John Lincoln

The Revolution of AI and Pay Per Click

AI is here to stay. But as a marketer, what does that mean for you?

Many have expressed concern over the growing role of AI in PPC management, and what it may mean for the future of PPC marketing.

In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the revolution of AI and PPC, and what it means for the future.

The Revolution of AI and Pay Per Click

What is AI?

You know this one: AI is artificial intelligence. AI powers everything from your smart phone’s voice search (even its keyboard) to your computer opponent in Solitaire. AI solves problems and provides solutions that once required human actions. It’s constantly adapting and getting smarter. There are different kinds of AI; it can be manually programmed, which means it requires a written code which teaches the computer how to act and react to specific scenarios. Then there’s machine learning. In this case, the computer teaches itself how to react based on similar past interactions and collected data. AI is everywhere, and you’ve likely come in more contact with it then you think. It’s what monitors your bank account for suspicious activity and recommends songs in apps based on your listening preferences.   And if you’re in the world of PPC, it helps you make better marketing decisions.

AI and PPC – What is its Role in Marketing and PPC?

It’s not uncommon at all to think of PPC and AI as completely separate things. And you’re not wrong to do so. But while they’re different in the most obvious sense, they’re connected. These days, PPC as we know it doesn’t work without AI. For example, if you’ve ever set up or run a PPC campaign, you know you have the option to choose between manual or automatic bidding, placement, etc. And all of those automatics are powered by AI.
AI and PPC – automatic vs. manual bidding
Because of machine learning, AI can take over many of the marketing jobs traditionally handled by humans. Take chatbots – they interact with customers for you, answering questions and delivering appropriate responses in real time. Same thing with smart speakers; that’s not a human on the other side of Alexa, that’s AI. In the same way that AI has affected our everyday tasks, it’s also affected the way we do business. For PPC, that means that many tasks previously performed by PPC managers can be handled by AI. While there used to be a need for manually setting up and monitoring multiple spreadsheets and making hard decisions about where and when to place your ad, there’s now AI that can automate things like the data collection process. That’s good news for many reasons, as passing off more tedious tasks can free up a manager’s time for more complex responsibilities and decisions. But the rapid rise of AI is also a cause for concern for many.

When Did AI Become So Important in PPC?

Though AI still seems like a thing of the future for many, it’s actually been around since the 1950s – well before PPC. In the early days, PPC marketing was basically a free-for-all, where the advertiser willing to pay the most per click earned the highest position in the search results. As we know now, that process has changed considerably and continues to change with the growth of AI. Only recently has AI become some a fixture in PPC. The reason for that is due to the rapid updating of the technology. As AI becomes smarter, the speed at which it evolves increases. So, while it could have previously taken a year to learn a new skill, it now only takes a week, and so on and so forth. It’s reaching the point where AI can evolve much faster than humans, which has disrupted the way many PPC managers do their jobs and left many wondering what their roles will be in the future.

Levels of AI in PPC

It’s important to note that not all AI has full-blown human decision-making capabilities. Search Engine Land author Frederick Vallaeys notes that if we expect part of our jobs to be automated, there needs to be a system in place to determine the limits and capabilities of the AI we’re using. He recommends the following defining levels to users of PPC tools:
  • Level 0 – Everything in the PPC account is done manually
  • Level 1 – AI monitors and alerts but take no automated action
  • Level 2 individual management tasks are automated, but there is no interconnection between the tasks
  • Level 3automation handles multiple tasks together and understands the interplay of the managed components
  • Level 4human oversight is no longer required as long as the ads are kept within tight bounds
  • Level 5full-blown AI takeover, where humans are no longer required and ad systems are so smart it knows how to grow any business

AI and PPC – AI and the PPC Manager

Having a sense of the levels above (and which apply to your role) will help PPC managers understand the impact continuing AI can have on their job responsibilities. AI will almost certainly continue to grow and evolve – and ultimately thin the amount of PPC managers out there. But don’t be too alarmed just yet. AI for PPC hasn’t reached Level 5 yet and has a way to go before it can perform all the functions and judgment calls that a human can. The most likely change is that PPC managers will need to adopt a new set of skills. Their jobs will now be to work in tandem with AI, not independently. In the future, PPC agencies and managers will be more responsible for the following:
  • Providing creativity that machines lack
  • Averting disaster
  • Providing empathy to clients

AI and PPC – How PPC Benefits From AI

Though it can be daunting to think of the full capabilities of AI, it’s important to remember all the benefits AI provides. Not only has it taken over some of the more repetitive tasks of PPC management, but it’s improved campaigns in the following ways:
  • Ad delivery optimization – show your ad to the right people at the right time depending on your overall objective
  • Dynamic ads – Facebook ads, for example, can show different ads to different people based on their browsing history
  • Automated bidding – search engines like Google will automatically adjust your bid to help achieve your objective
  • Find relevant keywords – can help you uncover the most popular keywords and variations
  • Etc.
AI and PPC is used in Facebook for optimization
AI and PPC is used in Facebook for optimization

The Future of AI and PPC

AI changes everything from the way we do our jobs to the way customers search for our products. It may seem counterintuitive, but the use of AI has actually helped humanize the PPC process. Think, again, of smart speakers and chatbots; they allow customers to interact in a more human way. A great article on PPC Hero references a few of the ways it will change how customers interact with brands. He mentions things like the fact that more and more, humans are interacting with brands and products like they’re human too. Because of that, search will continue to be humanized by tying ads and rankings to human intent, rather than keywords. That means that when compiling keyword lists and phrases, agencies will have to focus more on natural questions and how people speak, rather than how they type. The article also points out that customers want to feel like they have real relationships with brands. To do so, PPC workers will have to continue to have conversations with customers, not just deliver sales pitches. But right now, the biggest effect AI has on PPC and SEO is the ability to collect accurate data, fast.

Wrapping Up the Revolution of AI and PPC

Rest easy – PPC is far from becoming fully automated. For now, there are far too many parts that require human judgment and expertise. But it is changing the way we market. In most cases, this has been for the better. AI has helped PPC emerge as one of the most popular ways to market, and its ability to target and uncover audiences and keywords in invaluable. As for the future, the relationship between AI and PPC will certainly continue to evolve. Only time will tell exactly what that means for marketers and their customer relationships.

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John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, one of the top digital marketing agencies in the nation. Ignite Visibility is a 4x  Inc. 5,000 company. Ignite Visibility offers a unique digital marketing program tied directly to ROI with a focus on using SEO, social media, paid media, CRO, email, Amazon and PR to achieve results. Outside of Ignite Visibility, Lincoln is a frequent speaker and author of the books “Digital Influencer” and “The Forecaster Method.” Lincoln is consistently named one of the top digital marketers in the industry and was the recipient of the coveted Search Engine Land “Search Marketer of The Year” award. Lincoln has taught digital marketing and Web Analytics at the University of California San Diego since 2010, has been named as one of San Diego’s most admired CEO’s and a top business leader under 40. Lincoln has also made “SEO: The Movie” and “Social Media Marketing: The Movie.” His business mission is to help others through digital marketing.

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