Advertising on the web is an ever-evolving space filled with the potential for billions of people to see your ads and literally thousands of metrics to determine who to target, when, and where. That’s why it’s important to have the right bidding strategies in place when you go to try and win that all-important ad space on Google.
PPC ads have the potential to generate many high-quality and high converting leads to your site or business, but only if you do it right. Trying to pick the right strategy can be a mind-numbing process. Beyond just the headache-inducing number of metrics that are available, there is a whole realm of other considerations to make to figure out how, when, and where to run your PPC ads.
Google itself can do a lot to help you figure out who to target and when. The trouble is, unless you have experience and know exactly what you’re doing, you may find yourself wasting ad dollars on typical “set it and forget it” ad campaigns.
You’ll often find that these campaigns aren’t doing much other than throwing your money away. If you want to make the most of them, you have to stay on top of your ad campaigns and the strategies you’re using.
This first section deals with how ad campaigns should operate and how to tell if yours are in a good position for flexible bidding strategies.
Before we dive into the different strategies and how to implement them, we want to set you up for success. To do that, we’re going to break down what you should be doing to put yourself in a prime position to make use of the different flexible bidding strategies that are available.
The very first thing we recommend doing if you aren’t already is getting in touch with a PPC management company. If you already have one, and they’re not using flexible bidding strategies, then you may want to take a look at what you’re paying for and how much you’re paying. Oftentimes, agency fees and returns may not align with your goals or the level of service may not meet up to the needs of your particular ad campaigns. You may want to consider firing your PPC agency if you notice that they’re wasting ad dollars, you’re not seeing growth or other signs that you’re throwing money away.
Once you have that settled and you’ve gotten with an agency that knows what they’re doing, the first thing you really want them to do is to perform a PPC audit. The purpose of having an agency do a PPC audit is to get a sense of where your ad campaigns are at and what is potentially going wrong. Google Ads gives you loads of valuable data, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you what to do with it.
By getting an audit done, you can find out where your ad dollars are going, how much of a return on investment (ROI) you’re getting, and what the problems are. Not only that, but you’ll actually get actionable steps you can take to make improvements on your ad campaigns to see them grow your return on ad spending (ROAS).
They say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but if it is broke, you might want to actually know how to fix it or take it to someone who can. That’s why getting with a PPC management company and getting an audit done should be your first step.
Next, we’ll discuss how to analyze your marketing objectives to make sure they line up with your business goals.
Part of knowing what’s wrong and how to fix it means understanding your goals and what you’re really trying to do with your ad campaigns. It may be that depending on the type of campaign you’re running, you may find that while you think a search campaign is best, you want a local campaign, because you’re trying to drive traffic to a brick-and-mortar store.
Through Google’s advanced resources for ad campaigns, you can help to identify your goals and the type of campaigns you should be running. Then, with the help of your ad agency, you can pick the best practices for the types of goals that you have and your advertising budget.
Google’s metrics can help you figure out what campaign to run and a PPC agency can help you execute the process, including managing your bids, making changes to existing campaigns starting new campaigns, and monitoring performance.
If you find that the objectives you had set aren’t right for your business, then it may be time to pull out of any existing campaigns, reevaluate, and then relaunch.
One flaw that some agencies and businesses often make is to continue to run with an existing campaign that isn’t working. Part of analyzing your marketing objectives is determining if a campaign that’s failing can be salvaged or not. There’s no point in going down with the ship if you can make it back to shore and try again later with a better boat.
Now that we’ve covered how to align your goals with your marketing strategy, it’s time to talk about how you measure success via key metrics.
Sometimes the problem isn’t even the ad campaign itself; it’s the data you’re using to drive the ad campaign. Realistically, if you’re using an ad agency, they should be helping you do this. If you don’t really know what you want out of your ad campaigns, it can be tricky to manage.
If for instance, you’re in the eCommerce space, but when running ads, you’re not looking at the time of day when consumers are more likely to shop and complete a purchase (we’re not talking about those 2 AM window shoppers who click ad to cart and never buy anything) then you’re likely running ads at the wrong time and not targeting the proper audience.
