Why manual bidding is still the king in the era of Machine Learning

It has been some time since Google and Microsoft launched smart (machine learning) bidding which was embraced wholeheartedly by large to small scale advertisers. 

Fast forward a few years and a large number of advertisers are now using smart bidding as a “go to” strategy. There are, however, still a significant number of PPC managers who believe manual bidding is still more effective than letting machines run your campaigns. 

We, at Dentons Digital are among those who still believe that good old manual bidding is still the king when it comes to PPC bidding strategies. 

Here are 5 reasons why we won’t stop blowing the trumpet for manual bidding:

1. Complete Control – We humans love to have absolute control of everything. Unfortunately, this is not possible. However, what is possible in the world of PPC is to have complete control of your bids, provided you are not using enhanced cost per click. The biggest plus of this strategy is it enables you to avoid those nasty surprise very high CPCs, which are never easy to explain. This manual bidding strategy is considered a low-risk strategy.

2. Avoid Bidding Wars – This is one of those things which every PPC manager would like to avoid as much as possible, because no one wants to be in a bidding war where you are just creeping up the CPCs and harming yourself in an effort to be competitive. Automated bidding strategy can potentially have the risk of starting a bidding war, and it can escalate the CPC/CPA especially in those rare slots where CPCs are cheaper.

3. No Granular Control on Impression Share – Pretty much every PPC account has winners and losers, and every PPC ninja is trying to minimise the losers and exploit the winners, making sure the winners have the maximum search impression share and vice versa. Having smart bidding on line can take that control away; it will just optimise according to the campaign KPI target causing your top performers to lose impression share and losers to gain some.

4. Automated Bidding is Data Hungry – One thing that is absolute necessary for a smart bidding strategy to work is the performance data. The minimum requirement for most of the smart bidding strategies seems quite modest, but in reality, smart bidding strategies are data hungry and need a large amount of data to work efficiently. Obviously, that’s not usually a problem for big accounts, but for small to medium size accounts this can be a hindrance for the machine learning based bidding to work efficiently, resulting in hurting the account more than the benefiting it. 

5. Automated Bids Still Need Looking After – A lot of people believe smart bidding is just like flying on auto-pilot. Unfortunately, that’s not the case yet. Smart bidding has got smarter than when it initially launched a few years ago, but it still needs to be looked after. Not every PPC optimisation/management task can be automated; human intervention is still required to get the maximum results from the PPC activity. 

Although smart bidding has come a long way in the world of PPC, and it is claimed that it can factor in more signals than is humanly possible, our experience when it comes to overall performance, revenue, ROAS and other KPIs, manual bidding still out-performs smart bidding strategies.

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