Automated Bidding Strategies

May 11, 2020

Manually setting bids for keywords and Ad Groups is a staple part of any PPC Manager’s job but should we be moving away from Manual Bidding and putting our trust into Google’s machine learning?

Let’s first look at exactly what Automated Bidding is.

Google describes Automated Bidding as ‘taking the heavy lifting and guesswork out of setting bids’.

There are six different types of fully-automated bid strategies, each with their own specific objectives. These different objectives can be increasing clicks, conversions, conversion value or visibility in search results.

If you are looking to drive the highest volume of traffic to your website as possible, then you should look no further than the Maximize Clicks bidding strategy.

This strategy is particularly useful if you are trying to build your brand’s awareness, or if you already have a strong conversion performance on your website.

One thing to be mindful of when using the Maximize Clicks strategy is the option to select a bid cap. If you leave this field blank, Google will spend whatever it needs to within your budget in order to drive users to the site. If you are in an industry with a particularly high cost-per-click, you might see an alarming spike in your keyword costs, if you allow Google free rein with your ad spend. If keeping a reasonable CPC is a KPI for your business, then keep a close eye on your costs when using Maximize Clicks – or better still, use the bid cap to put a spend limit on your clicks.

Maximize Conversions operates in a similar way to Maximize Clicks.

Whilst this bidding strategy is selected, Google will look to spend your entire budget, on clicks that it perceives to be likely to convert.

Google uses advanced machine learning to automatically optimise bids for each auction, evaluating historical campaign information and contextual signals to get the most conversions possible for your budget. This bidding strategy is relatively simple, but there are several key considerations to take into account before switching your campaigns over to Maximize Conversions – the most important one being the Conversion Tracking present in your account.

Are your conversions set up correctly? This is what Google will be optimising for, so it’s important that these goals reflect accurate conversions and are being triggered by the correct actions on the website.

Another thing to keep in mind is your cost-per-acquisition, Google will spend all of the budget available for your campaign, in order to attract converting customers to your site – on a micro level this means that your profitability could be brilliant, or disastrous on any given day.

If you have set KPI’s based on profitability or efficiency, it might be worth checking out Target CPA or Target ROAS bid strategies.

When using the Target CPA bidding strategy, Google will aim for a user-defined, set value per conversion.

Each conversion may be slightly more, or less, than the chosen CPA – but Google will aim to reach your set value as an average figure over the course of the campaign. Make sure that the Target CPA is a realistic value, and slowly drop this down, rather than setting an extremely low target for Google to aim for.

By setting a significantly lower target than the campaign has previously achieved, this will limit your campaign in the auction straight away. Google will use your previous conversion data in the account to work out a suggested target to work towards. The more data in the account, the more accurate this prediction will be.

Again, it is incredibly important that your conversion goals are configured correctly, as this is what your campaign will be aiming for.

Target ROAS shares a lot of similarities with Target CPA, although in this situation Google uses Return On Ad Spend as the objective instead.

This strategy will adjust bids in real-time to get the most conversion value from your budget as possible. Make sure you have correct conversion tracking installed, and enough conversion data in the account, before switching to the Target ROAS bidding strategy.

Finally, if your KPI is based on visibility, then perhaps the Target Impression Share bidding strategy is the one for you.

Using Target Impression Share, your main focuses are on awareness and reach – you’re telling your campaign where you want your ads to show – whether this is the absolute top of the search engine results page, on top of the page, or anywhere on the page.

It’s necessary to find an achievable target for impression share, as very few campaigns will be able to have 100% coverage anymore – due to the amount of advertisers present on Google Ads. Aim for a more realistic target, such as 85%, and work your way up from there.

By using automated strategies, you are able to increase your campaigns performance significantly, but do this with caution.

As you move away from manual bidding, you are relinquishing a significant amount of control over your campaign. Keep a close eye on performance, and experiment with small tweaks to begin with, the more data your campaigns collect about your users and conversions, the better that automated bidding will operate for you.

It’s important to understand your business’ goals and learn about which strategies will suit you and your campaigns best.

These bidding strategies shouldn’t allow you to ‘set and forget’ about your campaigns, but used alongside a keen eye for detail and constant evaluation, you could see your campaigns go from strength to strength.

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