When developing a Google Ads search, display, or video campaign, selecting a bid strategy that aligns with the overall goal of the campaign is critical to ensuring the campaign is successful in achieving results. While Google Ads currently offers over 10 unique bid strategies that can be applied to advertising campaigns, this article will focus on the most common, and often most effective strategies for advertisers looking to maximize their campaign’s impressions/reach, click traffic, and website conversions. Before launching a new campaign, an advertiser must first identify the overall goal of the campaign and what KPIs campaign success will be measured by. For example, if the main goal of the campaign is to drive website traffic to the advertiser’s landing page, Maximize Clicks, Manual CPC, and Enhanced CPC bid strategies are likely the best options to choose from to maximize website traffic and/or achieve the lowest possible cost-per-click (CPC).
Impression / Reach Focused Bid Strategies
Target Impression Share
The Target Impression Share bid strategy applies solely to search campaigns. This bid strategy automatically sets bids with the goal of showing ads as close to the top of search result pages as possible, or ensuring ads appear anywhere on the page. This bid strategy is highly effective if the target keywords within the campaign have a high level of competition around them. With high levels of competition, it can often be difficult to gain ad impression share on search results pages without setting manual CPC bids much higher than the expected CPC. Rather than manually bidding with high CPCs on target keywords in the campaign, using the Target Impression Share is often more effective in achieving the advertiser’s target impression share at a lower cost. The Target Impression Share bid strategy can also be highly effective in situations where achieving high keyword quality scores is more difficult, such as a search campaign bidding on competitor branded keywords. In these types of situations, keyword quality scores are likely to be low due to the low relevance of the target keywords with the search ad headlines/descriptions and the content of the advertiser’s landing page. Setting the competitor focused campaign to using a Target Impression Share bid strategy is the most effective in gaining impression share over competitors.
CPM, tCPM, & vCPM
The CPM, tCPM & vCPM bid strategies apply to advertising campaigns run through the YouTube or Google Display Network. When using these bid strategies, advertisers pay for the number of times an ad is shown to users at a cost-per-thousand impression rate (CPM). CPM focused bid strategies are most effective at maximizing the number of times ads are seen by users and will achieve the highest level of impressions and/or reach of any bid strategy. Developing and implementing effective campaign targeting criteria is essential when using CPM focused bid strategies as advertisers will want to ensure the impressions they are paying for are seen by the most relevant users.
Website Traffic Focused Bid Strategies
The Maximize Clicks bidding strategy is the simplest of all bid strategies for new or beginner advertisers to utilize when developing new campaigns, as it does not require advertisers to set a maximum CPC, CPA, or Target Impression Share. Setting a campaign to using the Maximize Clicks bid strategy signals Google to bring the most website clicks possible within a campaign’s budget by automatically adjusting bids in real time.
The Manual CPC bid strategy allows advertisers to take control of CPC bidding by manually setting the maximum CPC bid for each ad group, keyword, or placement within a campaign. Using a Manual CPC bid strategy can often be most effective when an advertiser is able to determine the value or profitability of clicks originating from specific ad groups, keywords, or placements. If for example a specific keyword within a campaign has shown to be more profitable than other keywords, manually setting the maximum CPC bid on the most profitable keywords higher than the rest of the target keywords in the campaign will ensure the maximum number of clicks from the most profitable keywords without having to raise the maximum CPC of the whole campaign or ad group.
Website Conversions Focused Bid Strategies
The Maximize Conversions bid strategy is similar to the Maximize Clicks strategy in that it does not require an advertiser to set a target Max CPC, Target CPA, or Target Impression share, however the Maximize Conversions bid strategy solely focuses on achieving website conversions as opposed to maximizing website click traffic. This bid strategy is often the most effective option for advertisers looking to maximize website conversions but are unsure of their cost-per-acquisition. When using this bid strategy, Google will automatically adjust bids by raising bids for users it deems are more likely to complete a website conversion after clicking on the ad. Google analyzes user online behavior such as recent website history and recent web searches, along with the user behavior of users who have previously completed a conversion action to adjust bids in real time. Since Google relies heavily on previous conversion data, campaigns using the maximize conversions bid strategy may take awhile to ramp up ad delivery. The more conversions recorded in the campaign provides Google with more data to adjust bids, so typically, the longer the campaign is running, the more effective it gets at driving conversions at a lower cost.
The Target CPA bid strategy is another effective bid strategy in maximizing website conversions, but unlike the Maximize Conversions bid strategy, Target CPA allows advertisers to set a target cost-per-action. It is not recommended to launch a campaign using a Target CPA bid strategy unless the advertiser already has a good idea of what their expected CPA, or cost-per-conversion, is. Instead, many advertisers will choose to launch a campaign with a website conversion goal using a Maximize Conversions bid strategy, and then pivot to a Target CPA bid strategy once a baseline CPA is visible. Campaign budgets are also an important consideration when using a Target CPA bid strategy. It is best practice to ensure a campaign’s daily budget is at least 2x the campaign’s current Target CPA. If this is unattainable due to campaign budget constraints or high CPA, a Maximize Conversions bid strategy is often most effect. When a campaign’s daily budget can easily be set to at least 2x the campaign’s current CPA, a Target CPA bid strategy is the most effective at driving website conversions at the lowest cost possible. Using this bid strategy does often require routine maintenance which often includes reviewing the current CPA of the campaign and re-setting the Target CPA lower or higher.
As outlined in this article, there are many effective bid strategies to choose from when developing a new Google Ads campaign depending on the overall business objectives of the advertiser. There are even several other bid strategies currently available to advertisers not covered in this article, as this article focused on the most common strategies for more novice advertisers. Once a campaign is launched with a bid strategy in place, that does not mean that it cannot or should not be later changed. For example, if an advertiser is unsure about a campaign’s expected CPC or CPA before launching a campaign, they might choose to utilize a Maximize Clicks or Maximize Conversions bid strategy and run the campaign until a steady baseline CPC or CPA becomes visible. Advertisers can then shift the campaign from Maximize Clicks or Maximize Conversions to instead using a Manual CPC or Target CPA bid strategy to further lower the campaign’s CPC or CPA while still maximizing website traffic or conversion results.