Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have transformed nearly every industry as we know it – and the world of digital marketing is no exception. Marketers are increasingly turning to ML to enhance their advertising endeavors, leveraging algorithms to process enormous amounts of data, learn from it, and predict customer behavior using AI-assisted insights.
Google Ads has been at the forefront of this ML revolution. Google Ads’ Smart Campaigns automate everything from bidding to reporting, making it easier for businesses to run campaigns without specialized marketing knowledge. This has sparked a sentiment of fresh optimism for many marketers who can now simply set up their Smart Campaigns, take their hands off the steering wheel, and let the algorithms do all the work.
Smart campaigns prove very useful because they free up your time to run multiple campaigns at the same time, letting you dedicate more time to higher-level marketing strategies. However, despite the transformation brought about by ML in digital marketing, there are still many misconceptions about its capabilities and limitations. Thousands of marketers trust these algorithms blindly, and while they certainly provide many advantages it is worth knowing about the potential drawbacks.
So, what are the relationships between ML and digital marketing, PPC, and Google Ads? And what are the pros and cons of relying on Google’s Smart Campaigns for your marketing efforts? Let’s take a deeper dive into what Smart campaigns are, why marketers depend on them so heavily, and why they may not be as effective as you give them credit for. I mean, Google calls them Smart for a reason, right?
The Role of Machine Learning PPC in the 21st Century
In recent years, the structure of PPC ads has evolved in many positive ways. Algorithms are useful because they provide a lot of new data that was formerly hidden from marketers. More accurate data allows you to customize campaigns with the right information to make it easier to reach your target markets.
Bidding and the bid adjustment process give you a competitive advantage because they provide you with the means to elevate your digital marketing efforts to higher levels than have been possible for decades. Google Smart campaigns also provide you with valuable information like impressions, clicks, and search phrases.
But have you ever wondered if it all seems too good to be true? When it comes to running Smart campaigns, could there be a piece of the puzzle that you may be missing?
What Are Google’s Smart Campaigns?
Smart campaigns are a relatively new feature on the Google Ads platform, which was formerly known as Google Adwords. However, they’re not new to Google advertising, in general. Smart campaigns replaced the Google Adwords Express platform and they’re built on the same technology.
To a large degree, Google Ads Smart campaign automation was designed with small, local businesses in mind – those that had a small budget available for digital marketing. To that end, they’re fairly easy to set up and they’re even easier for busy companies to maintain – even if you don’t have the advantage of having expertise in running online ads. Google Ads Smart campaigns seem to be the answer for businesses that can’t afford an inside or outside marketer or spare the time away from the business to study up on the latest digital marketing strategies.
Google Smart campaigns open the door for small businesses to enter the world of PPC ads with little effort. Here’s a clue to that missing puzzle piece – are you setting up your Google Smart campaigns wisely from the beginning and do they work as well as they could be? And how much control over your campaigns are you willing to relinquish and let the algorithms do the work?
The Good: Why Do Some Marketers Blindly Depend on Machine Learning?
One of the biggest advantages of ML is its ability to process large amounts of data quickly and accurately. By analyzing data from a wide range of sources, ML can identify patterns and trends that would be impossible for humans to detect in a manual way. This can allow marketers to make more informed decisions based on accurate and timely insights, target their audiences more effectively, or predict consumer behavior to anticipate future trends.
But the main reasons that digital marketers rely so heavily on ML, such as Google Smart campaigns, is that they’re intuitive and easy to set up – even for a novice. You merely have to choose your topic keywords, set your budget, and the campaign is off to the races using its own steam. As a business owner, you can put the marketing aspect of building your business to rest and go about taking care of other important tasks.
Google Smart campaigns help small businesses gain target audiences that were difficult to reach in the past. Now, you can set an average daily budget and a total campaign budget, which makes ad campaigns even simpler. Google makes it possible to run ads without the stress of hiring a marketing agency or managing the campaign yourself.
But How Do Smart Campaigns Really Work?
The philosophy behind Google Smart campaigns is that they target and optimize themselves automatically. As easy as Google makes it to run a paid ad campaign, it’s still important that you consider exactly what the machine is learning and how it sets up the algorithms that optimize your ads.
