Paid Search Bidding Strategies

“Which bidding strategy should I use?”

That’s a question all digital advertisers need to answer if they want their Google and Bing ads to show. That can be pretty daunting.

Manual or automated? Semi-automated? What does automated fully entail? Are you guaranteed results?

The one you choose can be the deciding factor between getting a ton of conversions at a great cost per acquisition or spending a ton of money with no conversions at all.

Both platforms have a plethora of bidding options to choose from. So the question is: Which is the best one for your budget and your goal?

Let’s explore the ones available on both search platforms:

 

Manual Bidding Strategies

Manual cost per click (CPC) is the easiest strategy to understand. For manual bidding, users set their desired bids at the keyword or ad group level, and the search platform will always use this come auction time.

While this gives advertisers full control in how much they’re willing to pay, it can also be very time consuming to manage.

 

Semi-Automated Bidding Strategies

Both platforms offer Enhanced CPC (eCPC). Advertisers can set their desired bids at the keyword or ad group level, but the search networks have the ability to adjust them higher or lower per auction, depending on whether it believes it will lead to a conversion.

On Bing, the platform maintains that the average CPC will not be higher than the set bid.

On Google, there is no bid cap so there’s a possibility of the average CPC creeping above the initial bid. As it is a much more competitive network, Google will likely adjust CPCs higher per auction compared to Bing.

It’s a good idea to use this bidding strategy when launching new campaigns. It gives you a good idea of what CPCs you can expect, and will prevent you from overspending on keywords.

 

Automated Bidding Strategies

Both platforms have some automated bidding strategies to choose from.

When it comes to automated bidding, it’s important to keep an eye on campaigns and performance as things progress. While machine learning is intelligent, it can easily spend a ton of money without getting the results you desire.

 

Maximize Clicks

This bidding strategy will aim to get you the maximum amount of clicks within your set daily budget. This strategy works best if there’s a good conversion funnel in place and it’s time to increase the volume of traffic to the website, or if your goal is just a maximized attention to your product.

On both platforms, advertisers have the ability to set a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) so the average CPC shouldn’t get wildly out of control. But keep an eye on this - this strategy pushes to spend the entire daily budget and will pay for expensive clicks if it needs to do so.

It’s also important to note that advertisers can’t set individual bids on any of the keywords - Google and Bing have final say over the CPC. However, Bing will take any active bid adjustments into consideration, so that may end up pushing the average CPC higher than desired.

Bing

Both

Google

  • Will take active bid adjustments into consideration
  • Can set a max CPC
  • Can’t set individual keyword bids
  • No bid adjustments of any kind will be used

 

Maximize Conversions

In theory, Maximize Conversions intends to get the highest volume of conversions while spending the daily budget. However, it will not take a target cost per acquisition into account (there’s a different strategy for this). That means if the daily budget is $500 and the platform can only find 1 conversion at that cost, that’s all you’ll get for the day.

On both platforms, conversion tracking will need to be enabled. This is what the algorithms will use to learn so it can find more people to complete the conversion goal.

Keep in mind that the platforms will go after the conversions that are being counted in the conversion column. Therefore, if there are 3 conversions actions being counted, the platforms will use all of that information to learn and make decisions.

Bing

Both

Google

  • Can set a max CPC
  • Will take active bid adjustments into consideration
  • Can only be used in campaigns targeting locations in: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and/or United States.
  • Needs conversion tracking in place
  • Can’t set individual keyword bids
  • Only mobile bid adjustments of -100% is allowed (essentially, excluding mobile)

 

Target Cost per Acquisition (tCPA)

To control profitability, Target Cost per Acquisition (CPA) will aim to get conversions at a specified number on average. For example, if your target CPA is $50, the platforms will try to get as many conversions at $50 on average.

The tCPA should be dependent on historical figures in your account.

It’s best to use tCPA if the account has had decent conversion volume (at least 15+ conversions) within the past 30 days. This will contribute to the machine learning algorithm to help it make more informed bidding decisions. Without this data, this strategy will be less effective and could result in minimal or expensive conversions.

