4 Tips to Maximize Return from Google’s Conversion Optimizer

Google doesn't use sprockets for Conversion Optimizer, George.
Google doesn’t use sprockets for Conversion Optimizer, George.

In the world of PPC, your accounts can be as hands on or as auto-pilot as you wish. More often than not, PPC pros worth their salt take the hands on approach. We’re a bunch of control freaks after all. We want to know what’s going on, why it’s happening, where are dollars are being spent. But sometimes, it’s OK to let go of that control and give the machines a chance at success.

Google’s Conversion Optimizer has been around for a long time now. There are countless posts about it and why you should or shouldn’t use it. But in accounts where you’ve optimized to the millionth degree and feel like you’re killing it, but still need more, Conversion Optimizer could be a great option to try. Below are a few tips to help you get the most of Conversion Optimizer and not drive yourself crazy.

Go Beyond the Minimum Requirements

For Conversion Optimizer to work, you need a minimum of about 15 conversions over the past 30 days. But for Conversion Optimizer to work best, you typically need somewhere between 75 and 100 conversions over the past 30 days. As with just about anything in PPC, the more data, the easier it is to optimize. If you’re not seeing upwards of 100 conversion in the past month or so, it might be best for you to keep your campaigns under manual management.

Start with the Recommended Bid

Gasp! I know. When transitioning a campaign from manual management to Conversion Optimizer, Google with provide a “Suggested CPA” based on past data. Although it goes against most PPC wisdom to say so, I suggest sticking with Google’s Suggested Bid initially. Over time, you can make changes here (I suggest using the preview tool just in case), but this is a number Google believes will give a “smooth transition” between the bidding types. This number is based on the same historical data the algorithm will be using to adjust your bids, so it’s what Google deems “attainable” at the beginning.

Note: Target CPA is your only bidding option with CO. Max CPA was retired early in 2014. 

Pay Attention to Your Current Bid Mods & Adjust Accordingly

As I’ve been told by my Google rep, Conversion Optimizer ignores all bid modifiers except those mobile bid mods at a -100% level currently. If you’re bidding only in degrees rather than absolutes for device, geography, or day-parting, these will be ignored moving forward. So if you prefer Conversion Optimizer to focus on conversions coming from some areas and not others, it might behoove you change up your campaign structure a bit and use negatives rather than bid mods where available.

Get outta here, Texas.
Get outta here, Texas.

For example, let’s say you’re generating leads and currently target the entire United States. But for some reason leads that come from Texas aren’t as strong so currently you have a -50% bid modifier on Texas. For your Conversion Optimizer campaign, add in a negative location for Texas. Then, create a separate, non-CO campaign to target only Texas. Here you can continue to remain active in the area, but CO will not focus on generating leads from that area. The only catch here: you should probably give the campaign a week or two to run while Texas is completely excluded before activating CO. This will give the algorithm the best chance of success in those other 49 states.

Keep Changes to a Minimum at the Beginning

Lastly, be patient with initial results. It takes two to three weeks for the algorithm to really ramp up, so don’t expect a large conversion spike overnight. In fact, you may even notice an initial drop in conversions. Give it some time before you panic. Don’t go making tons of bid or ad copy changes in the campaign in the first few weeks. The less changes you make, the more the algorithm will have a chance to hit its stride in the initial stages.

Google’s Conversion Optimizer can be a great tool to help you grow your accounts efficiently, but if you’re not careful, it can just as easily be a flop. What have you seen help with Conversion Optimizer? Share with us in the comments!

Comments (7)

  1. Nice article, Michelle. I should be using Conversion Optimizer more I suppose. It bothers me to lose the View Through Conversions stat on some campaigns though.

  2. Does the View Through Conversions column go away when you enable CO? I’ve always still been able to see the stats. Either way, CO is definitely worth a test on campaigns that have enough data to run with.

  3. Great article! I’ve recently killed off Conversion Optimiser through a number of my campaigns as we just weren’t hitting the 75-100 threshold you mentioned and therefore performance wasn’t where it should be. I think it’s a great tool to use when possible, though!

  4. Thank you! Wise decision to turn off CO if you don’t have the conversion volume needed. It’s definitely a great tool to use, but only if you’re giving it enough data to work with!

  5. Very good article Michelle, thank you! I can confirm from my experience the last tip (Keep Changes to a Minimum at the Beginning!) and strongly recommend that everybody should keep it in mind every time they switch to conversion optimizer.

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