Stop Wasting Your Digital Advertising Ad Spend: Making Manual Bid Adjustments

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Bid management for search has evolved substantially over the last few years. While a target CPA strategy offers strong performance in general, sometimes a manual CPC strategy is needed to produce the best results. Which method we use for a particular client account is simply based on which performs better.
There are many instances when manual CPC bidding is still the best bidding strategy. However, there are also many pitfalls with manual CPC bidding that can lead to a significant amount of wasted spend. To avoid wasting spend when using manual bidding, use our step-by-step guide below.

Table of Contents

When to use Target CPA Bidding

Target CPA bidding has proven highly effective. We have found that Target CPA bidding can increase conversion volume while maintaining or improving your CPA. However, we recommend using Target CPA bidding only when ALL of the following conditions apply:

  • Your primary KPI is trackable in Google. If it lies in your back-end platform, manual CPC might be better.
  • You have enough historical conversion data in a campaign.
  • You are consistently hitting your target CPA.

If any one of these conditions does not apply, you are better off using a manual CPC bidding strategy.

Manually Changing Bids to Increase Volume

In Google Ads Editor, we find it helpful to create filters with the following rules to make manual bidding more efficient.

  1. Increase bids on keywords that have converted and meet your desired CPA, but are lower than position 1.
  2. Increase bids by 100% on keywords that have converted and meet your desired CPA, but are in position 6 or lower.
  3. Increase bids for low activity keywords where there have been no conversions, spend is less than $50 and position is worse than 1.

Expert Tip! Tier your bidding based on position. For example, increase your bids by a greater percentage for keywords in position 6 than those in positions 5, 4, 3, and 2.

Manually Changing Bids to Improve Efficiency

If you need to improve the efficiency of your spend and lower your overall CPA, then we suggest the following:

  1. Decrease bids if a keyword has converted in the past 90 days, but is over your target CPA bid.
  2. Decrease bids if a keyword has NOT converted in the past 90 days. However, if spend is higher than the average keyword, remove that keyword completely. Tier your bids based on your cost. For example, the highest cost should get the biggest percent decrease in bid.
  3. If you are spending your budget too quickly, pause the keywords, Ad Groups and campaigns that are underperforming to allow your stronger performers to utilize more of your budget.

Bid for Audience Performance

Leveraging audience data is one sure-fire way to improve your campaign efficiency. Make sure you have retargeting lists applied to your search campaigns. Let the audiences gather enough performance data to analyze the reports in the audience tab and then adjust your bid modifiers. Often these remarketing audiences perform better and require an increased bid.
Be sure to apply exclusion lists to remarketing campaigns. In most cases, you don’t want to show ads to those who already took your desired action!

Bid by Device Type

With mobile devices now accounting for more than 50% of Google’s volume, its critical to pay attention to the performance by device type. We recommend analyzing device performance and adjusting bids accordingly. If 50% or more of your conversions come from mobile, consider separating campaigns for mobile to allow you to bid at the keyword level. We have seen a 40% lift by doing this for our clients with high mobile conversion volume.

Bid by Location

People behave differently depending on their location. Review the performance of your campaign down to the city level and identify high performing regions. We find that mapping this data by volume and CPA works much better than trying to read through a table. Make appropriate bid adjustments depending on which regions are performing best.
Be sure if you are targeting specific geographies, to set your target to “people in my targeted location”. If you don’t, you can get a lot of impressions you don’t want!

Have the Guts to Make the Kill

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it just won’t work. If you’ve followed our advice above and still aren’t seeing success, try these last few tips:

  • When making bid adjustments, if there are keywords with significant spend that haven’t converted and aren’t strategic priorities, pause them!
  • Check ad tests and pause any ads that have underperformed and show a 90%+ statistical relevance.
  • Monitor landing page tests and pause ads/landing pages not converting well.
  • Analyze Google search vs. search partners to ensure that search partners are performing as well as Google. If partner traffic is performing poorly, consider turning it off.
  • Set Bing campaign targets to “Only Bing, AOL, & Yahoo Websites”

You want the money you spend on ads to count. If you closely monitor performance and make improvements like those we’ve suggested, your chance of success is much higher.


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