Beginner’s Guide to PPC Automated Rules
Published: September 15, 2014
Author: Katie Walton
When you’ve worked in PPC for a few years, it’s easy to forget that not everyone knows about all the awesome things you can do right within Google AdWords. Sure, that feature may seem basic to you, but to a beginner it could be mind-blowing.
Automated rules is one such feature that can seem mundane, but offers some really powerful options that every advertiser can make use of at one time or another.
So what are automated rules?
Essentially, they are commands to AdWords that will take action in your account automatically based on criteria you select.
So far, so good. But what does “take action” mean?
There are a whole bunch of ways that you can use rules; most – but not all – result in changes to the account. The possible ways to use rules fall into four basic categories:
1. Pausing or enabling campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords.
2. Changing daily budgets.
3. Editing bids.
4. Sending emails.
And within each category there are multiple ways to use the rules. These rules range from straightforward (pause ad group x on date y) to complex (increase daily budget for all campaigns with label X by Y to a maximum budget of Z when conversions are more than A and CPA is less than B).
This may make it sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be!
Ok, so how do I create a rule?
Log into AdWords; from the Campaigns section, go to the level that you want to create the rule at. So, if you want to set a rule for campaigns, go to the Campaigns tab; if you want to automate ad groups, go to the Ad Groups tab; and so on.
Below your performance graph and above the table of statistics, you’ll find a series of drop-down menus. Click the Automate menu, and pick the option that describes what you want to do.
You will then be shown a series of options to help you customise the rule to meet your needs.
Let’s say you have a campaign with a daily budget of £100 that is set to accelerated delivery because it delivers an excellent ROI and the client is keen to capture all possible traffic.
Recently, you’ve noticed that the campaign has been limited by budget, and you want to make sure that you aren’t running out of budget early in the day. So you decide that you need an email at midday if the costs accrued by that campaign are more than £50 (50% of your budget). Here’s how you would do it:
1. Select the campaign in question, and change Apply to Selected campaigns (1) from the drop-down menu. If any number other than 1 appears, double-check that only the right campaign is selected.
2. From Requirements, select Cost and > from the drop-down menus. Type 50 into the box provided.
3. For Frequency, select Daily 12 and using data from Same day.
4. Type in a rule name – this will help you to manage your rules.
AdWords recommends that you always preview your rules to ensure they have been set up correctly. However, unless you create the rule on a day when the cost so far has already exceeded £50, you will have a message that nothing would match your requirements. This doesn’t mean that you haven’t set the rule up right, though!
How do I know if a rule is working if nothing has changed?
In cases like the one above, you may not actually receive any emails because your campaign never exceeds those costs by midday. However, that doesn’t mean you have to just take it on good faith that everything is working as it should. If you ever want to be sure, you can check the Logs to see what’s happening.
There are two ways to access the Logs:
1. From the Campaigns tab, click Automate and select Manage Rules.
2. From the left-hand navigation, click Bulk operations and Automated Rules.
You will see a list of all your rules at the top of the page, and if you scroll down you will see the Logs. You’ll see something like this:
The start time, name and outcome of the rule will all be there for you to see. In your case, you would expect to see that Midday Cost Check for Campaign X made No changes, so you know that everything is going according to plan.
What if I need to change a rule?
After a few days of running your rule, you get an email to say that your campaign has spent more than £50 by midday. Subsequently, you decide to raise your budget to £150. Your current automated rule will no longer tell you if costs hit 50% of the budget by midday, so you want to edit it to email you when costs exceed £75.
That’s easily done! Here’s how:
1. Navigate to the Automated Rules area like you did to see the Logs.
2. Where there is the list of rules at the top of the page, find your rule, and click Edit rule.
3. A warning will appear to say that this will overwrite your existing rule – if you don’t want to see this again, tick the box then click Yes I understand.
4. You will see the same rule creation box as you did before; edit 50 to 75, click save, and you’re done.
Alternatively, you may find that you have no use for your rule any more, and you want to stop the emails from coming through. Instead of editing the rule, you may want to pause it – so that you can reactivate it if this becomes an issue again – or remove it if you just want to get rid of it completely.
Sounds great; how else can I use automated rules?
There are a ton of ways that you can use automated rules to help your accounts perform exceptionally.
The most commonly used (or at least talked about) tactic is around scheduling promotions and seasonal messages. Need ads that will launch the second December 1 hits and pause at midnight on Christmas Day? Automated rules are your friend.
Here are some posts from around the web about how PPC folk use automated rules to their advantage:
Google AdWords Automated Rules: Three Valuable Uses, by Brittany Baeslack
Brittany covers using automated rules for brand management, making the most of awareness campaigns and how to schedule promotional ads.
3 Automated Rules that will Save You Money, by Dan Williams
Dan covers a range of bidding rules to ensure that your ads are appearing in the right position for the right price. He gets bonus point with me for making Brit culture references (kudos to any Yanks who know what he’s talking about).
Use AdWords Automations to Beef Up Your Bidding Strategy, by Jay Stampfl
Jay doesn’t give examples for you to follow; instead his post talks about how to use your own goals and best practices to create rules that will work for you.
Common ways to use automated rules
The AdWords help centre has a great list of common ways that you can use automated rules to manage your accounts more effectively. If you find that your rules don’t work for you, you’ll also find links to troubleshooting information.
What if I don’t like the changes AdWords made?
Automated rules aren’t perfect. Sometimes you’ll find that changes have been made that just don’t work for you. You aren’t stuck with them, though! Go to the Logs; if changes have occurred, you’ll get a link to details of what happened. And there’s a big undo button to, well, undo the changes.
This will undo all the changes, so be clear that you really do want to change everything before you hit it. You can find out more about how Undo works in the AdWords support guide.
I have an awesome idea, but I don’t know if Automated Rules can make it happen
These rules are a great way to begin using automation in your account, and they can help to take some of the strain out of day-to-day management. But while they can do some relatively complex things, ultimately they aren’t the most sophisticated tool you can use.
If you’ve thought of something that it just seems like automated rules can’t do, maybe you need scripts instead. I’ve written a post about how non-technical people like me can make use of this nifty tool to take automation to the next level.
Good luck with getting to grips with Automated Rules; let me know how you get on. Or, if you already use them, why not share your favourite ways to use automated rules?