Bid Automation vs. Manual Bid Management: Man, Machine or Both?

Post by Richard Rhee, Associate Director, Analytics

When it comes to paid search bid management, advertisers often wonder whether to leverage (1) a bid automation tool or (2) a manual bid management approach. At Performics, we have a unique perspective, as we’re accomplished in both methods—tailored per individual client need. This point-of-view provides our opinion on which approach is best, in terms of speed, cost, adaptability and accuracy. We conclude that bid automation is often best used in tandem with manual bid management—a hybrid of man and machine.


In the marketplace, you’ll often see vendors playing up their bid automation technologies as ideal in all aspects of bid management. However, we’ve found that the manual approach often wins for certain key bid management considerations:

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Employing machines in more predictable and stable environments/marketplaces generates precise and accurate results, while employing man in more unpredictable and volatile situations generates more reactive and accurate—albeit less precise—results. But employing both prepares the advertiser to better handle either situation . . .


So far we’ve pitted man against machine. But what if man and machine were to work together? Using both man and machine, advertisers can create highly responsive bid management systems capable of both (1) rapidly reacting to volatile environments and (2) quickly generating highly accurate bids.

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To illustrate, highly sophisticated bid automation, without human oversight, can in fact impair account management. Instances include:

  • Over Emphasis on High-Level KPIs: Automated bid algorithms can be too focused on adjusting bids to meet high-level program key performance indicators (KPIs), while overlooking best practices that enhance bid management like: correct number of ads, keywords and location/geo/device targeting settings within ad groups and campaigns
  • Inability to Consider Marketplace Shifts: Many bid algorithms can manually exclude set dates/promotions on marketing calendars that may dramatically derail bid look-back windows and bid history, which are used for algorithm optimizations. However, they’re unable to account for unanticipated marketplace shifts (e.g. competitor conquesting or new competitor product launches). Furthermore, while tangible external forces (e.g. weather data, television flighting) can be automated into a bid tool’s logic, intangible external forces (e.g. politics, natural disasters, PR emergencies) cannot.

These instance make man critical in incorporating subtle and granular layers of analytics, intuition and external tertiary factors that impact bid strategy.

In summary, bid automation in tandem with manual bid management (man + machine) best positions your paid search programs for performance. Leverage the machine to enable budget and bid allocation at scale, and the man to react to the unpredictable, volatile and unanticipated situations, which arise in most every campaign.

For more information on Bid Management, please contact your Performics Account Team today

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