Forget everything you thought you knew about PPC

Dave McAndrew - Paid Media Director,


Paid Media, and more specifically Paid Search, is in the process of the biggest change the industry has ever seen. Gone are the days of manual bidding and large keyword structures, now is the time of automation, machine learning and simplified account structures.

Anyone and everyone who has worked in Paid Search has spent time effectively trying to outsmart Google Ads - from adding negative keywords to ensuring budget is not being wasted on broad keywords, which typically drive less relevant traffic.

This has all changed!

Hagakure is the term being used in the industry to describe new account structures and management.

Hagakure is a Japanese word which means “hidden by the leaves”, I guess the English version of this is ‘not seeing the forest for the trees’

We are looking to achieve performance growth by concentration our efforts on market opportunity rather optimising an existing keyword list and structure.


The advancement of machine learning flips everything on its head.

The role of the keyword has changed - keywords are no longer about qualifying users, but should be used as a bridge to reach your audience at scale.

Accounts which are overly segmented  and use  match types to ensure traffic is funneled towards campaigns, ad groups and creatives with the largest budgets and conversions, are now stifling account growth. Rather than trying to ‘optimise’ your account by squeezing for a small increase in click through rate (CTR) or impression, share focus on reaching audiences who are simply outside of your chosen keyword footprint.

AI and Smart bidding now stand as an absolute cornerstone of Paid Search activity. This Allows us to transform our paid activity from large campaign structures, which focus on the keywords that are in the account, towards a simplified campaign structure with less keywords but a much larger audience reach


Two circles, in the first lager circle it says "Total market opportunity" inside the larger circle is a smaller, pink circle saying "Your keyword footprint".
  • Traditionally, building in exact match keywords into an account would drive efficient growth.
  • Rather than just bidding on ‘safe’ exact match keywords, we want to reach every user possible within your KPI’s.
  • By utilising bidding technology, our aim is aggressive account expansion.
  • We achieve this by taking away historical, subjective decisions and allow data to lead the way.


A single broad match keyword can do the work of 50 exact match keywords in reaching exactly the same users, whilst also reaching users who are searching using very close variants. Grouping relevant broad match keywords together allows us to continue to tailor creative towards intent, to still keep ads relevant to the audience.


A navy blue circle, inside the circle in white writing it says "PPC company" to the right of the circle is a list that reads; Pay per click agency, Ppc agency, Paid search agency, Paid media company. Performance marketing agency, Digital marketing agency.

In order to maximise performance of smart bidding, it is important that you are able to generate high traffic levels, in order for the bidding strategies to make the best decisions at speed. A simplified account structure is the perfect solution for this. Rather than seeing traffic generated through hundreds, if not thousands of individual keywords, we are able to funnel through a smaller subset - allowing bidding AI to make the best decisions in real time.


An image of three circles within each other, inside the middle square it says "your keyword foorprint". Inside that square is a pink circle that has "your competitor" written inside it.
  • Unrestricting an account and allowing the keyword coverage to grow will push the account towards new audiences which have not yet been discovered.
  • Having a larger keyword footprint allows for increased paths to conversion to occur.
  • Qualified keywords are now less valuable, ad they only focus on what has worked in the past – not what is available for the future.
  • Unrestricting your keyword pool will give you a competitive advantage over your competition.

A simplified account structure using AI takes away much of the heavy lifting from day to day account management, but that doesn’t mean we are simply handing over all decisions over to AI. It is vital that we continue to serve the AI with improved signals through audience segmentation and changes to business goals, as well as changes to user behaviour and demographics as we increase spend and engage with new audiences.


This change to Paid Search management is seismic and presents the biggest opportunity to advertisers in the channel to date.

How quickly advertisers adopt and embrace these changes will define their success over their competition, who are still focused on testing increasing bids on manual CPCs or increasing impression share on the keywords which are already in the account. Advertisers who want to increase their online footprint by removing subjective decision making in managing Paid Search, will be the biggest winners from these changes.

Want to find out more about how we can help improve your Paid Media offering? Get in touch.

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