By Dan Williams

Google have been quietly making lots of nice improvements to the AdWords interface in recent weeks, including to Automated Rules. Here are 3 of my favourite rules.

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Google have been quietly making lots of nice improvements to the AdWords interface in recent weeks (for a nice round up of recent key changes see the post on the Inside AdWords blog). One key feature which I’ve been finding more uses for are Automated Rules within the ‘Automate’ section of the Keywords Tab.

Automated rules in AdWords

There are lots of interesting things you can do from this menu, but in this article I’m going to focus on some of the rules you can set up with the Change max. CPC bids when… andIncrease keyword bids to first page CPC options. I’m going to cover three of my favourite rules here; how they work, how they save you money, and I’ll introduce each with a jazzy pop culture reference to try and divert your attention from the fact that I am a man who can list his three favourite AdWords Automated Rules when required.

1. The Crazy Frog

If you’re not from the UK, you’ve got a bad memory, or you’ve attended some expensive therapy sessions, you may not recall the period in early 2005 where the number one single was an incongruous collection of sound effects performed by a motorcycle riding amphibian who exposed himself for the duration of the performance. Nobody you knew was buying the ‘song’, nobody you knew could stand to hear it; in fact there was no logical reason why the song continued to exist. Yet it did. Someone was buying it, in fact rather a lot of someones were buying it (God have mercy on their souls). Which illustrates my first point: sometimes it’s really, really hard to work out why the hell the things that sell, sell, but nevertheless they do in fact sell.

The Rule:

Requirements: Performance , Average Ad Position, Better Than (3) AND Conversions (1-per-click), <= (0)
Automatic Action: Decrease bid by 10%
Frequency: Adjust this to suit your needs. How often should your campaign be converting? I like to set this rule to run weekly or monthly on most campaigns, as it’s more of a safety net rather than a daily management tool, but it’s up to you.

Automated rule 1

The Result:

This rule is essentially saying; if our ad is appearing in the banner (generally the top 3 ad positions on desktop computers) for this keyword, and we’ve sold something, leave it alone. However, if we’ve not sold anything in this period, decrease the bid on the keyword by 10%. This rule will stop you paying top prices for keywords that aren’t quite pulling their weight right now. Sometimes keywords that you just know are good performers might have a dry spell, and if you’re not looking at them as closely as you should, this rule will help bring them back into line until you next review them.

Bonus - The Reverse Frog: Likewise, if you’ve got super star performers that aren’t getting the respect they deserve (think Elbow until their recent flirtation with stadium-friendly mid-tempo anthems, or Kings of Convenience on any album ever) then consider using Automated Rules to give them some love. Something like increasing bids for keywords with Average Ad Position lower than 5, and conversions greater than 10 (again, depending on your personal conversion expectations) will help give more prominence to hidden gems in your account.

2. The Furby

Furbys are back, and apparently they’re going to be big again this Christmas. If you don’t know what a Furby is, I’m referring to these creepy little customers, and they were the ‘must have’ toy of xmas 1998. I remember Furby well because I had one, and because I loved it until the day its circuitry went haywire in the middle of the night and it started to make a constant baritone buzzing noise like the ewok antichrist. Who decided this was the year for Furby’s triumphant return? It must be a tough call because the trouble is: it’s much easier to see when something isn’t working, than to work out what is missing.

The Rule:

This one is within the Increase keyword bids to first page CPC option.

Requirements: Below first page bid.
Frequency: This is sort of up to your preference. Before this automation existed I used to check this once a week in AdWords Editor, so weekly might be a good place to start.
Max. bid: Use this to set a hard upper limit that you’re comfortable with for your maximum bid level. You should have a good idea of the market and what it costs to get to the first page for a given adgroup, use this as a safety measure in case there’s a massive shift in the market and you don’t want your automatic rule to automatically match the bids without your knowledge.

Automated rule 2

The Results:
This rule will automatically push the bids up for any keywords not making the first page. Sometimes good keywords can end up slipping past you because they’re not getting enough impressions to get noticed. We’re busy people, and my rule of thumb is to generally focus on the parts of the campaign that are spending the money, but this can mean some excellent keywords that haven’t been given a chance to do their stuff can be missed. Use this rule to give all your keywords a chance to impress.

3. It's the taking part that counts

When I was in sixth form my school introduced a rule that everyone got a prize on sports day for taking part. As a man who has never been any good at any socially recognised sport, you may think this was a good thing for me. It was not. By sixth form I could just sit around eating ice cream and laughing at little year sevens struggling to throw javelins and discuses with the vague hope that the St John’s ambulance may be called into action. Giving everyone a prize takes the gladiatorial edge off the whole affair, but it does also teach us another key lesson:first place is not necessarily the best place to be.

The Rule(s):

Requirements: Performance, Average Position, Better Than (Target)
Automatic Action: Decrease bid by 10%
Frequency: Daily using data from the previous day.


Requirements: Performance, Average Position, Worse Than (Target)
Automatic Action: Increase bid by 10%
Frequency: Daily using data from the previous day.

Automated rule 3a

Automated rule 3b

The Results:
Okay, so this one is a little more complicated and will require two rules to set up. You will also need to have decided on an ad position that you want to target. These rules work as a pair to continually readjust your bids so that on average your ads appear in this position you’ve chosen to target. How much you can get out of this rule will largely be dictated by your response to this statement: the top ad position is not always the best position for you. If you reacted with surprise, you may want to experiment with this rule targeting something like position two for your top keywords. With an average position of two you’re still appearing in the banner a good proportion of the time, but you won’t pay quite as much as the guy in position one for each click, and you might find that your conversion rate remains high enough that you see a better overall ROI than when you appeared in position one.

If this concept is not completely alien to you, then you may want to experiment with finer gradations: what happens if you target position 1.9, or 2.1 instead? This pair of rules performs a basic version of the kind of thing a PPC agency will do on a day to day basis, and if you’re interested in playing around with them, I’d definitely make sure you’ve set aside the time to analyse the results, because it’s not always clear whether the new position you’re targeting is better or worse for you.

Have you set up any Automated Rules in your accounts? Which are your favourites? Let us know in the comments.

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