Automation seems like an ideal solution for many situations—it will make the task at hand more streamlined, less labour intensive and achieve an outcome faster. With too many tasks and not enough hours in a day, savvy marketers are all about efficiency and the opportunity to streamline advertising campaigns is definitely appealing. Google Ads offers automated bidding strategies designed to reduce the amount of time you need to put into managing your ad campaigns.

But should you be using them?

Set and forget

The number of automated bidding options available seems to keep growing and knowing exactly how each one works—and their benefits—can be cause for confusion. Automated bidding strategies can present as great solutions for some businesses and advertisers but it’s important to be aware of any drawbacks and understand the ins and outs of each option.

What is automated bidding?

Google Ads bidding strategies are designed to maximise results based on your campaign goals and are available for both search and display advertising depending on the strategy used.

Automated bid strategies are goal driven, meaning they’re optimising for a specific action such as clicks or conversions. To achieve these goals they analyse data—such as a user’s device, operating system, the time of day they are searching, demographics, and location—and learn over time, using historical performance to inform future bids.

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Bidding strategies

When it comes to Google Ads there are eight types of automated bidding strategies to choose from, each prioritising different results and actions and taking care of all the work for you.

This strategy aims to drive as many conversions as possible by setting a specific target cost-per-acquisition. Some bids may cost more and some less but they’ll average out to ensure your budget is staying where it needs to be overall.
Goal: Get more conversions with your target CPA
Available in: Single or multiple campaigns, ad groups
Best used when: You’ve specified a CPA that you can comfortably spend to acquire a customer while maintaining a profit.

The Target ROAS strategy means that Google sets bids to maximise the conversion value as much as possible, thereby maximising your potential return on ad spend. For example, if you aimed to make $5 in sales for every dollar spent on your ads, the ROAS would be 500%.
Goal: Meet a target return on ad spend
Available in: Campaigns, ad groups, keywords
Best used when: You want to drive the highest value of conversions rather than achieving the highest number of conversions.

By implementing this strategy, you will be focusing on getting as many clicks as possible on your ad, using your daily budget to achieve this. To avoid spending your entire budget on just a few clicks, you can set a bid limit.
Goal: Increase site visits
Available in: Single campaigns or across multiple campaigns, ad groups and keywords
Best used when: There is a strong conversion funnel and history, and you want to send as many visitors to your website as possible.

This strategy is similar to the previous but focuses on achieving conversions rather than just clicks. This automated bidding strategy does not allow you to set a bid cap and can exhaust your budget quickly to get conversions, if not managed correctly.
Goal: Receive more conversions while spending your budget
Available in: Campaigns
Best used when: A significant budget is available and conversions are the goal.

A portfolio only bidding strategy, Target Search Page Location prioritises ad placement, allowing you to bid on either the top of search page or on the first page of search results. Google will automatically increase your bid where necessary to get high visibility results—beneficial in searches for competitive keywords where ad rank can be crucial.
Goal: Increase visibility on the first page of a Google search results page or show in one of the top positions
Available in: Campaigns
Best used when: You want to rank as one of the top positions in a Google search.

Similar to Target Search Page Location because it prioritises placement of the ad over value or cost, this strategy goes further to ensure your ad outranks very specific competitors. This strategy offers options to set bid limits to ensure your budget isn’t compromised.
Goal: Increase visibility over other websites
Available in: Campaigns
Best used when: You want to outrank a specific competitor.

Unlike any of the above, this automated bidding strategy can be applied on it’s own or to other bidding strategies and optimises your maximum cost-per-click in order to maximise conversions. Enhanced CPC allows Google to adjust your bid depending on the likelihood of a sale, increasing it if higher or decreasing it if lower.
Goal: Increase conversions while staying in control of your keyword bids
Available in: Campaigns, ad groups, keywords
Best used when: A manual bidding strategy is in place but you still want to take advantage of automated bidding.

This strategy sets bids to show your ad at the top of the page as often as possible and tells you what percentage of searches your ad is appearing in that your were able to show up in based on targeting and keywords. The higher the impression share, the more people are seeing your ad and the more chances you have at a click or conversion.
Goal: Increase the number of times your ad is shown
Available in: Campaigns, ad groups
Best used when: A maximum CPC is specified so it’s less likely that your budget is used to get impressions that may not convert.

Is automating the best solution?

Automated bidding can be a great option for campaigns aiming to increase brand awareness, website traffic and conversions. However, if not carefully implemented or monitored, automated campaigns can sometimes come with drawbacks. For example, automated bidding can’t take into account qualitative information such as recent events, media coverage, weather, or flash sales, all of which can affect ad performance. This is where a manual approach to setting bids may be necessary.

Before you get started it’s important to evaluate the pros and cons of automated bidding.

Pros
  • Save time by not having to manually set bid amounts for ad groups or keywords.
  • Google has a lot more data to work with than you do.
  • Campaigns require less manual optimisation.
  • Assists smaller businesses to self-manage campaigns.
  • Uses machine learning to evaluate performance over time and optimise for your specific goal.
Cons
  • Google doesn’t know your business like you do and Google’s broad data doesn’t necessarily reflect your target audiences.
  • Google’s automated bidding requires historical data to optimise for your goal and predict future bids. Therefore, automated bidding might not be the best strategy for businesses new to Google Ads.
  • It takes time for Google to learn your campaigns.
  • Reduced budget control and better suited to businesses with flexible/large advertising budget as Google will make optimisation on the spot which can result in drastic changes from time to time (eg a much higher bid than expected).

It’s also important to note that while bidding itself is automated, campaigns should still be monitored to evaluate if the bid strategy is meeting the desired goal.

To automate or not?

Like anything, there is rarely one perfect solution. While Google’s automated bidding strategies present great opportunity to save time on manually setting bids for ad campaigns while optimising for set goals, there can be challenges.

To figure out what works well for your ads and your ad goals, test both manual and automated strategies and assess how each performs. Essentially, you’ll be looking to ensure that the time saved on automating is worth the sacrifice of handing over control to Google.

If you’re struggling to choose a bidding strategy—manual or automated—our team can help you determine which will work best for you and manage all aspects of your Pay-Per-Click campaigns. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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