AdWords Tips

PPC Bid Management Guide: The Best Bidding Tips from 18 PPC Experts

By Elisa Gabbert March 14, 2012 Posted In: AdWords Tips Comments: 27

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PPC bid management is one of the more complicated areas of PPC marketing, so many advertisers choose to automate using either the automated bidding option in Google AdWords or a third-party bid management solution. Both approaches have their upsides and downsides – Google’s automated bidding feature is free, but requires you to give up complete control, and it’s less than transparent. Third-party bid management software is generally more robust, but (obviously) it comes with a price tag, so it may not be feasible for smaller, budget-strapped advertisers.

I was curious how most AdWords advertisers handle the PPC bid management process, so I asked 18 practicing PPC experts three questions:

  1. Do you use automated AdWords bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?
  1. If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?
  1. What's your best PPC bid management tip?

Here’s the all-star lineup:

Read on to learn their answers and get some awesome PPC bid management tips from the pros!

PPC Budget Management

Aaron Levy

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not? If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?  

No-ish. SEER uses a third-party tool for reporting and bid management. The tool can set up specific bid rules (either on a keyword or ad group level) and our software sends us alerts whenever a specific keyword or grouping meets the criteria. 

I prefer this to the AdWords automated bidding, largely because I have to go in and actively approve (or reject) each bid change. With AdWords automated bidding the changes are ... well, automated! While you can go in and revert after the fact, I like to check before things are posted to make sure the changes are in line with goals. 

The main rules I run are checking to make sure top-performing groups are getting the traffic they deserve, and to make sure that we're not paying too much for competitive terms. A few examples:

  • Rough keywords/groups: If CPA is 2x goal and position is less than 3, reduce bids.
  • Strong keywords/groups: If conversion rate is 2x average and position is less than 3, increase bids.

What's your best PPC bid management tip?bid management quote

Don't bid more than you can afford! More often than not, the top position isn't the most profitable. 

Aaron Levy is a PPC associate at SEER Interactive, a Philadelphia-based search agency. He's been involved in digital marketing for the better part of 5 years, and has managed clients as large as Fortune 50 companies and as small as regional plumbers. Follow Aaron Levy.

Bethany Bey

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

I do use automated bidding in my accounts. For accounts that with a large amount of conversions, CPA bidding has worked great. I tend to use target instead of max CPA bidding because my accounts all have goal CPAs that we need to meet. I have also had success using optimize for clicks with smaller budget accounts. This type of bidding brought us more clicks within our budget which increased conversions since we had more traffic coming to the site.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

Even though I use automated bidding, I still increase/decrease the target or max amounts just to test the effect. For example, how many conversions I will lose if I decrease target CPA by $1? I usually let these tests run for about 2 weeks. 

What's your best PPC bid management tip?

Experiment! Test all different types of automated bidding options. Just because you are focused on conversions, doesn't mean optimize for clicks won't drive sales!

Bethany Bey is a PPC account executive at Hanapin Marketing and blog manager of PPC Hero.

Brad Geddes

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

That really depends on the client. We have used third-party bidding software, AdWords CPA bidding, Excel spreadsheets, and helped others build their own system. Some of the big questions we look at are:

  • Scale. How many keywords, placements, audiences, etc. need to be adjusted.
  • Conversion volume: How many conversions happen on a daily/monthly basis.
  • Average sale amount & margins: Is the amount/margin static, within a small range, or all over the place? 
  • Sale/lead flow: One-off sales, sales forces, phone calls, affiliate, downloads, etc. How does a sale actually happen and what steps are taken along the way?
  • Technical integration: How many systems need to talk to each other to get the data correct?
  • Technical savvy: Can the client create and maintain their own system?
  • Long-term goals: What should the account look like in 1-3 years?

With all of this information, then you can examine the cost benefits of where and how the accounts are managed and what technology is required.

I don't think there's a one-solution-fits-all approach. A site making $15/lead with 100 leads a month doesn't need to pay for a huge bid management system. A site doing thousands (or tens of thousands) of sales where the prices and margins are variable needs a robust system. A site that is bidding on multiples of email captures, page views, click-outs, sales, installs, downloads, etc. probably needs their own custom system.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

That depends on volume, volatility, CPC ranges, and workflow. The higher any one of those items are, the more often bids need to be examined. A site spending $100/month does not need daily bidding. An account spending $4mm/month needs to change bids multiple times per week. Some companies watch how busy their sales force is and adjust bids or campaign budgets in real time based upon call volume, phone wait times, and their current capacity, which is a workflow bidding environment. 

