You probably have a line in your marketing budget earmarked for “digital advertising in paid search” as a channel to acquire leads, members, or buyers of the product or service you sell.

Each organization goes about paid search execution in its own way. A larger budget allows for an in-house bid management specialist (or a team of them) to manage this channel. A more modest budget might mean utilizing a marketing team member to handle paid search along with other duties. Another possibility, if internal resources aren’t available, is to hire an outside bid management service provider.

Regardless of which method you use, it’s important to know that there’s more to managing paid search than just treating it like a big pot roast in the crockpot on “set it and forget it” mode. Letting your valuable budget dollars be spent in auto-pilot fashion has potential risks that will most certainly result in missed opportunities for your organization.


It’s true that with pay-per-click (PPC) ads, paid social media ads, and search engine marketing (SEM), the campaigns can be set up in such a way that the platform itself will basically spend your money, within the restrictions and parameters you have set in your bid strategy and budget. And some platforms periodically offer guidance from a member of their paid search support team.

That’s fine for the platforms, and they will happily happily offer high-level advice and spend your money! But your success isn’t really their priority. And depending on how much expertise your paid search manager has and the amount of time they can put toward managing and improving the performance of your campaigns, you might be missing out on really optimizing and growing this channel. Remember: your budget is too valuable to risk unwise spending through just the advice of the platform.

Ask yourself how much value-add beyond the bid strategy and budget you are expecting from your internal or external bid management resources. If you’ve only asked for the set up and oversight of campaigns on these two elements, then that’s what you’ll get.

A better strategy exists. Experience shows that big improvements happen when the bid management scope moves from just setting up the campaigns and letting the algorithms do their thing, to a robust marketing strategy. This includes everything from bid strategy and budget, to trend analysis, seasonality monitoring, understanding spend thresholds by ROI, and of course testing, testing, testing.


Successful paid search management is so much more than adjusting the bidding and budget within the paid media channel platforms. If your strategy only involves those aspects and isn’t monitored and managed by an experienced marketer, there is no one actively:

  • Watching for trends, understanding highs/lows in the market, and then reacting to what’s happening over time. Depending on your audience, seasonality can be a factor. As can world events like pandemics, elections, holidays, and of course your organization’s own sponsored events. And don’t forget about new digital channels your prospects have become accustomed to. For example, if the primary social media channels they are in now are mostly short video-based experiences (think TikTok), then they are likely conditioned to react better to short video-based ads in your paid search advertising as well. Identify the optimal times to be in the market based on your historical media buying data, and then ride those waves.
  • Testing for improvement. It might sound obvious, but continual testing, learning and then refreshing what the prospect sees online is often overlooked by many organizations. There are many opportunities for testing and improving in the paid search realm including:
    • Ad messaging
    • Ad creative (images, videos)
    • Landing page variant testing
    • Keyword enhancements (including negative keywords)
    • Audience testing
    • Offer testing
  • Adjusting your media spend to optimize your CPA threshold. Understanding the “elasticity” of your spend is crucial. In other words, when you increase your allowable spend on a campaign by a certain percentage, what impact does that have on your CPA (by what percentage does it change)? Even if your CPA increases, it still might be within your acceptable CPA. Knowing this allows you to optimize your media buying, when your budget allows for increased spending.
  • Analyzing the impact your paid search campaign and the associated budget spend is having on your organic traffic and non-paid social media channels. When you dial down your paid search budget, these other non-paid channels are likely to decline as well. You will be better equipped to forecast for any overall declines in volume if you understand how much one (paid) impacts the other (non-paid).
  • Segmenting and tracking your conversion activity by new buyers vs. returning buyers. Differentiating your activity to this level is important so you know how much you are paying for each type of transaction with your organization. You might need to pay more for a first time buyer than you would for a returning customer, but you won’t actually know if you aren’t segmenting the conversion activity by each type.


Just like with other marketing channels, successful digital marketing in paid search includes a full-scale marketing strategy beyond just the bidding and budget management.

If you consistently look for improvement through testing and enhancement of your online offer presence, you set your organization up for continued success and growth from this channel.

While AI is great (and very powerful in the right experienced hands), human marketers understand the type of audience you are trying to attract, can react to trends, and can provide marketing insight that a machine cannot. The paid search platform’s algorithm can do some of the legwork for you, but there are important elements that are positive needle movers, and only a human marketer can make them happen.

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