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Budget Pacing: From Manual Tracking to AI-Assisted Tools

Budget pacing is often akin to navigating a minefield. A sudden spike in CPC on Google Ads during a key industry event, or an unexpected change in Facebook’s ad delivery algorithm, can throw off a well-planned budget pacing strategy. 

The risk? Either burning through your PPC budget prematurely during a peak period or under-spending when the market is ripe, both leading to missed opportunities and suboptimal ROI.

This article delves into strategies that can help advertisers maintain control over their PPC budget, make informed PPC adjustments, and optimize their campaign budget for better returns. We'll review multiple budget pacing techniques, from manual pacing in spreadsheets to leveraging AI for keeping track of ad spend. 

Key Takeaways

  • Manual tracking, while offering control and a deep understanding of data, is time-intensive and more prone to errors, making it suitable for smaller businesses or less complex campaigns. 
  • In-app tools provided by platforms like Google Ads or Bing offer platform-specific insights, ideal for businesses focusing their efforts on a single platform.
  • Automated tools offer a balance, providing efficiency and detailed insights without the labor intensity of manual data aggregation and tracking. They are well-suited for medium-sized and enterprise businesses and marketing agencies or those managing campaigns across multiple platforms. 
  • AI-assisted tools are beneficial for companies and agencies managing complex, high-volume campaigns. These tools offer the ability to process large sets of data and provide budget pacing insights on the spot.

The Fundamentals of Budget Pacing 

Budget pacing is a pivotal strategy in PPC campaign management, guiding the distribution of ad spend over time to ensure optimal visibility and impact. It's a tactical approach that combines monitoring PPC spend and adjusting ad placements to meet campaign goals efficiently.

Effective budget pacing prevents premature budget depletion, allowing for consistent campaign presence. It's a dual process of reporting and optimizing PPC spend to address pacing discrepancies.It's a proactive measure to ensure a campaign's longevity and effectiveness by strategically allocating the budget over its course.

Core Components of Effective Budget Pacing

Here are the key fundamentals of ad spend monitoring:

Daily spend allocation

This involves setting and adjusting your daily PPC spend limits. A common approach is to divide your total budget by the number of days in the campaign. However, this doesn't account for day-to-day market fluctuations. 

That's why for most campaigns, the daily spend allocation limit = 2 * your daily average. For instance, if your average daily spend is $1,500, the daily campaign budget should be $3,000. This dynamic approach provides enough room to adjust daily spend based on performance data and market trends.

Regular reporting and analysis

Implement a robust reporting system to frequently analyze the performance of your campaigns. This should include a breakdown of spend by platform, campaign, ad group, and keyword. Use this data to make informed decisions on where to allocate budget more effectively.

Understanding platform algorithms

Each ad platform has its algorithm for ad delivery. These algorithms impact how your budget is spent. Understanding these can help in optimizing your spend.

For example, Google Ads uses a daily overdelivery system, which can spend up to twice your set daily budget, balancing this over a month. Planning for this can prevent mid-campaign budget shortfalls.

Bid adjustments based on performance

Monitor your campaign’s performance metrics—click-through rates, conversion rates, cost per acquisition—and adjust bids accordingly. Lowering bids on underperforming keywords or ad sets can save the campaign budget for more effective segments.

Automated bid management tools can make real-time adjustments based on predefined rules and performance targets, alleviating the burden of constant manual adjustments and reducing the risk of human error.

Responsive adjustments for market conditions 

Stay attuned to external factors like seasonal trends, competitor activity, and industry events that can influence search behavior and costs. Adjusting your budget pacing strategy in response to these factors can optimize ad spend effectiveness.

Manual Budget Pacing Techniques 

Manual budget pacing techniques, though labor-intensive, offer precise control over your PPC campaigns. 

First and foremost, create a simple yet effective spreadsheet for daily ad spend monitoring against your overall campaign budget. The structure of the pacing dashboard should be tailored to the needs of your business. 

Here's a simple budget pacing template for spreadsheets.

Improvado budget pacing template for spreadsheets

Building a tracker for manual ad spend tracking, your primary focus should be on aggregating data and setting up a functional and informative structure.

  1. Collect data from all advertising platforms you are using (e.g., Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Bing Ads). This involves exporting data reports from each platform, typically available in CSV or Excel format. Consolidate this data into your spreadsheet. 
  2. Use Excel or Google Sheets formulas to calculate cumulative spend over time. For instance, use a running total formula to sum up the daily spend as it accumulates throughout the month. If projecting future spend, use average daily spend and remaining days in the campaign period to estimate future expenses.
  3. If you want to analyze budget pacing in the context of overall campaign performance, input performance data like clicks, impressions, CTR, etc., alongside the spend data. This helps in understanding the return you’re getting on your PPC spend.
  4. Use formulas or conditional formatting to highlight key data points, like high CPCs or low conversion rates.

The biggest drawback of manual ad spend tracking is that it requires significant time and effort, especially for large-scale campaigns with multiple ad platforms. Manual data entry and analysis are susceptible to human errors, which can lead to incorrect conclusions and decisions.

That's the reason why manual budget pacing often lacks the real-time aspect, leading to delays in decision-making and potential overspend or underspend.

In-App Ad Spend Tracking

Another technique to monitor ad spend is to utilize built-in budget pacing solutions of advertising platforms. In-app tracking is best for:

  • Small businesses that don't run complex, multi-platform campaigns;
  • Businesses focusing their advertising efforts on a single platform;
  • Companies just starting with digital advertising.

Here's a closer look at how this is managed within various platforms.

Google Ads Spend Tracking

Google Ads offers detailed reports where you can track daily spend and compare it with your set budget. This includes visualization of spend trends and the ability to segment data by campaign, ad group, or keyword.

