AUTOMATED BIDDING – A CHEATSHEET
As anyone who has been working on Google Ads accounts this year knows, automation is the big thing at the moment. Every conversation with Google seems to centre around automation, and automated bidding in particular, but with so many different options available, it can feel like a bit of a minefield. In the article below, we aim to explain what each of them is doing, as well as highlighting the benefits and pitfalls or each. Here goes…
So what options are there?
As of right now there are now 6 different automated bidding strategies available to advertisers on Google Ads. In fact, there are more than that, but for the purposes of this article we are going to focus on search campaigns only. No need to start looking at viewable CPM just yet.
These are as follows:
- Enhanced CPC
- Maximise clicks
- Target CPA
- Maximise conversions
- Target ROAS
- Maximise conversion value
- Target impression share
The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that there are 7 strategies listed above. That’s because Enhanced CPC is not really considered an automated bidding strategy, so let’s deal with that first.
Enhanced CPC is, at best, a semi-automated bidding strategy, in that it takes our manual keyword or ad group bids and modifies the bid using auction-time signals such as demographics, location, time of day amongst others. Essentially it is like Manual CPC’s big brother, in that we still need to set bids manually, but Google will lend a hand where possible in order to improve campaign performance.
When we recommend it: This is the best strategy to select if you don’t have any conversions, for example for a new account, but we recommend moving on to one of the automated bidding strategies below as soon as possible.
This is fairly self explanatory – the goal of this bidding strategy is to maximise clicks, so Google will set bids automatically to obtain as many clicks as possible within the budget. Sounds great right? But does this mean that we are going to be getting clicks when they are at their cheapest, like the middle of the night for example? That might be OK for some advertisers, but certainly not for others. It turns out it’s not as simple as it sounds – if you use maximise clicks you still need to analyse the nature of the clicks in terms of geography, time and day, demographics etc, as we don’t often just want to bring in cheap clicks regardless of where they are coming from.
When we recommend it: We find Maximise Clicks works well for brand campaigns where we really want to bring in as many clicks as possible, but not for conversion focused campaigns.
Now we’re talking. With this bidding strategy, the goal is to maximise conversions at our target CPA. Google will adjust bids based on the signals described above to generate as many conversions as possible while achieving our target CPA, and as long as you have plenty of conversions, it works really well. It can however result in quite significant changes in spend, depending on the level that we set the Target CPA – set it too high and Google can really accelerate our campaign spend, set it too low however and the click traffic can dry up completely. So use historical data to set a reasonable CPA, and ensure that you have set the budget to a sensible level before pressing go.
When we recommend it: For campaigns which have spare (or unlimited) budget, and we need to generate conversions at a pre-defined CPA, we find Target CPA to be the most effective bidding strategy.
Another one that is pretty obvious. Google will set the bids in order to bring in as many conversions as possible within the budget. So if you have a budget of £10k per month, Google will spend your £10k and try to maximise the number of conversions that are generated. Beware! In our experience, on the few occasions we have tried this is hasn’t exactly worked out as planned, and we have been left having to explain some pretty disappointing results to our client.
When we recommend it: When we have a budget limited campaign but no specific CPA or ROAS targets, we find Maximise Conversions to be a good option. That said, it’s pretty unusual not to have CPA or ROAS targets, so opportunities are generally quite limited for this one.
Another goodie. So we want to bring in as much revenue as possible but only if we can achieve a certain ROAS? Enter Target ROAS. Here Google will help us generate as much conversion value as possible at a predefined ROAS. So if our profit margins allow us to spend up to 25% on media spend, we can simply set a Target ROAS of 400% and let Google do it’s thing. As with Target CPA however, you need to think carefully about the level to set the Target ROAS as the spend can fluctuate pretty wildly here. Oh and make sure to set a reasonable budget cap, just to be on the safe side.
When we recommend it: This is our go to option for e-commerce clients, and companies which can assign a reliable value for different conversions. This enables us to maximise campaign performance whilst ensuring we do so at a profitable level.
Maximise Conversion Value
Maximise Conversion Value – sounds awesome, right? We’re not so sure. With this bidding strategy, Google sets our bids at the level required to maximise the value of our conversions. Say we have an e-commerce store. If we set our campaign to Maximise Conversion Value, when Google senses that someone is about to place a high value order, they will set a high bid to ensure that we get the click. Although the benefit of this is obvious, the strategy doesn’t take ROAS into account, so there is no failsafe in place here, which gets the no-no from us.
When we recommend it: Maximise Conversion Value can be useful when we have a budget limited campaign but no specific ROAS target. Again, this is not that common, but worth bearing in mind if working with a company looking to maximise revenue regardless of ROAS.
Target Impression Share
I’ve got to be honest, we haven’t tried this one. It seems like a slightly odd idea to show ads a certain percentage of the time. With Target Impression Share, we tell Google that we want our ads to show, say, 70% of the time, and they go about setting the bids to ensure this happens. Why would you want that? We’re not sure. Maybe there is a situation where this could be helpful, but we’re yet to find it. If there’s anyone out that knows the answer, we’d love to hear it!
When we recommend it: Not sure we do. If something comes up, we’ll let you know!
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