bigstock-Unemployed-Young-Woman-Asking--27553568You’re fired, laid-off, downsized, terminated, made redundant, rightsized, pursuing other opportunities, discharged, dismissed, pink-slipped. Search Engine Marketing professionals are becoming redundant, replaced by technology, so they should prepare themselves to hear those words.

In the next 3 years, 80% of PPC professionals will be replaced by an algorithm.

Those that won’t, will be the few who already provide high value or find ways to increase their value to clients. There will simply be fewer positions and high value change. If you are a PPC pro don’t imagine yourself immune; please read on.

What happened in other industries, automation replacing human workers is not a new story. With the speed at which technology evolves, and the vast opportunity for optimization in most accounts, PPC management is ready for this evolution and it is well under way.

Over the last several years, we audited numerous large-scale PPC advertiser accounts ($500K+ ad spend a month) and found the same common characteristic; neglect. A sad example is the story of a Top 30 Internet Retailer. Their account was managed by a super-reputable top-tier agency and had an average cost-per-click of approximately $1.50. That wouldn’t be so bad except that it brought in less than $.60 revenue per visit. The saddest part is that it was spending millions of dollars a year.

Certainly it looks like the agency you hired or your in-house PPC staffer is very busy, they legitimately are.  However, never in the history of advertising has anyone had to manage anything as complex and large as some of these accounts. The question is, how much of the business is truly high value activity? You may be seeing traffic growth, lots of bid changes, account structure and keyword changes (if you are a larger enterprise) but most of these tasks can be automated today. Plus the truth is, these are the activities that can be performed more successfully, at scale, with greater efficiency by crowdsourcing, or by using machines/ robots.

David Greenbaum, CEO of a crowdsourced ad copywriting company BoostCTR, shared:

“Ad copy optimization is one of the most straightforward paths to increasing conversions and reducing cost-per-acquisition (CPA). However, this is often an afterthought for advertisers. Typically, we see that clients are optimizing only 1 percent of their active ad groups representing 5 percent of their spend. As an extreme example, I have seen an account that spends upwards of $2 million per month and who hasn’t written a single new piece of ad copy in 3 years.”

If you are a smaller advertiser, you are less likely to have your account maintained properly by your agency. According to WordStream data, most SMB accounts had :

  • Very low number of keywords or negative keywords added in the last 90 days.
  • Very low number of ad groups and ad text added/edited or deleted in the last 90 days.
  • Very low number of campaigns added/edited or deleted in the last 90 days.

Most advertisers aren’t really taking advantage of even the most basic AdWords account optimization tools, like conversion tracking, geo-targeting, or ad extensions.


  • More than 50 percent of them don’t even check their accounts once per month.
  • Almost 25 percent haven’t done anything to their account in the last 90 days.
  • More than 20 percent of them have yet to use a negative keyword and less than 50 percent have used at least one negative keyword in the last 90 days.

The highest value PPC optimization activities occur when you are testing and modifying ad copy or creating and optimizing landing pages; all critical components of Google’s Quality Score (YouTube video). Quality Score weights your bid in the auction so if your quality score is low you must pay more than another advertiser – essentially low Quality Score is a penalty imposed by Google for not optimizing.The tasks associated with optimization are traditionally the hardest to scale up. Nevertheless, solutions are beginning to appear because of big data technologies.

DataPop, offers a big data solution for automating the ad writing and optimization of your PPC ads and it is impressive. They still recommend you have a human editor for reviewing messages.

Just like should have been done with this marketing automation screw up (from a crowdsourced PPC vendor):
Trada email manage search for not provided
Here are some more ways you can take advantage of automation:

  • You can crowdsource ad writing to companies like BoostCTR. Their incentives are also more in line with advertisers’ goals than traditional agency models.
  • Monetate, will help your team test, personalize and iterate their creative ideas (leveraging big data) with greater agility than your current platform will allow.
  • For creating and optimizing landing pages, we are seeing solutions like BloomReach, that can use a natural language interpreter and big data technology to create landing pages that meet the long tail of demand and self optimize those pages as well.

Of course, these technologies don’t do everything you need in order to optimize all your landing pages.

What can’t these robots do? They may never have the creative spark or strategic capacity that humans provide. No machine today could have come up with the on the fly, Dunk in the Dark campaign that Oreo did during the SuperBowl. However, technologies like NarrativeScience and Arria are working hard to get there. Surely, Narrative Sciences will displace many of the “web analysts” who only function as data reporters without adding much business value.

We can already see that big data solutions like RocketFuel are transforming the media buying side of display advertising, removing many of the inefficiencies.

I apologize to my friends who own and work in agencies. The marketplace has changed and sometimes it is difficult to see while you have your head down. I know and appreciate how difficult and time consuming the high value work is. Also the  traditional agency compensation models for SMB might not allow the margin to spend enough time in these activities. However the PPC industry will be completely transformed over the next three years. The truth can be ugly sometimes. I hope you pay attention. We must move away from the tool junkie mentality to the customer-centric marketing mindset.

When asked my friend Tom Cunniff of Cunniff Consulting, he said the following:

“The rise of automation in marketing is both inexorable and necessary. Moment-to-moment optimization is too exhausting for humans and too expensive for marketers. Marketing automation will enable smart marketers to shift their focus from spreadsheets to the big questions. Are we optimizing for the right things? Are our digital efforts properly aligned with our overall marketing? Are customers getting what they want and need from our brands? This is marketing’s mission, and we need to get back to it.”


P.S. Unemployed Young Woman Asking For A Job photo courtesy of BigStockPhoto




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