In the wonderful world of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, we’ve all come to know and love – to some degree – automation services. For most of us, using automation with our paid search efforts has made life easier. But, while it can certainly make your PPC campaigns run more efficiently, it can also waste money at a pretty alarming rate if not set up correctly.

Now, I love a good rock ‘n’ roll reference, so today I’m talking about raging against the machine of artificial intelligence so that you don’t spend money on something that’s simply not working.

There are three main areas I want to focus on here: ad scheduling, sitelinks and ad extensions, and bid management by device type.

Schedule Those Ads

Today’s technology allows us to schedule a lot of things: bill payments, doctor’s appointments, the A/C system, and more. But when it comes to setting a budget for your PPC campaigns, you may want to customize your own ad schedule so that you’re not automatically spending money and clicks at pre-designated intervals. If you’re consistently bidding the same amount of money on ads, regardless of the time of day or week, that’s not an efficient use of your budget.

I’ve used this example before, but if your dealership isn’t open at 3 a.m., and your PPC ads are running 24/7, what happens when someone clicks an ad and your store isn’t open? Unless you’ve got a follow-up strategy, those are lost advertising dollars because those leads won’t have a chance to contact your dealership.

Sitelinks and Ad Extensions

When ad extensions were rolled out, it was a glorious day. From a customer’s standpoint alone, having more information on a SERP is always a good thing, because everyone loves to make informed decisions. However, many ad platforms don’t have sitelinks and ad extensions fully automated yet, so if you plan on using them, a manual setup and management will be necessary for optimal results.

When customers click a sitelink within your ad, they expect to be taken to the specific page they clicked. If that isn’t the case, and they’re sent to another location, or just to your homepage, that’s a surefire way to see your bounce rate increase. It’s really all about the expectation. If you trust your automation process to choose the right page, then go ahead. But if you’ve got a more specific ad campaign in the works, it may be a better idea to manually set the sitelinks before hitting “Go.”

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Bid Management by Device Type

You might be tired of hearing this one, but you’d really be surprised at how often I’ll do an audit of a PPC process only to find that desktop ads were used on mobile platforms, and vice versa. Consider the device that will be accessing your ad, and then design it accordingly. As an extreme example, a towing company with 24/7 service options probably won’t run a lot of desktop ads, especially late at night. Most of their target audience is stranded and has only one connection to the internet: their phone.

Now, these three areas I’ve mentioned aren’t no-zones for automated processes. But in my experience, you do need to have some human oversight into how the automation is set up, otherwise you run the risk of wasting your money – or someone else’s.

Rage Against the Machine: Getting Your PPC Automation Straight

One more thing I wanted to mention: call extensions and message extensions. One of the more recent things I’ve been noticing in the PPC world (especially in the automotive vertical) is ads that have “Call Us Now!” in the text, but nowhere to click to call. This is a similar issue to the earlier one about running ads 24/7. If you’re asking someone to take a certain action, then you need to have a path for them to follow. A strategy, if you will.

Additionally, message extensions are also a great way to connect with your audience. But as with call extensions, many dealers are implementing them with little strategy, which results in inefficient performance. If you plan on using message extensions in your ads, then be sure to test the CTAs so that you’re getting the best results.

I hope these insights into paid search strategy will be useful for your dealership. I spend a lot of time advising people on optimizing their PPC campaigns and enjoy sharing my best tips.