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Campaign automation for the control freak

With its robust current share of searches in the US market, most larger Bing Ads accounts are going to be tough to fully optimize manually. Agree?

That’s typically where the sales pitches begin. What third-party tools can magically shorten your account management tasks? Well, I’m not here to sell you anything. It’s come to my attention that too few account managers are using the powerful built-in automation methods in PPC platforms. These features are perfect if you’re looking to perform core functions like bid management, but are also a control freak looking to customize the strategy a bit to inject a certain flavor into the proceedings.

Bid management in Bing Ads

Bid management is indeed a core function. The majority of us simply want to maintain our keywords to hit target KPIs – the most obvious example being an ecommerce CPA or ROAS target based on last-click attribution. If you have 20,000+ keywords in an account, you’re never managing all of this by hand.

But maybe you’re also allergic to expensive software and relationships with too many vendors. You wouldn’t be off-base suspecting that much of what you need is right there in the Bing Ads platform... and it isn’t rocket science to use.

It’s a myth that there is a perfect bid level or that frequent bid changes throughout the day are somehow desirable or coherent. Look, this is marketing and advertising, not the high-frequency trading that made hundreds of millions of dollars for clever exchanges, as featured in Flash Boys.

With regard to the budget allocation function of marketing, what you want is to get it very close to right, and to weed out expensive waste; there’s no chance of perfection. Michael Lewis is not following me around for his next book (though I fantasize about that).

Anyway, here's an example of some “fancy automation” that you can execute directly in the Bing Ads interface in less than five minutes. You pick the parameters. You’re in charge:

Step 1: Pick a large campaign in the account, one you suspect may have neglected areas.

Step 2: We’re about to assess keyword bid levels, so click on the “Keywords” tab.

Step 3: Give it a nice long date range. In this case, I went all the way back to February 1. That way, we’re getting enough volume on lower-volume keywords to make some statistically significant decisions. Picking appropriate date ranges is so important; this is where many marketers get it wrong.

Step 4: Click on “Filters.”

bing ads campaign automation

Step 5: Here’s where you create your own secret sauce! In this case, I want a list of low-converting keywords. I could go with a CPA target, but I have a problem with that: a CPA of $0 shows up when the number should be “infinity.” So, normally I’d go with ROAS, but this client was slow to customize the tracking code to pass revenue, so we don’t have accurate numbers yet. See how the analyst has to think and customize sometimes?

So, I’ve put together a rule to filter keywords for low conversions above a certain amount of potential wasted cash ($20), but below $200 (I always assume high-volume keywords are being addressed directly). Finally, for a fun twist, I’ve decided that my main culprits are likely to be broad match types, and sure enough, the rule builder allows you to target only them. Of course, all violating keywords should be addressed, but assume I have good reason for giving the exact and phrase matches a longer leash.

OK, we’re onto Step 6, the exciting answer to the question of just how many of those pesky keywords get caught up in our filter?

Step 6: The answer is 12 keywords. The campaign as a whole has 7,471 keywords. The nice overall CPA numbers on the campaigns in this account are corroborated by the deep dive here. This account is very well managed! As for the 12, it’s not going to take very long at all to give each of those keywords personalized attention. To me, that means bumping bids down.

To be sure, you can always find more “problem areas” if you get more granular. How many offending keywords would I have found if I dropped the “wasted spend threshold” to $14 from $20? In this case, the keyword list rose to 29 from 12. Also manageable, but it’s likely unwise to over-manage keywords garnering too few clicks to be of statistical significance.

Trends vs. Randomness

Here’s another point to ponder: There is inevitably going to be a “worst performer” on any long list, but – like the myth of the ‘hot hand’ in basketball or the ‘streaky hitter’ in baseball – such trends tend to evaporate from one season to the next. If your account contains batches of similar keywords, then some of them are grabbing conversions while other, similar keywords do not (for the time being) – for no reason other than the sheer laws of probability and randomness. Give accounts some room to breathe.

Certainly, the free in-platform tools have their limitations, but make sure you make the most of them before you strike out for more exotic pastures.

That just covers one example of an episode in core bid management. In the future, I hope to cover other segments in accounts that are every bit as hard to keep up with as all those keywords.

If you missed yesterday's post here on the Bing Ads Blog, #BingAdsStories: Page Zero Media hits its target CPA, be sure to check it out.


About the author

Andrew Goodman is Founder and President of Page Zero Media Inc., an agency uncommonly obsessed with PPC performance. Each December, he teeters on the brink of the next airline status tier, forcing unnecessary trips to tan-inducing locales.