Great Day Recap: Evan Waters – Laying the Groundwork for PPC Automation

Evan Waters, Director of Growth & Marketing at Naspers, one of the world’s largest global internet and entertainment group technology investors, delivered an equally enlightening and interesting talk at the Great Day for PPC Automation on October 18th: First, he took the audience on a trip down memory lane, giving us examples of his PPC automation wins and failures.

He then presented us with his framework for automation that lists three stages: Reporting, Ad Serving and Bidding.


When thinking about automating PPC efforts, a lot of people tend to start with automating reporting because it is relatively low risk. Evan suggests asking yourself “What’s your source of truth?” Next to a main source of data reporting he says that secondary and even third sources are helpful (he likes a third party tool for analyzing traffic, e.g. Google Analytics).
Yes, reporting can be inaccurate and there’s probably no such thing as the one perfect tool. But Evan strongly compels us to lose the fear of inaccurate reporting, risking a bit of inaccuracy vs. having no numbers to count on at all.

And yes, reporting can be a mind numbing task, but it is an absolutely essential part of PPC automation.

Ad Serving

With reporting out of the way, you can focus on automating ad serving next. The devil lies in the details here. When automating ad creation, e.g. via dynamic keyword insertion, be sure to keep an eye on language. You’re still dealing with humans who are supposed to click on your ads and they’re sensitive to their mother tongue – poor grammar can heavily impact your click-through rates! AI can also be helpful when classifying images for ad formats such as Google Shopping that are heavily dependant on their visual appearance.
Towards the end of this section, Evan served us with a hot tip:

Always treat your 10 most important keywords like queens!

Evan’s summary:

  • Grammar check dynamic keyword insertion
  • AI + structured data are your friend
  • Roll out the red carpet for celebrities manually


You’ve taken care of reporting and ad serving, now comes the part that can get you the most out of your advertising budget. The three keywords in bidding are structure, data and organization.

Granularity is king and dynamic search ads are cannibals

When talking about structure, Evan says that granularity is king. The best accounts are the most granular ones and we happily agree with him on that. He also stated that word order is important – e.g. when people search for hotels in Paris with the phrase “paris hotels” they’re usually further down the conversion funnel than a person looking for “hotel paris”. Another important thing to remember: Queries listing the brand first and the product second lead to higher conversion rates than queries listing the product first and the brand second.

Watch out for cannibalism: dynamic search ads can be a tempting format to use and they do have their advantages (they’re very easy to manage at first glance) but they also tend to to feed the cannibalisation effect. Traffic rushes into DSA when you bid higher but conversion rates are usually worse. Another cannibal to watch out for are duplicate broad keywords.

Exact match and automation are best friends!

Don’t optimize in the dark

Data is the life blood of PPC automation – don’t optimize in the dark! Don’t worry too much about trash data – Evan quoted Keanu Reeves here: “one of the most important things in life is showing up” – as long as data is flowing in consistently! If trash data comes in it will also go out as trash data.

Evan’s summary:

  • Commit to consistent tracking
  • Bid to an average to perform average
  • Structure supports value mapping


Last but not least, your organization matters in that certain factors can be a hindrance to automation success. It is indeed possible that your company may not be ready for PPC automation at all. E.g., do temporary, inconsistent offers drive your business? And also… is your boss stable enough for automation? Stable goals are essential!

Evan left us with a nice quote:

The goal of automation is to free YOU up to do what YOU do best.

Our key takeaways from Evan’s talk:

  • Granularity is king!
  • Secondary and third sources of truth are valuable in reporting
  • Be careful with languages, poor grammar can restrain click-through rates
  • Some keywords are worth being treated well, Evan’s tip: Treat your top 10 queries like a celebrity
  • Exact match and automation are best friends whereas dynamic search ads and duplicate keywords can stunt growth

Check out Evan’s full talk for concrete strategies to improve your PPC efforts

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