Additionally, the type of ad and the platform you run them on can make a major difference, too. Demographics change based on the platform the ads are seen on and the likelihood of conversion is tied to that as well.
For example, managing Facebook ads is entirely different from managing your Google search ads. Your audience changes based on the types of ads you run and not knowing who is doing what will lead to wasted ad dollars. From your Google Ads account, you can see all the data you could ever need to figure out who’s logging on, where they’re seeing your ads, when they’re most likely to click them, and when they actually follow through and convert.
If your ad timing or methods aren’t meshing with the majority of your traffic, then it’s a safe bet that you’re wasting your money.
It’s also important to note that these metrics aren’t static values that you can keep running with forever once you know them. Marketing is ever-moving, ever-changing and you have to put in the work to keep up. That’s why we recommend having a marketing agency do the work, but making sure that it’s one that has your goals in mind and is willing to stay on top of the key metrics and the space you’re in to keep your ads performing their best.
That’s why we’ve written this guide to flexible bid strategies in the first place. There are some experts and businesses that still believe that once you’ve locked in a bid strategy that works, you’re good to go. That’s not how ad campaigns or marketing in general operate. What works today may stop working tomorrow. Flexible bid strategies are designed to be just that, flexible.
The next section covers what automated bidding actually is and how it works. We know some readers have a good grasp of the concept, but for those that don’t, this is key information before implementing flexible bidding strategies.
Just because flexible bidding strategies have the word flexible in their name doesn’t mean that you can just set them and change them any way you choose at any time. The better you understand automated bidding, the better you can make use of the powerful tool that it is.
All automated bidding strategies work off of parameters that you set. This means that if it doesn’t work, it’s likely tied back to something you told the program to do. With enough input and the right configurations, automated bidding strategies can work like magic for your ad campaign, routinely scoring you the optimal converting ad space you need to drive loads of high converting traffic to your site.
That’s why we said that it’s not about a “set it and forget it mentality.” You have to constantly monitor your bidding strategies and adjust them to meet your needs as they change. As your business grows, your audience grows and changes with it. To think of it logically, think about ads that are run for products, consider what happens if new products are added to an existing line, the target audience may change and grow with the product line. That means your existing ad campaigns need to adjust too.
Flexible bidding strategies allow you to move and adjust parameters on the fly. The different strategies also allow you to account for different metrics and adjust your return expectations if your audience and traffic volume changes. If you have more traffic but few conversions, you can adjust your ad strategy to maximize conversions for the increased traffic flow.
The upcoming section deals with flexible bidding strategies in practice and how to properly implement them based on your needs. We included some key pointers that apply to each strategy and how best to use them.
All your bidding strategies can be managed through your Google Ads account dashboard. From the dashboard, you can see all of the different ad strategies that you have available and can create and modify them as you see fit.
Among your choices, there are 6 flexible bid strategies that allow Google to automate your bidding process while giving you the control you need to adjust your bids if something isn’t working or your market changes.
This is one of the standard Google ad campaign strategies and is used when you want your bids to drive traffic over all else. You can control spending by setting a maximum bid amount and a maximum daily spend amount. This does not factor in conversion rates or other factors. It will target based on your set keywords, and the bidding will moderate within your set spending amounts so that you don’t go over budget.
This strategy is best implemented when your main goal is just to get more people to see your site over all else. As we said, this focuses on clicks and not conversions, but sometimes click volume can relate to conversion and brand recognition. The ability to set and monitor spending lets you have more control over ad spending if you’re on a tight budget, or if you’re experimenting with a new ad campaign and want to see what type of results you can get without breaking the bank.
You can, of course, implement this strategy without setting daily spending limits, but this can burn through your ad spend budget. Our best implementation advice is to use this strategy when you need maximum site traffic without blowing your ad budget.
Targeted automated bidding strategies are great for when you want to win auctions that offer a certain value for the ad dollars you spend. In the case of this strategy, you can set a percentage value for what type of return you want on every ad dollar that is spent, and Google will automatically adjust bid amounts and auction preferences based on available data.