When it comes to geo-targeting, Google draws information from your website and your Google My Business profile and displays ads for you. The program continually tweaks and optimizes your ads automatically, according to best practices and based on your business data. Google will even select the best online placements for your business, industry, and location. You get the advantage of laser-focused targeting audiences in your local area and having your ads appear directly on Google Maps listings.
With Google Smart campaigns, you don’t have the trouble of managing multiple tools and reports or continually modifying your campaigns to get the best results. As good as all this sounds, the bad news is that Google Smart campaigns have several downsides.
The Bad: What Are the Downsides of Google Ads Smart Campaigns?
For machine learning to do its job effectively, it has to start with the right data. That begs the question of, “How is this possible when the Ads platform has limited knowledge of your business model, industry and customer?”
Here are five important things to know before you jump headfirst into setting up your Google Smart campaigns:
1. You have no control over where your ads display online and it limits your effectiveness and individual campaign-level reporting.
Your Smart Ads will display on the Google Search Network and also on the Google Display Network. That means that people will see your ads when they’re putting the keywords that Google thinks are the right keywords into the search box. Here’s what Google isn’t telling you: your ads are also appearing in front of people that aren’t searching for your business and couldn’t care less about it. Smart campaigns give you the privilege of paying for those unqualified leads. For small businesses with tight marketing budgets, it’s not the best use of your financial resources.
2. Smart campaigns limit your ad copy and range.
Smart ads limit you to one set of ads and they’ll display that one set across the entire ad network. That rule gives you less flexibility to highlight all the best features your business offers.
3. Google decides what triggers your ads.
You don’t get any control over the keywords or search phrases that will trigger your ads. The words Google chooses will be broadly based on your business, but they’ll also be fairly vague, and they don’t give you any say in which one’s should be prioritized or not.
Depending on your specific industry, the words they choose may be generic – too generic to drive the sort of traffic you’re looking for. The problem with this is that you have no control over the level of intent of each keyword, that will ultimately lead to more conversions, as you explore better performing words at high conversion rates.
Broad terms yield a broad audience, and they’ll prevent you from narrowing your target audience as successfully as you need to. You’ll get a much better return on your ad spend when you get to choose the specific search terms that accurately reflect your products and services to buyer persona.
4. Google Smart Ads don’t let you opt-out of negative keywords.
While the right words are essential for success with PPC campaigns, don’t overlook the importance of weeding out negative keywords that have no potential for directing people to your website. Getting rid of negative keywords could make the difference between the browsers and the buyers. If you’re putting time and money into a Google Smart campaign, you don’t want to have to pay for views that amount to little more than curiosity.
5. You lose control over how your money gets spent on ads.
While it’s true that Google Smart Ads lets you set your budget, the program doesn’t ask your permission about how they can spend it.
Not having the ability to set the maximum cost per click may set you up for going through your budget quickly and not even having the benefit of using the right keywords. This is a huge disadvantage for smaller businesses with minimal marketing budgets.
Furthermore, A/B testing is virtually impossible when it comes to Smart Campaigns. With no metrics to compare, no variations to try, and limited capability to test the engagement of your audience; there is a limitation on your ability to positively invest your precious resources.
Overall, the real appeal of Google Smart Ads is that they’re simple and easy to manage. But it’s wise to consider what you might be giving up in exchange for keeping things simple.
Ultimately, what you’re sacrificing is transparency and accountability. Using Google Smart Ads is like putting your marketing dollars into a big black box and forgetting about them. In doing so, you’re relinquishing a lot of control over whether you’re spending your marketing budget wisely and efficiently.
The Ugly: The Hidden Dangers of Depending on Machine Learning
Every time you set up a Google Smart Ad, you’re making a costly trade-off. Essentially, you’re trading transparency and accountability for keeping things simple and easy.
Here’s what happens when your data is strategically hidden out of your sight:
- You lack insights to evaluate the campaign
- You don’t have data to apply to other marketing channels
- You don’t have control over data input
- There’s no accountability if it doesn’t work
As a business person, you demand transparency and accountability in every other facet of your business, so why should you look at digital marketing any differently?
That question brings yet another question to the forefront. If you don’t know who is behind your clicks, how can you know that they’re coming from a real prospect? Is it possible that large numbers of your clicks are being generated as a result of click fraud?
For many marketers, it’s important to have a large degree control over ad campaigns. When you run Google Smart campaigns you don’t have much control at all. That means that you’re risking leaving some of your marketing funds on the table and that could be a costly mistake.