What's your best PPC bid management tip?

Understand the true value of a customer and work to increase the customer's value post sale. If you can raise the customer value and have a true picture of customer worth, then you can make much better bid decisions. I can't count the times I’ve seen a company say “My competitors must be losing money – there's no way they can afford to pay that much”; and sometimes I'll know the other side (of course, I can't say that) and that they aren't losing money. In reality, they have great lead nurturing, upsell, and customer retention programs that make their customer worth more.  

Brad Geddes is the founder of Certified Knowledge, a PPC training and toolset platform. He is the author of Advanced Google AdWords, and an official Google AdWords Seminar Leader. You can follow @bgTheory on Twitter to stay up to date with industry news.

Chris Kosteki

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords?

Our agency uses a proprietary system that includes bid management software.

Why or why not?

Too many keywords! We have millions of impressions a week across tens of thousands of keywords. Monitoring, analyzing, and acting on all this data at the keyword level is not practical. Instead, we assess performance by predefined segments that let us know where we need to get more aggressive or passive. This allows us to measure not only the ad placement/delivery, but also the subsequent performance downstream (conversions, revenue, leads, etc.). An added benefit is we can gain insight into the bidding history and either spot cycles or trends which provides an important perspective for future decisions.

What's your best PPC bid management tip?

Always take into account the position you are getting when you review bids. It’s not a race to the top, and usually the best performance comes from finding the sweet spot between cost and high-quality traffic volume.

Chris Kostecki has been working in search since 2006, and in marketing since 1997. He created a PPC product for small businesses to supplement a Yellow Page directory product, and worked as a PPC manager in an agency serving e-commerce clients before his current role as in-house Search Analyst at  Keurig Inc. Follow Chris on Twitter to keep up with the latest trends in Search Marketing, especially every Tuesday from 12-1 p.m. EST during #PPCChat.

Pay Per Click (PPC) Bid Management

Crystal Anderson

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

I do not use AdWords automated bidding. At SEER we use Acquisio for our PPC management platform, which has an extremely robust bid management platform. Their platform allows me to customize complex bid rules for my clients, and run them on a specified schedule in a “suggestion mode.” This allows me to use the tool for “blocking and tackling” versus relying on it to make the bid changes for me. I prefer to use suggestion mode as it allows me to review the bid changes to ensure that there are not any other outside factors going on that may warrant me to deviate from my initially set bid rules. Automation of bids can certainly have strengths, but is something I prefer not to use in most situations, as it has its weaknesses too. If you do use automated bidding, I think it’s always vital to remember that it’s just a tool and the results will only be as good as the rules you set. Evaluate them often to ensure they are still in line with your overall goals.

What's your best PPC bid management tip?

Know your ceiling and floor bids. In various accounts I’ve audited, it’s clear there is no understanding of what the bid strategy should be. There are keywords with bids so low they aren’t showing, and keywords with bids so high that goals are blown by. Tip: Use ACE to test bids and positions if you aren’t sure what those thresholds are for you. ACE can be extremely powerful to hone in on what the optimal bids for your terms are to drive conversions at a profitable rate.

Crystal Anderson spearheads the PPC division at SEER Interactive, a Philadelphia-based Search Agency.  She began her PPC career in early 2006 and has managed PPC accounts across multiple platforms, internationally and with monthly budgets from four to six figures. You can follow her on Twitter at @CrystalA.

Elizabeth Marsten

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

I use a combination of automated rules bidding and manual bidding. I rarely use tools like Enhanced CPC or CPA. Why: I find that unless the campaign has significant and consistent conversion data, the automated options are more expensive than manual CPC bidding or using an automated rule to control costs.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

Depends on the amount of data/spend, but weekly is at minimum when bids see evaluation and adjustment.  

What's your best PPC bid management tip?

For new campaigns, I take the suggested max CPC by the traffic/keyword estimation tools and add another 25-50% to the max CPC for the ad groups. It's better to start high and come down than to try and keep climbing up. Build that Quality Score right out of the gate.

