AI Powered Baidu PPC Management Turns Out Not That Intelligent

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Baidu is a pioneer in China when it comes to AI research and development. It has an open platform portal with tech products like human portrait identification, voice identification etc. As a market leader of the local search engines, Baidu is also active in implementing and bringing in more advanced feature to paid search to automate the whole PPC process. For example, it has an automated PPC operation tool based on AI called “A’s Smart PPC”(“小A智投”), which claims to help clients manage keywords, bidding price etc., leveraging big data tech and will eventually improve conversions and cut down spending. But the outcome is that many SEMers abandoning it after a trial, as a result of poor performance and a fast drain of the budget.

A’s Smart PPC

This is fine because you can always disable such features. What’s to worry about is some “advanced” AI related features Baidu launched without notifications; they’re more like field testing new functions. Anyone who runs PPC campaign can be an object, and sometimes unluckily, a victim of the experiment. I’ll raise two scenes we encounter in recent months.

  1. Ad mismatched with images by AI

In this month, June, we found Baidu has secretly launched a new feature for picture +text formatted ads. Traditionally PPC specialist has to upload pictures to Baidu Phoenix (Baidu’s PPC management backend system) to present pictures along with texts for advertising. Normally the picture + text and looks like this:

A Picture + Text Format Ad on Baidu

This feature will automatically capture pictures related to the product keywords and use them to replace the pictures set by specialists. The capture is what Baidu thinks more “relevant and popular” because it’s based on big data tech. And I call it premium because this feature is only available for an ad that ranks no. 1 to a certain keyword.

However, the outcome is that our ad of selling microscope is matched with a picture of binoculars. So we haste to reduce the bidding price and our competitor end up ranking no. 1 with their PPC ad showing like below:

A Picture + Text Format Ad on Baidu

Since it is launched by Baidu, we cannot shut it off in the backend system so the only way is to contact Baidu service and let them turn off the feature for us. And the alternative is to reduce bidding price and ensure you rank on 2 to 3 instead of 1 to avoid becoming the victim of Baidu AI powered image matching ad.

  1. Ad triggered by keyword Quality Score instead of relevancy

In these two months, we found Baidu has adjusted its algorithm in exposing ads to a searched keyword, leading to a prior exposure for ads of high-quality score instead of high relevancy. This applies to ads/keywords from different units (ad groups, as in AdWords) of the same campaign. An example from a campaign like this:

 

Campaign Unit Keyword Keywords Quality Score
Washing machine Washing machine product Washing machine 9.00
pulsator washing machine 8.00
Washing machine price Washing machine price 8.50
cheap washing machine 8.10

 

For search query: ”washing machine price”, Baidu will show an ad of “Washing machine” instead of showing an ad of “Washing machine price”, because the quality score for the washing machine is higher.

This is somewhat misleading but we do find this phenomenon.

The cure is easy. By setting “price” as a negative keyword for the “Washing machine product” unit we can avoid showing the wrong ad.

Essentially, the above two Baidu PPC tool powered by its AI is reducing Relevancy which is the most important attribute that matters to user experience, and consequently it will hurts CTR, CPL etc.

To be fair, many of the AI PPC products from Baidu, with a certain degree of automatic management feature, do provide assistance and convenience for some companies, who are lacking resource or time to do daily check and adjustment to the PPC account. But if a company intends to yield really good results from paid search campaign, one is better to assign a dedicated person/team to do a continuous optimization, and to watch out the pitfalls on it.

Joy is Digital Account Manager in Jademond,. She writes about all subjects from China online marketing practices to the latest Chinese technology unicorns. Linkedin or Tweet with her to get the latest updates.

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