There are a few caveats to this strategy. Target ROAS strategies are built to get you the most return they can; this means that they will only target auctions based on the available data and are likely to generate the set return based on the available data. This also means that in most cases, they will spend whatever is calculated to be necessary to win auctions. This can be a problem if you don’t set the values for your maximum daily ad spend and the maximum cost per click.
Even with high returns, you can find yourself spending more per click than you end up actually converting. For example, say you pay $15 to get 3 new customers, sounds great right? But then those customers come into your store and only spend $3 each. You’ve effectively spent more for customers than you gain by acquiring them. ROAS strategies aren’t perfect, so you’re working partly on data and partly on guesswork.
The second issue is that if your ROAS is set too high, you may find that the bidding is too selective and you don’t wind up winning very many auctions as a result, meaning fewer ads overall.
If you have great metrics and lots of data built up to facilitate a solid understanding of the types of auctions to bid on, then a targeted ROAS strategy is the perfect option to ensure that your ad dollars aren’t wasted. Just make sure you set spending limits so you don’t outpace your budget.
This is another targeted strategy that bids based on a set value. In this case, it’s the cost per customer or cost per acquisition. This is not to be confused with a cost-per-action model that calculates costs based on clicks or other actions. A cost per acquisition targeting strategy bids on ads based on an average set by the campaign owner.
Google will adjust bids higher or lower, within a range of the target CPA in order to win auctions. You must have at least 15 conversions in the past 30 days and an average conversion rate over the last 7 days in order to implement this strategy. Beyond the base requirements, like other targeting strategies, the more data you have about past conversions and customer data you can feed into it, the better it will perform.
This strategy is ideally implemented when you’re interested in achieving valuable conversions while controlling the cost. This type of targeting strategy has more control than a ROAS strategy as the bidding can fluctuate within a set range without spending too high or bidding on too few auctions.
This strategy is an evolved form of the standard cost per click model. It takes the standard cost per click structure and automatically adjusts the bidding up or down within a set range to win auctions that maximize conversions.
A standard CPC campaign bids on auctions at or under a certain cost per click without regard for other factors. This is done to control spending. Enhanced CPC gives the same measure of control while accounting for conversion rates. This means that you can control cost per click spending while still getting the benefits of higher conversion rates.
If you’re trying to control spending and need to reign in CPC, but still want ads that convert, this is a valuable strategy.
This strategy is used when you want your ads to rank higher than competitors in the same space. The automated bidding algorithm will adjust your bid to beat out a competitor to either appear higher up on the SERP or to appear more frequently than a competitor.
The strategy is based on estimates and attempts to win auctions over competitors so that when ads are displayed yours show up first or more frequently. The issue with this strategy is that it does not actually raise your ad rank, the spending is not as easy to monitor, and there are no guarantees that you will always outrank your competitors as the results are estimates based on available data.
This is a useful strategy when you have a competitive market and are trying to gain some market share over others. Be mindful of your spending and you can make some ground in the market by manipulating ad placement to your advantage.
The goal of this strategy is to get your ad either on the top of the page or somewhere on page one of the SERP. Marketers know how valuable SERP placement is, especially on page one.
This strategy cannot guarantee that you will end up on the top of a page or that you will land on page one of the SERP. Each individual auction is different and based on the number of competitors and your quality score, your placement will change with these factors and the result of the auction.
While this strategy isn’t bulletproof, it is the best option when you’re trying to maximize visibility over all else. It can help you appear on page one or on the top of pages and at the very least ensures that people will see your ads some of the time.
So, there we are, the 6 flexible bidding strategies and how best to use them to improve your business. Hopefully, we’ve given you the advice and strategies you need to use each of these strategies to the best of their potential. Whether you’re trying to control spending, improve exposure, beat your competitors, or maximize conversions, one of these flexible strategies will work for you.
As long as you remember to set your parameters and monitor your bids, these options offer more control and more choice than typical bid strategies and will improve your odds of success. Remember, PPC isn’t something you can set on autopilot. Do your research, keep tabs, and get help from a PPC agency to maximize your marketing effectiveness.