise awareness. With no company being too big or too small to get some benefit from online advertising, it makes sense that PPC account managers find themselves with much to do and there never really are enough hours in a day, are there?

Using Automated Rules within your Google AdWords account is a great way to effect change on your PPC account on a large scale in a short amount of time. However, setting up these automated rules can be daunting at first, and if the risks aren’t understood clearly ahead of time, major trouble can follow in short order. It is important to clearly understand what it is you are trying to achieve with your automation, and hopefully the following will shed some light on getting the most out of your Automated Rules in AdWords.


What Are Automated Rules?

Think back to your Logic or Philosophy class in college or high school, you may remember learning about something called an “if-then” statement. Automated Rules work on essentially the same principle. Adwords lets you pick from a variety of end results such as, “raise max CPC bids when…” or, “pause keywords when…” and then have you set up the criteria that would trigger the action you desired. You can then set these rules to run on a dedicated schedule, making for easy and efficient account maintenance. AdWords also allows for an Automated Rule that will email you alerts in case things get out of hand so you can quickly go and make manual adjustments if necessary.


Danger Ahead

You might be saying, “This all sounds great! Quick and easy automatic maintenance on my AdWords account? Sign me up!” but before you run off to give Automated Rules a try, it’s important to know at least a few of the common issues that can befall your first few attempts with Automated Rules.

Remember, It’s a Computer

And computers don’t know the difference between significant data, and data that only appears to be significant.

Let’s say you want to set a rule that will raise the bids on keywords that have a good click to conversion rate, you might create a rule that looks like this:
still a computer

While raising the bids on your best performing keywords is something that you want to do, this rule would raise the bids of keywords with 5000 impressions and a better than 50% conversion per click rate, but it would also raise the bids of keywords with 1 impression and 1 conversion. While there may be potential in that keyword, there is not enough significant data to justify increasing its bid, but the computer doesn’t know that because it’s, well, a computer.

Be sure to think through all the possible outcomes of your rules before making them active, and use the preview results tool in the Automated Rules set-up to make sure your rule is doing what you want it to.

The Zero Problem

Google has decided that it can divide by zero. When a keyword hasn’t yet converted, its cost per conversion, would look something like:


Instead of that keyword having an indeterminate cost per conversion (as math would have you believe), Google has decided that your cost per conversion, when conversions equal zero, equals zero. This quirk can cause trouble in a number of different areas where Automated Rules could be helpful.
divide by zero
For example, if you were trying to raise bids on your keywords that were within a cost per conversion limit (where going any higher in cost would make the campaign no longer profitable) you might try and raise the bids on the keywords under that cost per conversion limit to achieve more clicks. However, because keywords that have not converted have a cost per conversion of $0, they fall under that cost limit as well, and as a result, will have their bids raised by this rule.

When to Use Automated Rules

Now that we have a basic understanding of some of the common complications with Automated Rules, let’s take a look at the ways in which Automated Rules can make life easier for you and your AdWords account.

Brand Visibility

Search campaigns can be an effective way of getting your company name in front of eyes that are looking for a product or service that you offer. Using branded keywords is almost always a good idea, and placing high in ad position is critical for branded keywords. You wouldn’t want the first thing your potential customer to see when they search for your company to be an ad from a competitor. Especially as more and more companies begin targeting competitor’s branded keywords as a way of raising their own brand awareness.

Using a rule for your branded keywords that automatically increases the bid when your average position is lower than you’d like will keep your ad at, or near, the top of the results page. Manually increasing bids on those keywords is tedious and time consuming, so using a rule in this situation would be beneficial not only to the client but to the marketer as well.

Raise Awareness

Producing conversions is not the only way to use an AdWords search campaign effectively. Creating awareness for your brand is crucial in the online marketing world, and marketers regularly create awareness campaigns that focus more on impressions and clicks than they do in driving conversions. The idea being that by spreading the word about a brand will someday result in more traffic, more conversions, and ultimately more profit for your business.

Awareness campaigns focus on impressions, so you could create a rule that looks similar to the following:
brand awareness
Your requirements will differ greatly depending on the client and industry, but the main idea here is to pick out keywords that have high impressions, while also maintaining a decent number of clicks. Raising the bids on these keywords will get them to show more frequently, and in a better position on the SERP page, meaning more and more people should get exposed to your brand.

Automatic Ad Pausing/Enabling

Have a conference coming up? Running a sales promotion? It used to be that you would have to set a calendar reminder, write yourself post-it notes, and write with permanent marker on the back of your hand just to remember when those promotional ads are supposed to go live. What? The sale is an early bird special and starts at 4AM? Better make sure to set a couple extra alarms so you can get up early and get those ads running, right?

Not anymore. Automated Rules can be your saving grace when it comes turning ads on and off at any time of the day. By creating a rule similar to this you can get that sleep you are always saying you need more of:
scheduled adwords
And you’ll need a second rule to turn the ads back off once the sale is over:
pause ads
So there you have it. You’ve got the ads to run during the wee hours of the morning, and you still got to sleep. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too?


What We’ve Learned

Automated Rules are a great way to simplify time-consuming maintenance tasks, but they can be problematic at best, and disastrous at worst if the proper precautions aren’t put in place. Our best advice would be to remember that computers, while getting smarter every day, operate much the same as the Automated Rules themselves – by using if-then statements. Meaning, remember to think through all the possible outcomes of your rules and test them thoroughly before implementing them. The computer can’t read your mind (yet), and will only do what you tell it to (for now).

Hopefully this article will help you use Automated Rules for your AdWords campaigns!