In this line of work, I’ve talked to many small to mid-sized business owners who are trying to buy into the whole “get seen on the Internet” thing but don’t know exactly how to do it. They’ve set up a Google places page, got a few Yelp reviews, they might have even hired a guy to design their own website and do the SEO for it. Then they find out that SEO takes a little longer to rank for than they’d hoped and they sign up for AdWords, only to find out how complicated and overwhelming it can be for a first timer.

After a few hours of reading PPC Hero articles and playing around in the AdWords interface, they’ve set up a couple campaigns, put together a budget and a default CPC and that’s it. Done. Typically, the SMB owner just sits back and hopes that customers and money come pouring in. They might be a little more realistic and just hope that the money trickles in at a greater rate than they spent. At any rate, most of them don’t realize that there is more to PPC management than just throwing some money at the machine and waiting for it to print more money for you in return.

When their campaigns don’t turn into money machines, they usually freak out a little bit, try to wait a little bit longer and then eventually just quit, figuring that it doesn’t work for them. What the small business owner doesn’t realize is that they never once went back and looked at their bids. They might have paid enough to rank first or second on their keywords, and got a bunch of clicks, but their cost per acquisition wasn’t where it needed to be to make it worthwhile. Of course if the SMB was with an agency, their people would have figured out the ideal CPA and bid accordingly, but we’re talking about the businesses that agencies won’t even look at because of the budget size.

Here’s where bid automation is perfect. And I’m not talking about Google bid automation, I’m sure they do a great job (and I suppose I love them because without them I don’t have my job) but the thing that scares me is that their bottom line is making money with your advertising dollars. Third party bid automation tools make their money by trying to save you as much money on your CPA while getting you more clicks.

I know bid automation isn’t very popular among SEM experts at agencies because bidding is their job, but typically they aren’t helping the kind of people who can really benefit from automation. For that reason, I feel very comfortable recommending automation services to small business owners spending more time on AdWords than they’d prefer (which is probably somewhere between 0-10 minutes a week) analyzing and adjusting bids and especially to those who haven’t realized how important bid management is at all.

Trace Ronning is the social media coordinator for WordWatch. They’re dedicated to delivering small business advertisers better results for their money. He blogs about small business and paid search at and you can follow him on twitter @WordWatchPPC.