A Closer Look at AdWords Smart Bidding

By Mike Matta | @MattaMike | Production Associate at Hanapin Marketing

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Hanukah, Festivus; the list of sale opportunities doesn’t end at this point of the year.  If you’re managing an eCommerce account right now, time management is fast becoming your most utilized skill.

 

But, what if I told you there was a way to free up some time by giving into our machine overlords? Moving from manual bidding to trusting Google’s smart bidding options can be a bit unnerving but can yield some great results. Spend that extra free time finding that perfect gift for someone special (or your dog), working on other parts of your accounts, or grumbling about how the holidays happen sooner and sooner each year. Sounds great!

 

Machine Learning can be scary

 

During our monthly training here at Hanapin, Google came in and gave us some details on their four smart bidding options and how one can best make use of them during the holiday season and beyond. Here is some information on each.

 

Enhanced CPC

 

Enhanced CPC is billed as helping you get more conversions from manual bidding. It works by automatically adjusting your bids based on the likelihood that a keyword will convert while keeping things within your max CPC restrictions.

 

If you’re on the fence about this, take a look through an account right now (I’ll wait). How many keywords have bids set to a round number ($1.5, $2.25)? Those numbers look nice but they may be slightly above or below the ideal bid. Enhanced CPC will take the guessing and human nature out of the equation and optimize those bids for you.

 

This option is also great for when you’re expecting a large increase in traffic & competition (Cyber Monday or Black Friday). If you’re going to make the change, do it 2-3 days before the expected increase in traffic. This will allow the algorithm a few days of learning & optimizing. Also be sure to adjust your max CPCs to account for the increase in competition too!

 

Maximize Conversions

 

The name really says it all, AdWords will attempt to get the maximum amount of conversions within your budget. Like the rest of this bidding strategies, bid adjustments will be made at the time of auction with a specific focus on getting the most out of keywords that are likely to lead to a conversion action.

 

Buy All the Things

 

There are a couple caveats to think about when setting this up:

  • At least 15 conversions in the last 30 days
  • Doesn’t use a shared budget
  • The campaign should be limited by budget. Spend & CPA can run wildly as Google will use all of that budget to get the highest amount of conversions.

If a large volume of conversions is what is most important for you, this is a great option. If you have some goals like CPA or ROAS, the next two options may be a bit more to your liking.

 

Target CPA

 

Target CPA is very similar to Maximize Conversion but for one big difference; AdWords will optimize around an average CPA goal rather than getting all of the conversions it can. This is great for campaigns that are not limited by budget & have a rigid CPA goal.

 

You’ll want your campaign to have at least 15-30 conversions in the last 30 days for AdWords to really be able to do its thing. This should be much more of a safe bet if you’re wary of jumping on the smart bidding train.

 

Target ROAS

 

When ROI is what you and your client are most concerned about, Target ROAS bidding can become your new best friend. AdWords will look at each conversion separately and adjust bids to best hit your ROAS target. We know that not every keyword is created equally, let AdWords do the heavy lifting with this bidding strategy to stay within goal. It’s suggested to start the campaign off at a ROAS that you’ve been historically hitting and then see how the algorithm does its thing. This should make budget expansion much easier after the algorithm has learned the value of each keyword. You can have some security that the system will keep things in check as the campaign is fed more money.

 

Your ROAS goals + target ROAS bidding

 

A couple things to keep in mind when considering this bidding option:

  • At least 30 conversions over 30 days but 100+ is recommended (really focused on eComm here).
  • Budget is not constrained.

Be sure to keep an eye on things as traffic or the competitive landscape changes. If your goals are unrealistic, AdWords will likely throttle the volume of impressions you’re getting.

 

Final Thoughts

 

These smart bidding options take things into account that us marketers either don’t have access to or don’t have the time to look at. This is done for each unique auction which really pushes things to the next level in terms of getting things as precise as possible.

 

Smart bidding signals

 

If you’re afraid of making the full plunge, you can always try it on a few campaigns or set up a draft or experimental campaign too. I think it’s a great option for everyone to test out and have already started doing so on my accounts. While relinquishing manual control can be scary, not every artificial intelligence out to get us and some can make our lives a lot easier; especially during this hectic time of the year.

 

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