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    Google Ads

    Guide to Google Ads Bidding Strategies

    Bidding on any advertising platform is a test, tweak, and iterate conundrum. Especially with Google Ads since there are so. many. options. And what might work amazingly for several weeks suddenly needs full-time attention just to get it back on track. 

    Here’s what you won’t find in this post—a choose-your-own-adventure list of formulaic Google Ads bidding strategies. Why? Because there’s no one size fits all answer. What works beautifully for one marketer may be a complete fail for someone else. 

    Here’s what you will find in this post—everything you need to know to easily map out a Google Ads Bidding strategy for any campaign you’ll ever run. Keep reading for the deep dive how-to on:

    • The difference between Google Ads Automated and Manual Bidding
    • Google Ads Automated Bidding pro tips
    • Google Ads Manual Bidding pro tips
    • Determining if Google Ads Automated or Manual Bidding is better for you
    • Google Ads Bidding options (12 of them!)
    • How to map your strategy to your Google Ads campaign goals
    • Benchmarking your Google Ads campaign results

    It's important to constantly be measuring the performance of your strategy using a platform like AdStage. Keep in mind, it may take time to see the results of your changes, so you do need to be patient and not switch things too quickly. 

    Two kinds of Google Ads Bidding: Manual and Automated 

    Automated 

    If you’re new to Google Ads Bidding, you might be tempted to rely on Automated Bidding as a “set it and forget it feature.” But don’t fall into that trap! And actually, Google helps you avoid getting on that train by putting a few rules into place before you can even opt for Automated:

    You must have volume

    The Google Ads Automated bidding algorithm uses data to calculate the most optimal bid amount. If you don’t have any data, the algorithm will have no idea what to do. For most automated bid strategies, Google requires a minimum of 30 conversions in 30 days. 

    You must have history

    The reason for this is related to the above—the algorithm needs data. But more than that, it needs consistent data. So if your campaigns are seasonal, Google Ads Automated Bidding might not even be an option for you. 

    You might need a flexible budget

    The Google Ads Automated Bidding algorithm makes adjustments quickly, and those changes are always done to the max to give you the best results. Sometimes, that requires a budget that would allow for a sudden jump in money spent. 

    Automated Bidding May Require Flexible Budgets

    With automated bidding, Google needs the flexibility to make adjustments and optimizations on the fly.

    This can sometimes result in significant periodic jumps in ad spend — and your budget needs to be open enough to absorb them.

    Manual

    Google Ads Manual Bidding is the most hands-on approach. Obviously, since it’s called Manual! This is actually a great way for marketers who are new to Google Ads Bidding to get started. Think of it as a learn by doing a crash course for how Google Ads Bidding works. 

    With Google Ads Manual Bidding, you’ll make absolutely every change on your own (although there are some easy bid rules you can set … more on that below). That means clicking the buttons to increase or decrease your bid based on what you’re seeing in your campaign’s performance. Running an account manually is time-consuming, but it allows you to be as close to the account as possible and gives you full control over any necessary changes. 

    Google Ads Automated Bidding pro tips

    Double check your Conversion Tracking tool

    The Google Ads Automated Bidding algorithm relies on Conversion Tracking data to make decisions, so double check you have it set up correctly. Check out Google’s help page for the how-to

    Image from Google 

    Customize every bidding strategy to every campaign

    You may tweak and refine a strategy until you think you’ve found the holy grail, but don’t assume it will work on every campaign. Certainly, use what you’ve learned, but don’t blanket your strategy across all your campaigns thinking you’ll get the same great results. 

    Let data accrue

    Because Google Ads Automated Bidding works the best with the most data, you have to be patient. Google suggests giving Automated Bidding campaigns at least a week before you make any rash decisions. Be prepared to see highs and lows during that time, but remember that every nudge gives the bidding algorithm valuable information. 

    Check in frequently

    Again, Google Ads Automated Bidding is not a “set it and forget it” solution. If it was, all marketers would just opt in for it and head to lunch, right? You don’t need to check in as often as you would with a Manual Bidding campaign but do run reports as much as possible so you can stay on top of what’s going on. Check out AdStage Report for an easy way to automate your regular reporting with web-based, PDF, or Excel reports that are refreshed and sent out on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule.

    Focus on the campaign level 

    Sure, one account might have the same goals for all campaigns, but with Google Ads Bidding, you want to get as granular as possible. That means setting your bidding strategy on the campaign level. 

    Google Ads Manual Bidding pro tips

    Set Automated Bid rules

    What?! But I thought we were running a manual campaign. Yes, we still are, but automated bid rules can make a simple optimization for you, based on what you would have done yourself. For example, you can set a rule to push a bid higher or lower depending on what your goals are. AdStage has a great product called Automate that will help you monitor and control your campaigns based on CPA, ROAS, and other calculated metrics.

    Try ‘Get Guidance’

    Who doesn’t love some help, especially when it comes to confusing stuff like this? Get Guidance is Google Ad’s tool that tries to match a strategy to your goal. It will ask you what you want to achieve, and then suggest a strategy to get you there. It’s a good way to double check the strategy you were considering, but by no means should you let the suggestions override something you already feel confident about. 

    Is Automated or Manual Bidding better for me

    Just like your Google Ads Bidding strategy, the answer to this is ultimately up to you. I think it’s always a good idea for newbies to go super hands-on as they learn bid management for Google Ads, but once you have an account that fulfills the requirements for Automated Bidding, it doesn’t hurt to set up a mix of Automated and Manual. No matter what you do, keep an eye on performance, and never stop testing. 

    Google Ads Bidding options

    Google Ads bidding options are directly tied to the goals you might want to achieve. They range from Target CPA to Target Outranking Share, which allows you to choose a specific website or competitor that you want to outrank. The option you choose should directly correlate to your campaign’s goals.

    Map your strategy to your Google Ads Campaign goals

    Here it is! The big reveal! How to set up your Google Ads Bidding strategy. And oh man is it straightforward. First, define your goals, then determine the bid option that matches up. Here are a few examples using the most common campaign goals:

    Campaign Goal

    Bidding Strategy

    Get customers to take a direct action

    Conversions/Target CPA

    Traffic to website 

    Cost-per-click

    Increase brand awareness

    vCPM

    Optimize for conversion value

    Target ROAS

     

    Make sure your reporting is set up to capture your most important metrics—conversions, conversion rate, cost per conversion, etc.—then rotate bidding strategies every week to see what gives you the best results. If one is a clear winner, set it as the bidding strategy for the rest of the campaign’s run. 

    Benchmarking your Google Ads campaign results 

    It’s one thing to compare your own historical data, but you want to know what other marketers are up to. Check out AdStage’s Benchmark Reports. The Benchmark Reports surface median CPC, CPM, and CTR for all major advertising platforms. Because those numbers are always changing, you want to download the most recent report here to make sure you have the most up-to-date information to compare your in-progress campaigns to. 



    Rather than giving you one, or a handful of answers, that you’d then have to try to map every campaign to, the above gives you the tools and know how to easily come up with a customized strategy no matter what you’re trying to achieve with your campaign. 

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    Breanna Lambert

    Breanna has 10+ years’ experience in marketing, though the tides & trends have pushed her almost exclusively into digital. She lives in the hills above Boulder, CO and spends her downtime outside exploring with her husband, son, and pup.