AdWords Rules – The End of PPC Automation Tools?

Earlier this month, Google announced a beta test of a real game-changer for AdWords. It’s called AdWords Rules, and it allows you to automate certain AdWords tasks when specified criteria are met. In case you haven’t heard of it already, here’s an intro video courtesy of Google:

This is a pretty big deal, since a lot of vendors have been selling tools that do exactly this kind of thing. Why pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars a month for a software service for bid management when you can just create an AdWords rule in a couple of minutes for free? Rules can be set for budgets, campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords, so there is a lot of potential for PPC managers to get creative and save a lot of work. And frankly, I think most AdWords customers are going to be better served by using this offering instead of an expensive software tool.

So what does this mean for third-party vendors in the PPC space? For one, it’s going to be a harder sell to get folks to pay for their products. But, I don’t think we’ll be seeing guys like Omniture, Marin, and Acquisio going bankrupt just yet. Just look at the web analytics space. Google has a pretty amazing free offering, but there are still a lot of companies who are making huge profits by selling an alternative. PPC software companies just need to innovate to stay ahead of Google, and beat them at their own game. It’s not good enough to just sell your software as a bid management tool any more – I can set up an AdWords rule in about five minutes that can do that job. Instead, companies will need to focus on aspects that Google can’t touch yet – things like revenue integration, split-testing of individual campaign elements, better stats reporting, and the like. Google comes up with a lot of tools for AdWords, but they’re really only good at one thing – helping people spend more money on AdWords. Despite Google’s constant encouragement to do exactly this, it’s not always the right answer for PPC. Sometimes you do need a third party to tell you where NOT to spend your money in Google. Big G would never tell you this themselves.

Ranting aside, I think this is a great new development for everyone who has ever been saddled with mundane tasks in PPC account maintenance. I used to spend a few hours a month adjusting bids. Now I can set up a couple of rules and never have to do that again. Even better, I don’t have to convince my boss or my clients to pay for a new PPC tool. It’s right there in AdWords. It’s not in every account yet, but if you don’t have it at the moment you should get it in a couple of weeks. I’ve already seen it pop up in my accounts, and I’m definitely going to be using it a lot in the coming year.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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3 Responses to AdWords Rules – The End of PPC Automation Tools?

  1. Hey Shawn, I think the key insight here is that Google’s free adwords tools help the advertiser spend more money as opposed to maximize profit.

    While I haven’t had a chance to play with AdWords rules just yet, I am positive that there will be serious limitations when it comes to maximizing profits/sales/conversions. And there is real potential for people to do a lot of harm to their accounts, since Google is offering very little training or advice on how to use the rules–hopefully this will change in the coming weeks.

    Having said all of that, if you are good at getting your keywords bid-ready, this new tool could serve a real need for some advertisers.

    I currently use a home-grown automated bid rules engine for changing Max CPA bids in combination with Conversion Optimizer and it has been hugely successful for us. Now advertisers may be able to use AdWords rules in combination with Enhanced CPC to get similar results.

  2. Thanks for the article! I checked and this tool isn’t available in my account yet but will keep an eye out for it. Even with automated rules is it still not best to check your account on a regular basis. I assume the reason for the tool is to reduce the amount of time a PPC manger has to spend managing each account. Any idea when this tool will be available to AdWords account holders in Canada?

    • Hi Chad. Thanks for the comment. I haven’t heard anything about when this tool will be available in Canada. It only recently became available to US users a few weeks ago, so I guess they’ll release it internationally once they work out the initial kinks. Here in the States, it was released as a beta on a select few high-spend AdWords accounts first, then rolled out to everyone. I would expect to see the same pattern for a rollout in Canada.