Elizabeth Marsten is the Director of Search Marketing at Portent, Inc., an internet marketing company in Seattle, WA. She oversees the day-to-day workflow of PPC, SEO, Links, Copy and Social at Portent while also managing some PPC clients of her own.

Greg Meyers

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

No, I do not use Google's automated bid management. The reason is because I feel that bid management can be more effective when it is done manually. There are too many variables (offline and online) that occur during the life of keyword or keyword group (aka ad group) that could actually be more counter-productive. However, I do feel there is value in automated bid management based making predictions from past performance trends (such as weekends and time of day).

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

My best practice for performing bid management is identifying overall trends. These trends consist of Day of the Week, Time of Day, Avg. Position and continually reviewing search query data. If raising or lowering the bid is consistent with the Cost Per Acquisition threshold, then bid management is performed.

What's your best PPC bid management tip?

Do not base bid management rules on Google’s Quality Score Rating. It’s not an accurate representation of a success metric. I have seen countless examples of specific head and long-tail terms that had the highest percentage of conversions with the lowest Quality Score rating, even though the text ads, landing page and keyword groupings were highly relevant.

Greg Meyers is an Internet Marketing Expert who has helped companies both large and small achieve success in Search Engine Marketing through proven strategies and effective implementation. Most recently, he founded AfterClicks Interactive, a pay-per-click marketing firm that provides advertisers, as well as digital agencies, with professional PPC marketing services geared to maximizing their return on investment. AfterClicks leverages all search marketing platforms, technologies and industry best practices backed by proven strategies that are based on the client’s goals and objectives. Greg specializes in Pay-Per-Click Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Landing Page Optimization, and Web Analytics.

Jeff Daniel

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

I do not. I use a third-party bid management tool (Marin Software) for our SEM efforts for a couple reasons:

  1. Workflow Efficiency.  I, like most search marketers, run campaigns on more platforms than just AdWords.  So I use a third party bid management tool to manage all of my campaigns.   Sure, I could use the AdWords tool, but then I would be using one tool for that and another tool for the rest and that just doesn’t make sense for us to do. 
  2. Objectivity.  Letting Google optimize for me seems little like “letting the fox in the hen house.”  I’m sure their tool does a great job but I wouldn’t feel comfortable about turning over this much spend control to them.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

Bid strategy is completely dependent on the account goals.  For example, if I’m optimizing for conversions and have a CPA goal of $15, bid management tools might automatically slash bids on keywords that are delivering CPAs over $15.  Of course, that’s what they’re supposed to do, but what if there are still keywords delivering at $15.50 and I could be missing out on real sales?  Automated rules don’t usually account for that.  I like to manually monitor situations like this to understand where to raise and lower bids instead of ‘setting it and forgetting it’ with a tool. I also typically look at a basic 20/80 percent rule (although not fixed to those specific numbers) – manually monitor and optimize the top 20% performing keywords delivering on my goal and providing the most volume and let the bid management tool optimize the other 80%, assuming I’m 100% comfortable with the tool itself.

What's your best PPC bid management tip?

If you’re going to use any PPC bid management tool, learn everything you can about it.  How does it really work? What are its limitations? What are its advantages?  Understand the ins and outs to make sure the tool can and will do what you think it will do to ensure that you won’t end up actually hurting performance. By knowing this information, you can make sure the tool is making the right decisions when you’re not looking. 

Jeff Daniel is an account supervisor at Fuor Digital. He oversees digital media strategy, planning and execution across a variety of vehicles and tactics.

PPC Budget Management

Joe Kerschbaum

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

Yes! We use a couple different automated bidding options provided by Google. We use a third-party tool as well (Acquisio). Depending on the needs of the campaign, we use Cost-per-Acquisition bidding (CPA) or we use AdWords automated bid rules.

As a rule of thumb, we utilize CPA bidding (Conversion Optimizer) to maintain mature, stable campaigns. For those types of campaigns we can focus our optimization efforts on ad testing, negative keywords, ad group break down, etc. We use the automated bid rules when we want to maintain control, and get more specific with our bid adjustments. In general, we use AdWords automated bid rules to improve a campaign that may have fluctuating performance.

We also use automated bid rules to launch new campaigns as we establish ad position, click-through rates and Quality Scores.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

We utilize as much automation as possible. This way we can focus our optimization brainpower elsewhere within our campaigns. However, there are campaigns that aren’t eligible for automation, such as those with low conversion volume (high value but few conversions). When this is the case, we monitor bids, ad rank, CTR and other metrics at least once per week and make changes as needed.

