In our previous article, we looked at various channels’ bidding strategies and discussed their pros and cons. Today we will focus our attention on Google Search Ads bidding strategies.

How do you decide on the bidding strategy and what pitfalls to consider before running your ads on Google search?

In our recent webinar on Google Search bidding strategies, we discussed best practices for Google Search Ads with market experts. 

In this article, we summarized our experts’ main tips and tricks on how to select the right bidding strategies for your business.

So, what is the secret sauce?

Let’s find out!

Table of contents:

How to pick the right bidding strategy?

Choosing the right bidding strategy is crucial yet challenging for any performance marketer, especially knowing that the “shooting in the dark” approach might cost you a fortune with Google. After all, Google Ads are known for their pricy costs. 

How to pick the right bidding strategy? And how to avoid the pitfalls that might come on the way?

Here are some tips on how not to get lost when selecting the bidding strategy for Google Search Ads:

Make sure you understand the primary goal of the campaign

First of all, before you start, it is crucial to define the campaign’s primary goal.

For example, do you want to drive more traffic to your website or generate more conversions? Do you need more visibility for specific keywords? 

Before deciding on the bidding strategy, it is essential to get the objective right: what exactly do you want to achieve with your ad campaign? This decision will help you significantly narrow down the options and make a choice easier. 

Many marketers underestimate the importance of this step and, as a result, risk wasting their marketing budget.

Manual vs. Automated bidding strategies

Let us quickly recap the main difference between manual and automated bidding strategies and look at their pros and cons.

Manual bidding strategies

With manual bidding, you manually manage and adjust your bids depending on a number of factors, such as past keyword performance or ad position, rather than relying on automated solutions. Manual bidding strategies give you the highest level of control and the ability to make quick changes.

  • Fast reactions 

Let’s say you notice a dip in performance when monitoring your account. You run an Auction Insights report and conclude that new competitors have driven up CPCs, so you quickly make bid changes for the keywords that performed poorly to improve the situation. Being able to react instantly to the ever-changing online environment is a huge advantage.

  • Full control over your spend

With this type of bidding, you can bid at the individual keyword level and determine how aggressive you want to be with your bids at the most specific level.

  • The larger the account, the greater the challenge 

Large accounts with thousands of keywords (especially in e-commerce) are increasingly challenging to manage effectively at a granular level.

  • Risk of inefficiencies

Looking at the account daily can prevent a marketer from seeing the “bigger” picture. There is also the risk of human error due to the human element of manual bidding.

  • Time-consuming 

Manual bid adjustment can easily become a full-time job for PPC managers who don’t use bid management software.

Automated bidding strategies

Automated bidding is all about – you guessed it! – Automation. It puts an algorithm in control that selectively chooses the most optimal bids, with the option to adjust targets within bid folders, by a campaign, or by ad group.

  • Efficiency

Automation can allow you to manage your large accounts at a macro level and instead focus on growth opportunities or account strategies while keeping an eye on daily performance.

  • Ability to manage large or complex accounts

Managing all the thousands of keywords within large or complex accounts can be challenging, so automation can help increase efficiency.

  • Not always effective

It’s advisable to move to automated bidding when your account has enough traffic and conversion volumes but not before. To ensure the model’s effectiveness, you need to have a certain volume of historical data: e.g., at least 15 conversions in 30 days.

  • Price

It can be costly if the maximum limits (e.g., max CPC, CPA) are not set.

  • Automation doesn’t mean hands-off.

If you’re using automated bidding, you still need to keep an active eye on your account and pull the levers regularly to ensure these tools work as you intend.

How to choose: Manual or Automated bidding strategy?

So, which type of bidding strategy to choose?

It depends on several factors, such as the industry you’re operating in, your product, and your account size.

And, of course, the central piece of the puzzle here will always be the campaign’s objective. 

In a nutshell, automated bidding strategies are most suitable for conversion-focused campaigns that have enough data (amount of conversions). 

Having a clean conversion setup in the account performance, marketers often tend to go towards smart bidding strategies. 

For example, e-commerce stores can benefit greatly from automated bidding strategies. Having multiple orders per day, such companies have vast volumes of data that can be optimized using automated solutions. While for B2B companies that don’t have that many conversions compared to e-commerce, using automated bidding strategies might not be an ideal solution. 

