Andrew Seidman
By Andrew Seidman | SEM | October 27, 2015

Pay Per Click Advertising: Automatic Vs Manual Bidding

In the pay per click advertising industry I’m regularly asked by my clients about the advantages and disadvantages of automatic vs manual pay per click bidding. Manual bidding involves performing all ad changes yourself through whichever ad platform you’re running your advertisements on (AdWords, Bing or Facebook for example). With automated bidding you allow bid adjustments to be made automatically by an algorithm or designated set of rules. However, this doesn’t mean you can let an automated campaign run itself unsupervised; it still takes a good amount of regular maintenance to keep automation from going off the rails. There are pros and cons to both approaches, so today we’ll cover all of the different ways each can impact your online advertising performance.

Manual Bidding Advantages

Highest Amount of Account Influence

desk-601540_1920If you’re like me than you’re going to want to have the maximum amount of control possible over the minutia of keyword bidding. Manual bidding allows you to tweak an account in all the little ways that an algorithm wouldn’t think to. Automation can be great for analyzing huge amounts of raw data, but it can be awful at writing ad copy and making rapid changes based on limited information.

Changes Happen Instantly

Many of the 3rd party automatic bidding platforms out there are very slow to actually post changes to an account. This is due to the large amount of data most automated programs need before they can make an informed bidding decision. With manual bidding changes are uploaded and live the instant that you post them.

Scales with Competency

Manual bidding is only as good as the person making the changes. If you’ve been at PPC for as long as I have and spend 8 hours a day in accounts then manual bidding is likely to yield a higher ROI than automatic bidding. Conversely if you’re a business owner who can’t afford to spend months becoming a SEM professional then perhaps it’s time to look into some automated software.

Manual Bidding Disadvantages

It’s Enormously Time Consuming

Manual bidding is all fun and games until you realize you’ve been comparing date ranges for two and a half hours to squeeze out an extra 0.02% ROI (#WorthIt). If you’re only running local advertisements for a smaller B2C business this won’t always be the case, but any decent sized PPC account is going to require constant vigilance to keep healthy.

Human Error

People make mistakes. It’s a fact of life that is true no matter if you’re a PPC veteran or just learning how to put together a campaign. A mistake could be anything from a spelling error in a Sitelink Extension to misreading a seasonal trend as a loss of consumer interest. This can be mitigated by experience, but there is always a chance for something to fall through the cracks.

Automated Bidding Advantages

It Does The Heavy Lifting For You

calculator-695084_1280 (1)If you don’t have time to be making bid changes every day of the week then automated software can handle bidding while you focus on the big picture. Third-party programs like Kenshoo or SearchForce allow you to set specific rules and goals for how you want the software to handle your bidding. It’s by no means 100% maintenance free, but it’s a huge timesaver over manual bidding.

Great for Large Accounts

If you’re running an account with twenty campaigns across multiple platforms then automated bidding software can be set up to pull data from all your different accounts and show you the big picture. This allows you to focus on how to best allocate spend while you let the automation focus on maximizing your return on investment at the keyword level.

Automated Bidding Disadvantages

Needs Large Amounts of Data to Perform Optimally

For a brand new account automated bidding probably isn’t the best place to start. Without at least a couple of months worth of data to draw from an automated algorithm is just guessing as far as bids are concerned. I highly recommend getting someone to do handle the account personally during this initial setup phase, otherwise you risk irreparably harming your brand’s quality scores. If you’re looking for a more professional touch, just call the number on our homepage; one of our experienced technicians can help set your PPC campaign off on the right foot.

Algorithms Can Be Narrow-minded

Without regular course corrections automated software has a tendency to find a few targets that work really well and then focus on them to the exclusion of all else. This can be fine on a limited budget, but oftentimes this leads to missing out on a number of high-value targets. Just because a campaign is working well doesn’t mean that it’s well optimized.

If there is one thing I would take away from this it would be to consider your businesses’ advertising goals first and foremost when deciding between manual and automated bidding. Like everything else in the Search Engine Optimization industry what works for one company may not work for another. Think carefully before you invest in 3rd party automated bidding software, or before you decide to invest large portions of your day in manual bidding.

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