What's your best PPC bid management tip?

I have two bonus tips.

Monitor your automation closely: You can’t set and forget your bid rules. Monitor the trends closely to make sure the rules that you’ve implemented are actually helping your campaign. You may find that your settings are too aggressive or not aggressive enough.

Adjust automation strategy as needed: Throughout the life of a campaign, there will be varying strategies and goals. At some point you may need to focus on increasing volume (impressions, clicks). At other points you may need to focus on improving ROI (lowering CPA, increasing conversion rate). As these needs shift over time your automation should evolve as well. Remember, bid rules can be paused or adjusted to suit your current needs. Of course, don’t adjust your bids too frequently. But don’t be afraid to adjust in order to focus on your current KPIs.

Joseph Kerschbaum is Vice President of Clix Marketing. Joseph’s writing on the SEM industry appears widely in Website Magazine, Search Engine Watch, and other industry blogs and journals. Joseph is also coauthor of the Wiley/Sybex book PPC Advertising: An Hour a Day.

John Lee

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not? 

The short answer is yes. Depending on the account in question, I use Conversion Optimizer (CPA bidding) or Automated rules – both of which are AdWords features. I also use Acquisio which provides me with a wide variety of rules for my AdWords campaigns. Bid automation should be considered another tool for PPC advertisers to use. I believe that bid automation can help to streamline your processes and free up time to take care of other important tasks like ad writing and conversion optimization. Another reason why I use automated bidding is that it can help me to reach my KPI targets much more efficiently.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

Even though I do use bid automation, I can still answer this question. The truth is, I don't use bid automation in every account or even every campaign. In some instances I've even had clients that were fundamentally opposed to bid automation. So there is still plenty of manual bid optimization in my processes. So, when do you adjust bids? Let the data guide you – just like a bid algorithm! Determine a schedule that is reflective of the performance flow of your account (how many clicks, conversions are generated each day?). Whether it is daily, or weekly, the process is the same. Pull reports and adjust bids according to your KPI targets. The key here is having a schedule, and sticking to that schedule.

Bonus: What's your best bid management tip? 

My best bid management tip is simple: be sure that you are basing your changes on data! Many advertisers adjust bids based on a whim or ill conceived notions of how the PPC game is played. Meaningful bid changes are based on the actual performance of your keywords and ad groups. Determining an appropriate "look back period" (how far back you pull data) will allow you to make intelligent decisions on whether to raise or lower your bids or give you the confidence to turn on an automated bid rule.

John Lee is the Client Services Director for Clix Marketing, an SEM agency specializing in PPC. John is an internet marketing jack-of-all-trades with experience in PPC, SEO, and social media marketing. Working in the search marketing industry since 2006, John has perfected his paid search, social media advertising and analytics skills for his role at Clix Marketing. John is also an avid blogger, and has been featured on the Clix Marketing blog, Search Engine Watch, WordStream Blog, PPC Hero, SEO Boy and Website Magazine. 

Justin Vanning

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

I mainly use the Enhanced CPC bidding in AdWords since most of my campaigns are focused on driving conversions. 

Bonus: What's your best bid management tip?

My best bid management tip is if you have enough conversion data, use the Enhanced CPC bidding option. It almost feels like it's cheating a bit to be able to use Google's user behavior to increase bids based on when they believe a user is more likely to convert but I've seen it make a big impact in campaigns that have high traffic and conversion volume. 

Justin Vanning is Paid Media Strategist at SEOmoz. Follow him on Twitter at @justinvanning.

Larry Kim

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

No. I don’t use automated bidding because that’s more of a Google Profit optimizer.  

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

Bid management is complicated. We recently built a bid management software application, and the specifications were around a hundred pages of rules and overrides and calculations that would be way too long to describe in this blog post. (If you want to see how it works, sign up for a free trial of WordStream PPC Advisor and check out the bid recommendations for your own AdWords account. Don’t worry – they’re just recommendations, and you can review before accepting or rejecting the suggestions.)

What's your best bid management tip?