All in all, automated bidding strategies seem very attractive for marketers as they help them to save plenty of time. 

However, before deciding on automated bidding strategies important to be aware of the following pitfalls: 

  • Make sure you have enough ad spend and data points. 

You must reach certain thresholds for automated bidding strategies to leverage their full potential. For example, if it is conversion-based bidding, the account should have 20-30 conversions per campaign.

Checking these best practices should be a checklist before deciding on the strategy. 

If you see that you cannot reach this number – then most likely manual bidding strategy is the way to go. 

  • Another challenge that can appear is language. Campaigns in some languages can be problematic to automate. Google works better with widely used languages: such as English, German, and French. 

Manual bidding strategies are perfect for freshly created accounts (explorative stage) and brand-focused campaigns. 

B2B companies often use manual bidding strategies as they typically have longer selling cycles and focus more on building brand awareness.

However, sometimes B2B companies can also leverage automated bidding strategies (e.g., maximize clicks) to drive more traffic to their website. We will talk more about it in the next section. 

Unfortunately, there is no secret formula that can be applied to every company. A lot depends on the case. 

If you cannot decide on the strategy, the best way to test it is by running a couple of AB tests to try various strategies and see which one works the best. 

Expert recommendations and best practices

In our webinar about best bidding strategies, we also discussed some of the best practices. 

Maximize clicks with the fixed max CPC bidding strategy

Max clicks with a fixed CPC as an automated bidding strategy can be suitable if your goal is to drive more traffic at a lower cost. 

This strategy can be a perfect fit for more complex products with longer selling cycles (e.g., expensive products, B2B, etc.). Due to the complexity of the customer journey, it’s easier to focus on clicks rather than directly on conversions – as it most probably will take time till the user converts. As a result, the main goal here will be to drive more traffic to your website and get more visibility to your product. 

Hence, the maximize clicks bidding strategy is most suitable for brand-focused campaigns. 

Maximize clicks bidding strategy can be very beneficial for B2B companies. Having, on average, 16 to 26 touchpoints in their customer journey, B2B companies often need much more time to convince a potential client to convert. So, focusing on driving more traffic might be the best strategy in this case. 

Target ROAS bidding strategy

When it is about performance, many digital marketers tend to go for conversions or conversion value-based strategies such as target CPA and target ROAS (tROAS). 

One of the key benefits of the tROAS bidding strategy is that you can set up different values for different conversions. For example, you would like to see how many people made an entry in your calculator and how many people bought the product. The value of the first touchpoint will, of course, be lower than the hard conversion (the purchase). As a result, tROAS bidding strategy allows you to optimize differently on these touchpoints depending on the value they generate.

Before selecting this strategy, verify if you have enough conversions to optimize for. 

If you want to use a tROAS bidding strategy, you need at least 15 conversions over the last 30 days to allow the automated bid strategy to run properly.

Some experts believe that value-based bidding strategies (which are tROAS and maximize conversion value bidding strategies) are the future of marketing as they take into account the actual value of the conversion. However, in this case, you should know the value of each conversion. 

Target CPA and maximize conversions bidding strategies

If your main goal is to get as many conversions as possible, and these conversions have more or less the same value, then conversion-based bidding (conversion max and target CPA) is a perfect solution for you. 

These strategies will help you to get the most conversions.

More recommendations:

Today we looked at the most common bidding strategies and discussed their primary objectives. 

Here are a few more recommendations that might help you to ensure the best performance. 

  • More concrete goals and objectives – make sure you understand the end goal: e.g., is it bringing more traffic or conversion?
  • Compare your performance to the industry benchmark. Knowing your industry benchmark will allow you to set up realistic goals and estimate the effectiveness of your campaign performance.
  • Make sure you have set the barriers – e.g., max CPC.
  • Use AB testing to select the best-performing setup.
  • Remember that other factors, such as the attribution window, can also influence performance.  
  • For some businesses, Search ads are not suitable. Important to understand that for some companies using Search ads is not ideal. While running ads on social channels and Display ads would work better than Search.

That was it!

Eager to find out more? Get a free replay of our webinar about the best search ad bidding strategies

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