It is universally agreed upon that more power is better. More power means more control. It means more knowledge, more capability. Power means superiority. So, having more power over an AdWords account must mean that the account is in better hands, is in superior hands, is in more knowledgeable hands. A claim can be made that having complete power over an account’s bidding strategy lets the manager control budgets and costs per clicks and costs per conversions. All true. All in best practice. However, the situation where manual bidding fosters the most power—and thereby the most growth—of an account is when the account is well established, there’s historical data to know how the campaigns perform in the marketplace, and CPL and CPC goals are set based on that historical data.
I want to make the case for automated bidding, where power is taken out of my ever learning, ever fumbling hands into far more skilled and practiced hands—Google. Specifically, I want to make a case about the automated bidding strategy of maximizing for clicks, when the struggling accounts goal is just to get traffic and get the budget spent.
Google has power and uses that power in the auction to make keywords, ads, and ultimately a client the winner in the growing competition for attention. In my example, we had a lead gen client that was struggling. In all aspects of the account, it was struggling. We weren’t spending the budgets, ads weren’t showing up, we had no traffic, low CTR, we held next to no impression share, and if we did get a lead, our CPLs were crazily disproportionate to what we had guesstimating-ly projected. The client’s business was new, had no brand recognition, the market was saturated, and there was next to no historical data to know how campaigns would perform. We started with the usual account upkeep and maintenance. We changed out ad copy, we refined our keywords through SQRs, we did mobile exclusions, we did ad scheduling, continuing through the checklist of account best practices to improve performance. Just band aids. All of this patch up with very little to show for it.
This client, being lead gen, had a busy season before the start of the standard school year months. We needed to go into the busy season aggressively, we needed to not have any money left on the table, and we needed traffic. Automated bidding was our next strategy.
Maximizing for clicks works by solely focusing on clicks and staying within the budget cap. According to the Google help page (found here), maximizing for clicks achieves the following goals:
- You have an advertising budget you’d like to reach consistently.
- You don’t want to spend time monitoring and updating individual CPC bids, and you’re willing to let the AdWords system update CPC bids automatically.
- You’re mainly interested in increasing website traffic.
- You’re new to AdWords and don’t know exactly how much to bid for particular keywords or placements.
This checked off all our problems: 1. We needed to spend, spend, spend. 2. We didn’t have time since we were headed into the lead gen Christmas season. 3. We desperately needed website traffic. 4. These campaigns were new and we didn’t know how expensive our non branded keywords would be. Where we needed to spend budget, it spent. Where we were limited by budget, it strategically spent only what was needed for a click.
Clicks increased by 99.11%. CTR increased by 10.90%. In one week. Emphasis on one. By the end of the month, we had steadied our CPL, were on track in lead goal, and had spent the entire budget. The following month proved even better; at the end, we had increased traffic by 15.94% and had doubled our search impression share from 34.51% to 64.76%.
With this strategy in place, we were able to go to the client and say that our bidding strategy was working. We could explain more about what was happening in the auction, we had better data, and we had a better idea of what non branded keywords would cost. We took what we learned from this paid search campaign and applied it to all campaigns that were struggling in the account, and account-wide, we had an overall increase of 49.57% of clicks and held 53.34% of search impression share. This was a huge win for a client with a new business entering into a market segment that had tough, widely recognized, and long-standing competitors.
It is hard to give up power. It is hard to recognize when something isn’t working, when to call it quits, and when to give it over to someone (or some computer) that is more knowledgeable and capable. But in the case of newness and the unknown, giving over power of an account to Google was a strategic decision that allowed us to gather concrete data and knowledge to bring to the client so that in the lifetime of the client’s account, we can better predict how they stand in the market place.