The hot trend in bid management seems to be “write your own automated bid rules.” My tip is to run away from that as fast as you can. I know it sounds like a cool idea at first – if you’re doing manual bid management, there are a bunch of manual tasks that you would want to automate. But I guarantee that you’ll end up inadvertently blowing up your account performance. The reason is, as I said before, bid management is complicated. It’s very hard to simulate the interaction of dozens of different bid rules running on a live system. It’s hard to fully understand all of the different factors at play. There will most certainly be unintended side effects. So, unless you’re a math PhD and have a big software engineering and QA testing team on your side, use a third-party bid management software tool!

Larry Kim founded WordStream in 2007 and currently serves as CTO, contributing to both the product and marketing teams. Larry is the author of four award-winning books on software development and has contributed to publications including Wired, iMedia Connection, Marketing Profs and many other industry sites and magazines.

Marko Kvesic

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

I prefer manual bidding because I’m just not comfortable yet giving all the control over to Google, and I love the fact that it gives me the most control over my account.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

I always raise bids on keywords that are most relevant to what I advertise and are performing best – keywords that bring me results. I lower bids on keywords with low performance.

What's your best bid management tip?

Choose the bidding strategy that fits your advertising goals. Always test and experiment with different bidding options and see what works best. I recommend estimated first-page bid and top page bid metrics, because they give a great insight in how much you should bid. Try the Keyword Traffic Estimator tool to get an idea of the potential click traffic, average CPC, and cost per day for your keywords. Also the good tool I recommend  is Bid Simulator, which enables you to see the advertising results you could get if you used a different maximum CPC bid for your keyword or ad group.

Marko Kvesic is the Internet Marketing Manager at GoTraffic Internet Marketing Agency. Follow Marko Kvesic on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.  

Pay Per Click Bid Management Service

Martin Roettgerding

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

I believe that there is often a human advantage when it comes to bidding. Algorithms are great to make sense of tons of data, but when it comes to semantics, they’re lost. The most advanced prediction models won’t beat a PPC manager who sees the sun shining and decides to raise bids for sunscreen. However, when an account grows there is a point where manual bidding is no longer feasible. You simply can’t look after thousands of bids manually. So yes, we absolutely use automated bidding. This includes proprietary software as well as Google’s Conversion Optimizer.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

Even though we usually rely on automated bid management, we’ve found that there are times when it’s necessary to intervene and correct things manually. A classic example would be the first day in December, when you can no longer ship in time for Christmas. Conversion rates drop like a stone from one day to the next, but most bid management systems will need some time to adapt to the change. Unless you intervene, your bids will be far too high at a time when many people still search and click on your ads.

Another extreme but not uncommon example is a software effectively “killing” a keyword. This might happen if you advertise for a product that is temporarily out of stock. A corresponding keyword will then perform badly and will consequently be bid down. If the bids get too low, there is little or no new performance data and the keyword can’t redeem itself. An automated system is stuck here. If you want to give the keyword another chance, you have to raise the bid manually.

What's your best bid management tip?

The best bid management tip would of course be to understand how the ad auction works and that improving CTR and therefore Quality Score is often cheaper than increasing bids.

But with so many experts I expect that this one is mentioned more than once. So let me just share a little hands-on tip: Whenever you have to raise or lower all bids in a campaign quickly, consider the ad scheduling settings. Simply adjust all bids to, for example, 80% for all days of the week and you’re done. It’s fast, easy, and quickly reversible.

Martin Roettgerding is the head of SEM at SEO/SEM agency Bloofusion Germany and oversees a small team working on client projects. Bloofusion does a lot of research and lately Martin has started to share some of those findings on his new blog, PPC Epiphany. You can also find Martin on Twitter, where he goes by the name @bloomarty.

Pamela Lund

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

Only for very large accounts that need frequent bid changes. Other than that, I prefer to make manual changes that I control because I am a control freak with PPC changes. In order to use automated bidding you have to be completely sure that you have set up the rules properly, then audit those rules and results regularly. If you don't do that, you run the risk of having poor results. Sometimes that takes as long as manually making the changes. So, given those two choices, I prefer to make the changes myself.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

Bids are always changed based on ROAS. If a keyword is exceeding the goals we have set for it and there is room to increase the bid to try to get more clicks (and therefore conversions), a higher bid will be tested. If a keyword is not meeting its performance goals, a lower bid will be tested in conjunction with other optimization techniques.

bid optimization tipsWhat's your best bid management tip?