Running multiple campaigns, you can set up a shared budget. This ensures that spending is optimized across the board based on campaign performance.

You can also set up custom alerts to notify you when spending reaches certain thresholds, helping prevent overspending.

Bing Ads Spend Monitoring

Bing Ads offers detailed reports that allow advertisers to monitor how their budget is being spent. The platform provides a 'Budget Summary' report that includes information on monthly spend, daily average spend, and how the spend is tracking against the set budget.

For more granular analysis, marketers can choose to view spend data alongside performance metrics, break down spend by keywords and ad groups, segment spend data by geographic locations and demographics, or compare current spend with historical data.

Similar to Google Ads, marketers can configure Bing Ads to send notifications when spending reaches certain thresholds or if there are significant changes in campaign performance. 

Each of these platforms provides essential tools for tracking ad spend. However, in-app tracking tools are limited to their respective platforms. For businesses running campaigns across multiple platforms, this means they won't get a unified view of their overall ad spend.

Logging into multiple platforms to track and analyze spend can be also time-consuming and inefficient. Each platform has its unique interface and set of features, requiring time and effort to learn and use effectively.

Leveraging Automated Budget Pacing Tools 

Improvado Paid Ads dashboard

Automated tools like Improvado enhance the budget pacing process significantly, saving time and increasing the accuracy and efficiency of PPC budget management. Here’s how.

Integration with Multiple Platforms

Improvado integrates with various ad platforms like Google Ads, social media platforms like Facebook Ads and TikTok Ads, programmatic advertising platforms like The Trade Desk and DV360, and 500 other data sources, providing a unified approach to budget pacing across different channels. 

This is particularly beneficial for campaigns running on multiple platforms, ensuring cohesive budget allocation and optimization. A comprehensive overview of the campaign performance also enables more strategic decision-making and better financial control.

Granular Spend Visibility 

Improvado offers granular visibility into where and how each dollar is spent. This means being able to track ad spending at the geo, channel, device, campaign, ad set, or even ad level, providing clarity and control over budget allocation across a large portfolio.

Learn more about the Improvado Paid Ads dashboard and how it can help you refine your budget pacing strategy and see better results.

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Scalability for High-Volume Campaign Management 

Improvado can efficiently scale to accommodate the high volume of data, maintaining accuracy and consistency in ad spend tracking without the need for manual intervention.

This means if your agency signs 20 new clients, you'll be able to set up paid ads analytics and budget pacing easily. In the case of a global brand expanding to new regions, Improvado will make sure you can monitor ad spend from the get-go and make data-backed decisions on a new market.

Improvado's feature called Workflows helps keep a large portfolio organized. Workflows are environments where you can predefine who and what level of access they have to particular data. For instance, you can connect regional offices or clients to different workflows and ensure that team members only see and edit the data relevant to their roles and responsibilities. 

Historical Spend Analysis

Improvado includes the ability to analyze historical spend data, providing insights into spend patterns and effectiveness over time. The platform loads two years of historical data by default and can sync as much historical data as you have in your data warehouse. 

This is crucial for agencies and enterprises looking to refine their budget pacing strategies based on past performance.

Customizable Reporting Dashboards

Improvado provides a paid ads dashboard template together with a template to merge ads performance and Google Analytics data. Moreover, Improvado seamlessly integrates with popular data visualization and BI tools, so your team can build a custom pacing dashboard or work together with the Improvado Professional Services team to develop a custom ad spend tracker.

Alerting System for Anomalies and Irregularities 

Improvado alerting system can notify users of any anomalies or irregularities in PPC spend and performance metrics, such as sudden spikes or drops. This feature is especially useful in quickly identifying and addressing issues that could impact budget efficiency or campaign performance.

AI-Assisted Budget Pacing 

AI-assisted budget pacing represents a leap forward in campaign management. These tools can contextualize PPC spend data against a broader range of variables such as performance data, consumer behavior shifts, or even global events, offering a deeper understanding of spend efficiency.

Improvado's AI Agent

Improvado's AI Assistant

Improvado AI Agent is a brand-new way to analyze marketing performance and operationalize data. AI Agent has a chat-like interface where you can ask questions in plain English. It works on top of Improvado's data platform, interacting with data gathered from marketing platforms of your choice. Then, assistant translates your questions into SQL and queries your dataset to provide you with an answer. 

You can ask the agent to show you the daily combined ad spend from Google and Bing over the past week, compare ad spend for varied categories, or assess PPC spend against the remaining budget for distinct timeframes, such as quarterly or annually.

AI Agent is like a front-end for your dataset. Instead of looking at the dashboard or querying your dataset, you can simply ask the assistant.

Using a dashboard typically involves manually navigating through various charts and tables to extract relevant data. It requires users to understand the dashboard layout and interpret the data correctly. Dashboards also present data in an open-to-interpret manner. However, AI Agent processes the data to deliver a clear answer, ensuring consistent results no matter who asks the question or how many times it's asked.

Query your data using natural language English with AI Agent

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Choosing the Right Budget Pacing Solution

Selecting the right ad spend tracking method hinges on your business size, campaign complexity, and resources. 

Small businesses with straightforward campaigns might lean towards manual tracking for its detailed control, or in-app tools for their user-friendly, platform-specific functionality. 

Mid-sized to enterprise companies, especially those juggling multiple platforms, often benefit from automated tools that offer a balance of efficiency and comprehensiveness. 

For decision-makers requiring rapid insights, especially in scenarios demanding quick strategy adjustments, AI-assisted tools serve as a valuable addition. They excel in delivering instant, data-driven insights, complementing automated solutions by enabling swift, informed decision-making in dynamic market conditions. 

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