Big DataWhen I studied the data and made an intuitive prediction that 80 percent of PPC professionals would be replaced by an algorithm in the next three years, my brother Jeffrey and I expected some resistance. We were extremely surprised at the misunderstandings that arose. We wholeheartedly agree that good marketers add value to the online advertising equation. As fellow ClickZ columnist Andrew Goodman responded:

It’s certainly true that many “PPC pros” who work like (much inferior to the real thing) robots will find themselves looking for work. The high value providers who maintain deeper relationships, integrate across multiple complex objectives, and persistently work to overcome challenges to test, improve, interpret, and achieve uncommon results will be the ones that clients find useful.

Andrew did a great job at describing the high-value parts of the PPC advertising agency equation, but that is not the part of PPC management where data-driven decisions excel. There are some things that data-driven computer analysis excels at and others that it doesn’t. Look at the technology stack that is available today to help PPC marketers and advertisers and you will see where some of this technology is headed. In many cases it already is, and in others it will be more capable of handling the majority of tasks that are required to maintain and optimize PPC accounts.

The fact is, unlike many other parts of marketing, PPC advertising when set up properly should be an almost completely data-driven effort.

A Nucleus Research study shows that an incremental 241 percent ROI can be generated by applying data to business decisions. And 91 percent of CMOs believe that successful brands make data-driven decisions, as per Columbia Business School.

A recent CEB study of nearly 800 marketers at Fortune 1000 companies found the vast majority of marketers still rely too much on intuition – marketers depend on data for just 11 percent of all decisions.

What is even more frightening is that the study tested marketers’ statistical aptitude with five questions ranging from basic to intermediate, and almost half (44 percent) got four or more questions wrong and a mere 6 percent got all five right. Only 5 percent of those marketers even own a statistics textbook. The fact is marketers were rarely compensated for their creativity and intuition but even less so for their math skills. That will change! Nevertheless, marketers are not going to change dramatically overnight and become data-obsessed. That would be against human nature.

Now there are a bunch of marketers (11 percent) who are data hounds, who consult dashboards daily, and base most decisions on data.

Every time they see a blip on the dashboard, they adjust – and end up changing direction so often that they lose sight of end goals. In management positions, these people can wreak havoc by creating endless fire drills and preventing anyone from sticking with projects long enough to achieve the best results.

It looks directionally correct, but these marketers often lack the big picture view that the more intuitive marketer possesses. What we need here is balance.

That is why I am so gung ho on these new sets of tools. Let the machine analyze the data and make the course corrections and optimization efforts that are necessary and allow the marketers to spend more time worrying about the big picture and being creative. Let marketers set strategy and build value and let machines battle with the PPC machine.

Please share if you think others would benefit.