Schedule your optimization. Don't obsessively look in campaigns every day and make reactionary changes. If you make bid changes every day, you're most likely not gathering enough data for those changes to be warranted. Use your calendar or project management system to task you with regular bid optimization, ad optimization, search query report review, etc. Keeping your optimization on a regular schedule will ensure you are making the right changes at the right time based on the right data.

Pam Lund handles PPC management for BlueGlass Interactive. She has over 10 years of experience in developing and managing online advertising strategies for companies of all sizes. She has an "ROI is king" philosophy with PPC management and loves seeing CPA performance improve month over month for her clients.

Shawn Livengood

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

Not currently, but I have in the past.  I stopped using it because the automated rules got stuck in a negative feedback loop.  The system reduced the bids due to a lack of performance, which in turn resulted in lower visibility and poorer performance, which triggered the system to decrease bids further.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

For an e-commerce retailer like BuildASign.com, profitability is key.  We try to find that sweet spot between customer acquisition and total profit.  So we increase and decrease bids to get to a position where we're getting the maximum amount of orders while maintaining a healthy profit margin.  I also like to increase bids on anything that's showing off the first page (generally position 8 or below).  Once a keyword has adequate visibility on the first page, I can make a better decision on whether or not to keep it active.

What's your best bid management tip?

Don't feel like you need to manage bids every day.  A lot of people do daily bid adjustments (or set up automatic systems to do daily adjustments for them).  A keyword needs to gather adequate historical data before you can make a good decision.  The time frame you need in order to gather this data is going to vary depending on your vertical, keyword bids, match type, campaign budget, and many other factors.  However, I have personally found the ideal interval to be around two weeks of data between bid adjustments.

Shawn Livengood writes about pay-per-click marketing on his blog, PPC Without Pity. Follow him on Twitter at @slivengood.

Todd Mintz

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

I’ve never used the automated bidding feature before. I either bid at the keyword level or do CPA bidding. 

If you look at the wording next to the choice, it says “AdWords will set my bids to MAXIMIZE CLICKS within my target budget.” Maximizing clicks is never a goal for PPC … maximizing conversions is. This choice doesn’t map to my goals. In theory, this choice would appeal to the non-professional marketer who isn’t savvy enough to track conversions and bid to them … however, that isn’t me.ppc bid management

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

Raising and lowering bids is purely a function of my CPA goals and how the keyword is performing relative to them. How much and how often to adjust the bids is as much an art as a science, and as you get more experience with a particular account, you can make your moves with a much clearer picture as to the predicted outcome.

What's your best bid management tip?

Dayparting can be your best friend. Frequently, the easiest way to slash CPA is just to shut down during the lowest performing hours of the day.

Todd Mintz, who has been with PPC Associates since March 2011, has over 10 years of experience in search marketing and has used Google AdWords since it began. He also is very visible in the SEM social media space and is a curator/contributor at MarketingLand. He was one of the founding members of SEMpdx (Portland’s Search Engine Marketing Group), is a current board member, and writes regularly on their blog.

Tom Demers

Do you use automated bidding in Google AdWords? Why or why not?

I do occasionally – basically the decision to use this or not (on campaigns for my own properties or as a recommendation for a client account) is a cost/benefit decision: if I think we or even the client internally can do a better job managing the account by hand and/or using a bidding tool and that it’ll have a major impact on the revenue generated by the campaign, then we’ll do that. If the spend on the account is relatively small and based on the fundamentals of the campaign I just don’t think there is a ton of extra yield over using Google’s free tools, though, I think the Google automation tools or possibly a really quick and simple approach to bid management can be a good option.

If not, when do you raise and lower keyword bids?

At a high level you want to raise bids when you can get more profitable traffic from a keyword, and you want to lower bids when you can generate valuable (i.e. converting) traffic but it’s currently costing you too much. Depending on the account, though, there may be a number of more nuanced factors including:

  • Different margins on different products or offers – In other words, “profitable” may mean different things for different offer types and products.
  • Seasonal trends – If conversion rates are dramatically higher right before Christmas, you don’t want to continue bidding with the same aggressiveness post-Christmas simply because a keyword had been converting well the previous week/month – you need to account for historical account data.
  • Competition – You may be able to increase bids to get more traffic for a keyword, but the jump from your current bid to move up a spot in the SERPs may push you over the line from profitable to unprofitable, in which case you obviously wouldn’t want to blindly push bids up simply because a keyword is converting profitably.