Setting an aggressive tCPA may result in losing traffic that could have turned into conversions, so base the initial tCPA on the average CPA from the past 30 days. Individual conversions may be higher, but both platforms will aim to achieve the set tCPA on average. The platform will give you a recommended bid based on historical data.

 

Bing

Both

Google

  • Can only set tCPA at campaign level - cannot take overall account’s average CPA
  • Individual ad group CPA may vary, but campaign CPA should be in line with tCPA set
  • Can set a max CPC
  • Will take previous bid adjustments into consideration
  • Can only be used in campaigns targeting locations in: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and/or United States.
  • A minimum of 15 conversions in the past 30 days is required, but 50 conversions is recommended
  • Once enabled, give the platforms a minimum of 2 weeks to learn - try not to make knee-jerk adjustments
  • Needs conversion tracking in place
  • Can’t set individual keyword bids
  • Can use Portfolio bid strategies if individual campaigns do not meet the recommended conversion volume within past 30 days
  • Can set a minimum and maximum CPC
  • Only mobile bid adjustments of -100% is allowed (essentially, excluding mobile)

 

Target Return on Ad Spend (tROAS)

Another strategy that focuses on profitability, Target Return on Ad Spend (tROAS) intends to get conversions based on conversion value and revenue that will meet the desired ROAS.

Similar to tCPA, it’s best to base the initial tROAS set on historical account data - anything less will likely result in less traffic. It’s also helpful if the conversions have been consistently coming in instead of sporadic performance.

Individual conversion ROAS may vary, but the campaign ROAS should be in line with tROAS set.

 

Bing

Both

Google

  • A minimum of 15 conversions or non-zero revenue in the past 30 days is required - if not, Bing will stop optimizing bids
  • Can only set tROAS at campaign level - cannot take overall account’s average CPA
  • Can set a max CPC
  • Will take previous bid adjustments into consideration
  • Once enabled, give the platforms a minimum of 2 weeks to learn - try not to make knee-jerk adjustments
  • Needs conversion tracking in place
  • Can’t set individual keyword bids
  • Most campaign types require a minimum of 20 campaigns in the past 45 days, but Search only requires 15 conversions in the past 30 days - however, 50 conversions are recommended
  • Can use Portfolio bid strategies if individual campaigns do not meet the recommended conversion volume within past 30 days
  • Can set a minimum and maximum CPC
  • Only mobile bid adjustments of -100% is allowed (essentially, excluding mobile)

 

Start Testing Bid Strategies

Overall, both Google and Bing offer a wide variety of bidding strategies, and there’s no one size fits all. Deciding which is best will depend on the product, funnel, conversion goal, budget, and more.

It is notable that Google does have quite a few more bidding strategies available, but this comparison goes to show that brands should have what they need to succeed on either platform.

Of course, while this is what the bidding strategies say they’re meant to do, it’s not always the results you’ll get in practice. That’s why it’s important to test strategies and adjust as needed.

For example, we used the Maximize Clicks bidding strategy on a client’s brand campaign on Bing. The goal was to protect the brand on the SERP, and because it was a brand campaign, we did not set a CPC ceiling as to ensure the client would appear at the top of the page.

Within a month, our CPCs increased from $0.54 to $2.85 (a 428% increase!) and CPAs spiked by 94%. We decided to switch to Enhanced CPC in order to better control the CPC, and as a result our CPCs dropped back to $0.56 and CPAs significantly decreased by 540% ($32 to $5). While impressions were down after switching to eCPC, clicks only decreased 5%. In summary, switching max clicks bidding to eCPC resulted in a 540% decrease in CPA for only 5% less clicks!

This also highlights the caution of automated bidding: While it may be tempting to “set it and forget it,” automated strategies still need to be monitored.

When it comes to Brand campaigns, the best bidding strategy that makes sense is Target Impression Share. This is currently only offered on Google. Advertisers can aim to have their ads appear at the absolute top of the page, on the top of the page, or anywhere on the page of Google search results. Setting a max CPC is recommended to ensure Google doesn’t go too wild with the automated bidding.

 


 

Have more questions about what bidding strategy to choose? Reach out to us for a free audit!

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