Digital marketers only prove their worth when they can be transparent. It’s vital to take control over the important aspects of every campaign to get the maximum return on your ad spend. To prevent click fraud reliably, marketers need to customize ad campaigns, provide insight into each click, and monitor all clicks in campaigns.
AI and ML aren’t the bad guys. They can actually become valuable tools when you choose to use them in conjunction with control and transparency. However, in the case of Google Smart campaigns, it is precisely control and transparency that you’re missing – which can make them a risky option for any marketer, from novice to expert. If having control over your campaigns matters more to you, it may be better to run a regular PPC campaign that can hold someone accountable for the results.
The Future of Machine Learning in Digital Marketing
Despite the potential drawbacks of ML in digital marketing, its use is likely to continue to grow in the future. As more data becomes available, and algorithms become more sophisticated, ML will become an even more powerful tool for optimizing ad campaigns and improving marketing performance.
However, it’s important for marketers to remember that ML is not a replacement for creativity and human insight. It should be seen as a tool to augment and enhance marketing efforts – rather than a solution in itself.
As ML continues to evolve, marketers may need to adapt their strategies and learn how to work effectively with these new tools. By combining the power of ML with human creativity and insight, digital marketers can continue to deliver impactful campaigns that drive results for their businesses.
What is machine learning and how does it relate to digital marketing, PPC, and Google Ads?
Machine Learning (ML) is the use of algorithms to analyze data, learn from it, and make predictions about how the data will behave in the future. In digital marketing, PPC, and Google Ads, ML is used to automate the process of creating and optimizing ad campaigns. With ML, algorithms can analyze data from past ad campaigns, customer behavior, and other relevant data to optimize ad targeting, bidding, and other important factors.
What are Google Smart campaigns?
Google Smart campaigns are a feature on the Google Ads platform designed to help small businesses with limited budgets run ad campaigns with little effort. Smart campaigns automate the process of creating and optimizing ad campaigns, including bidding, rules, reports, and alerts.
Why do marketers depend on Google Smart campaigns?
Marketers depend on Google Smart campaigns because they are intuitive and easy to set up, even for novices. They help small businesses reach target audiences that were difficult to reach in the past, and they simplify the process of running ad campaigns without the need to hire a marketing agency or manage the campaign themselves.
How do Google Smart campaigns work?
Google Smart campaigns target and optimize themselves automatically, based on data from your website, Google My Business profile, and other relevant data. The program continually tweaks and optimizes your ads automatically, according to best practices and based on your business data. Google selects the best online placements for your business, industry, and location, and the ads can appear directly on Google Maps listings.
What are the downsides of Google Smart campaigns?
The downside of Google Smart campaigns is that they require the right data for machine learning to do its job effectively. If the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the algorithms may make suboptimal decisions, leading to lower ROI or wasted ad spend. Additionally, Google Smart campaigns have limited (and in some cases zero) control and transparency over targeting, bidding, and ad placement, which can limit their effectiveness for certain businesses or industries.
Can Google Smart campaigns be customized?
Google Smart campaigns offer limited customization options compared to traditional ad campaigns, but there are still some ways to customize them. You can choose your topic keywords, set your budget, and select the type of ad you want to run. You can also exclude certain keywords or locations if they are not relevant to your business.
Are Google Smart campaigns suitable for all businesses?
Google Smart campaigns are designed for small, local businesses with limited budgets, little time, or expertise when it comes to running online ads. They may not be suitable for larger businesses or businesses in highly competitive industries where more advanced targeting and bidding strategies are necessary.
How can businesses ensure the effectiveness of Google Smart campaigns?
With Google Smart campaigns, your ads are also appearing in front of people that aren’t necessarily searching for your business. Here is where our leading Google Ads click fraud protection and prevention software proves invaluable. ClickGUARD is designed to detect and prevent illegitimate clicks or wasteful traffic that can be the result of bots, competitor clicks, or invalid traffic generated by inaccurate machine learning algorithms. Our latest version is also fully automated, easier to use, and comes with a range of new features.
Are machine learning and AI the future of digital marketing?
Machine Learning (ML) and AI are already playing a significant role in digital marketing, and they are likely to become even more important in the future. As the volume of data continues to grow, ML algorithms may become increasingly important for analyzing and making sense of that data, and for automating many aspects of ad campaign management.