As with the question of whether or not to use free automated bidding tools, how granular you get in managing bids really has more to do with the yield you expect and effort/cost to you to manage bids this way (by way of a service fee, software fee, your own time, etc.).

What's your best bid management tip?

I think a good tip is to look at your bids from a perspective you don’t always consider – this could be a different date range (i.e. if you’re consistently looking at the last week’s performance, pull back and look at a month and a quarter to see if there are longer-term efficiencies or inefficiencies you’re missing) or it could be looking at a different dimension of your account where you can alter bids such as dayparting, targeting by device, or other reports that could lead to quick wins within your AdWords account by way of altered bids.

Tom Demers is co-founder and managing partner at Measured SEM.

PPC Bid Management Tools

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Comments

Wednesday March 14, 2012

Jeff Downer Indianapolis, Indiana (not verified) Said:

Incredibly useful post.  Almost too much to chew on.  I'll be trying some new things, especially viewing data over different time ranges.

Wednesday March 14, 2012

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Thanks Jeff! You reminded me that I intended to pop out some of the great quotes -- I'm going to do that now!

Wednesday March 14, 2012

Jon (not verified) Said:

Very nice article, great line up but you forgot about me.  ha, ha

But seriously, using automated tools can help lots, but used wisely as each clients are different (industry).

One size doesn't fit all. Viewing past KPI's of winners & losers can help you make the decision to pull

the trigger.

Cheers!

Wednesday March 14, 2012

Elisa Gabbert Said:

I knew I forgot someone. :) Thanks for throwing your two cents in anyway! Have a great week.

Thursday March 15, 2012

Pandiyarajan (not verified) Said:

I didn't expect this kind of useful post. Bidding experts giving an interesting tips to use. Many says, based on the client requirement our bidding option will change.

Thursday March 15, 2012

Joseph May (not verified) Said:

there are many tools in market can you suggest any one it should be good

Thursday March 15, 2012

David Rothwell (not verified) Said:

Bid automation is crucial but is obviously dependent on the size of the account and the nature of traffic ebb and flow.

Given that ad auctions run every tenth of a second or so 24x7x365, and there are so many variables means

that to not automate and leave it to humans is not the best approach.

Also, Google knows data points that no other 3rd party tool (or human) can be aware of (browser setting, time of day,

search partner network site etc).

Yes, this can (and does) play directly back to Google in the "stupid tax" (Larry's comment - remember me

from 3 years ago Larry?).

But when you're running campaigns profitably (CPA based) with unlimited budgets and accelerated delivery,

it's your profitability as well as Google's that calls the shots in terms of bid management.

That's when we get the fun back into what we do and get to experiment with new ad ideas (split test

2 ads - are you serious? Why do G allow 50?)

Sorry, rant over!

Thursday March 15, 2012

bulkfans (not verified) Said:

This is a particularly informative post, thank you Elisa. The PPC is a sometimes complicated,in my case, several experiments have been poor in several areas. Maybe I was notalways good unlike the competition.

Monday March 19, 2012

ranjan jena (not verified) Said:

Crystal Anderson truely said, " I think it’s always vital to remember that it’s just a tool and the results will only be as good as the rules you set. Evaluate them often to ensure they are still in line with your overall goals."

Monday March 19, 2012

ranjan jena (not verified) Said:

HI Elisa,

Thanks for drawing the answers on PPC bid management  from 18 experts. The best take away for me is to understand the situation thats each one faces, and then the best techniques to follow.

Yes, Bid Management is a crucial part of PPC, between profit and loss. I love playing manually then doing it automatically, since that's what the role of a real PPC expert is!

To share few of my thoughts on the question asked;

  1. Pull the data on a weekly/fortnite/monthly basis, and then analyze the performance of top converting/top click driving keywords while considering CPA and position.
  2. 1-3 ranking is not always the best. Every business varies, and even the ad rank performance differs from keyword to adcopies to landing pages.
  3. There is seasonality, there are sudden promotions or events, there are competitors; so you are the one who tracks this details and then work on bid management
  4. There is ad scheduling or day parting strategy; to optimize conversion and spend on the right keyword at the right time
  5. There is Google Analytics Ad position, destination URL and Bounce rate data too.
  6. At last there is the best tool called MS Excel with vlookup formulas and pivot table and conditional formating,which makes the bidding management much easier even in case of small/medium/large account campaigns.

