Get Your Time Back: Leverage Automated Bidding Strategies

Over the last couple years, PPC pros have only gotten busier. Social has exploded, offering more targeting and advertising options than ever before. Shopping networks have grown. Search channels have added new ad options, reporting metrics and have made interface updates. Meanwhile, we all still only have so many hours in our day to manage our workloads. So what gives? Where do you gain valuable time back in your day and rest easy knowing that you’re not just leaving your client’s ad dollars completely up to automation? Recently, I have been finding automated bidding in Google, Bing and Facebook to be a big time saver for my ever-expanding schedule.

Why Should You Use Automated Bidding?

Before I jump into the specifics of what is available in each channel, here’s why I like to use automated bidding when it’s available. These bidding strategies allow you to meet goals for different clients and accounts with the different strategies. Especially in Facebook, I think automated options can be better in terms of costs and results. Google and Bing also have options that cover just about all of the goals any client could have.

Some people are afraid of giving up too much control of their accounts, and while this is always a worry with automation, by setting your maximum bids and daily budgets, you’re able to easily stay within your daily budget constraints and still let the channels do part of the work.

Now let’s jump into what bidding options are available across the channels.

Google AdWords

There are 7 automated bidding strategies for Search campaigns in AdWords. The majority of these options can be applied at the campaign, ad group and keyword level with a few only applicable at the campaign and ad group level. You are able to set a maximum CPC bid amount in addition to your daily budget. I would recommend setting this at least until you know how the campaign and bidding strategy will function. Regardless of the bidding strategy’s goal, Google will work to achieve the goal at hand by automatically adjusting your bids to get as many clicks/conversions/sales/etc., within your specified budget.

It is important to note that some of Google’s options are only available as a “portfolio bid strategy,” which means that it must be applied across multiple campaigns, ad groups and keywords. These strategies are saved in the Shared Library and were previously referred to  as “flexible bid strategies.”

These strategies can be applied by going to your campaign’s Settings tab and scrolling down to “Bid Strategy.” See screenshot below.

Since this series is about saving time, I figured I might save a little of my own. Rather than given a written description of each bidding option, I’ll let Google handle that one…since they’ve already done it. Here are the options currently available in AdWords:

More information is available for automated bidding for Shopping campaigns.

Tips For Google Automated Bidding Options:

  •  When creating a new campaign in AdWords, Enhanced CPC (ECPC) is selected by default so it’s important to remember to turn it off if you don’t want to test it. 
  • It’s also important to make sure proper tracking is setup to achieve the goal of your automated strategy. For Target CPA, you’ll
  • You’ll need conversion tracking setup and  at least 30 conversions in the past 30 days for Target CPA. The more data, the better. However, it’s important to note that if you set the maximum CPA too low, you may miss out on clicks and, in turn, conversions. 
  • Have a flexible attitude when beginning to test these new strategies. For example, if you start testing Target CPA with too much constraint, it won’t work the way it should. Give Google a little bit of time to run and optimize to your standards before deeming these strategies unusable.

Bing Ads

Bing offers four options (other than manual bidding) that are currently very similar to what Google offers. It’s important to note that some of these options are only available for select advertisers right now.

Enhanced CPC:

Bing says that your bids are automatically increased up to 30% to increase your chances for a conversion on searches that are deemed likely to convert. You are able to control this strategy by setting a CPC limit. You are able to use third-party bid tools alongside this strategy.

Maximize Clicks:

This option doesn’t require ad group or keyword bids and instead adjusts bids in real time to get as many clicks as possible. If you’re concerned about cost, you can set your maximum CPC for more control. It’s important to note that third party bid management tools will not work with this option since you’re giving Bing Ads complete control over your keyword bids. Bid adjustments will also not be implemented unless the bid adjustment is -100%.

Maximize Conversions:

Similar to Maximize Clicks, you don’t need to set ad group or keyword bids because Bing will set your bids in real-time to maximize your results. As an option, you can set a maximum CPC to make sure that Bing never goes over your specified limit. Additionally, third-party bid management tools will not work here either since you’ll be rendering control of bids to Bing. Bid adjustments will also not be applied unless they’re -100%.

Target CPA:

With this option, you set your budget and your target 30-day average CPA and then Bing works to set your bids in real-time to achieve your desired CPA. You can set a maximum CPC here to keep things in check. Third-party bid management tools will not work here and bid adjustments for this option follow the same rules as Maximize Clicks/Conversions.

Compare the different bidding strategies with the table below:

Facebook

Facebook is my favorite channel to leverage automatic bidding. While I was initially weary of giving control of my bids to Facebook, my experience has been that the bids and CPAs are usually the same or cheaper than what I would have set. Bidding is determined at the ad set level. See the screenshot below.

If you want to get an idea of what your bids could be, you can click “Manual” to see what Facebook predicts. See the screenshot below.

Unlike Google and Bing, Facebook’s bidding options also include the ad optimization process as well. There’s currently no “rotate evenly” setting, so the optimization & delivery setting you choose will also impact how your ads rotate and what is prioritized. Effectively, these can be likened to the “Optimize (Clicks)” or “Optimize (Conversions)” rotation settings in the search channels, but carry the added component of bidding control as well. Here are the different options available:

Conversions:

This option requires you to have conversion tracking setup and applied to the ad set. This is my favorite setting to leverage Facebook’s auto bidding capabilities.  Facebook will work to get the maximum number of conversions within your budget at the lowest CPA based on the goal you assign to that ad set. It’s important to set your most important goal here so that Facebook can optimize appropriately, but it also needs volume to work with. This delivery option will charge you by impression. If you haven’t tested Facebook automated bidding yet, I would recommend starting with this option first.

Link Clicks:

With this setting, Facebook will work to get the most link clicks at the best price. You are able to choose when you get charged – either on impressions or on link clicks. When choosing link clicks, you pay for clicks related to certain objectives – clicks to your website, call-to-action clicks, app installs, clicks to view a video on your website and more.

Impressions:

This setting is best for large brands who are looking to get maximum exposure. You’ll pay by 1,000 impressions that are delivered to your target audience. This method can be a bit unpredictable and may result in spending quite a bit of money without any tangible results. 

Daily Unique Reach:

If you’re looking to get in front of the most people each day, Daily Unique Reach is for you. First, you’ll want to note that you get charged on impressions with this setting. If you’re having problems with your ads showing up in front of the same people too often (a common complaint with Facebook), then this strategy is worth a test. Facebook will work to get your ads in front of as many people in your audience as possible but with the limit of no more than once a day. If you’re interested in learning more about this setting, check out this post with a couple of things to consider about Daily Unique Reach.

Conclusion

Facebook, Google and Bing offer quite an array of automated bidding strategies that can not only save you time, but also make an impact on the performance of your campaigns. Some PPC pros are hesitant to implement automated bidding, but I do think there’s a lot of good reasons to give automated bidding a chance in your accounts before writing them off.

What tips and tricks do you have for automated bidding strategies? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Don’t forget to check out the other posts in our series, Get Your Time Back: A Little PPC Automation Goes A Long Way.

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