Cheers!

 

Monday March 19, 2012

Ari Berdy (not verified) Said:

Something to keep in mind: While the best balance of volume and CPL is perhaps generally not reached by aiming for the top positions, in some competitive verticals (e.g., legal services), that can be the only way to go. At the mid- and low-range positions you might not just receive fewer or lower-quality leads, but no leads at all.

Monday March 19, 2012

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Thank you for adding your thoughts to the comments! Keep 'em coming.

Monday July 16, 2012

cory J (not verified) Said:

Hi Elisa! Thank god I came across this article. I am researching about PPC advertising and I find your article very informative and comprehensive. I am a junior SEO writer for a small SEO company (www.digitalmoz.com) and this will be our latest offering. I want to have a background about this topic and your article provided that. I think that with this information, our company will slowly be a master with PPC.

Thursday September 06, 2012

neelesh (not verified) Said:

Firstly let me thank you Elisa. The post was really very interesting and very much useful to me. I enjoyed reading it. 

I have really thank ful to god that i came across such a informative article.  i didnt expected such a important post ever 

but today iam really happy after reading such a nice article.

                                              Now i decided to visit your blog offen. 

Once again thanks a lot Elisa.

Wednesday October 17, 2012

cameorn (not verified) Said:

great advice and contacts, kee them coming and are the people listed all still doing this?

Tuesday October 23, 2012

Milind (not verified) Said:

Very nice topic. And some awesome tips to experiment with. Maybe someone can create an infographic based on all the bidding advice given here ;)

Tuesday October 30, 2012

Simply Landing (not verified) Said:

Understanding how to manage your bids I think its really key at ensuring your cost, and making sure you're getting the right person to your site. 

I go back and forth on making it automatic, but really it all depends on how much time one has I think. If its one of my lower money

sites, I tend to put it on auto. Althoght, if I have a busy week, I out it on auto. I think you just have to be mindful of the market,

along with understanding your time commitment. If you might lose 20-100 bucks a month, but your over all earning 1,000.

I think putting it on auto if that is your goal, and dealing with the cost is a aspect you just have to deal with. 

Sunday January 06, 2013

Charles ( SEO Guy ) (not verified) Said:

I agree, It's really about finding that sweet spot! Understanding how much a client or a customer means to you has be to tracked. I mostly spend $150 in adwords to get one client, but that client generates more than 5,000 in profits. Therefore, it's worth it to spend the money. Although, if your losing money, then you need to start working on your SEO rather than your adwords. Although, you should look at how your wording your ads, since that might be the problem. 

Thursday December 06, 2012

Kelly (not verified) Said:

Great tips, just looking for an alternative to adsense (banned) and I have a VERY low traffic site, was looking for something that would be worth the troublewink

Tuesday January 08, 2013

PPCMinds (not verified) Said:

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Thursday February 07, 2013

John Lynch (not verified) Said:

 

Automated rules get astronauts in and out of space, but they can't be used to bid on PPC terms?  The future of PPC is automation- not turning bulk sheets into pivot tables.
 
Rules can be as simple or as complex as one would like.  What about a rule that pauses a keyword that fails to produce a conversion after 150 clicks?  Do we really need a "human element" for this?  
 
Rules are only as good as the user creating the logic. 

Monday March 04, 2013

Don Zilleri (not verified) Said:

Very rich and helpful article. I went through every point and some i knew and some it was new. I have taken notes and will follow step by step. I have been working extremely hard trying to get a better ranking. With my budget and your help with PPC it can be acheived. Thanks again for sharing such information and educating me.

Thursday March 07, 2013

Tom (not verified) Said:

wow a lot of information to absorb.... I even signed up for the Brad Gettes course above... he has a lot of info to offer..

I do PPC as a hobby and for free, and spend 24x7 soaking up all the information I can find... My goal is to place a 20,000 keyphrase real estate site in all 52 states in the next year.. and I I do it all as a hobby... Thanks again for this great information source..

 

Saturday March 16, 2013

Kedar (not verified) Said:

Hey this is Kedar, CEO of Seven Media (India), and it is a great attempt to bring together different views and ideas, but am really Surprised that no one pointed the reality..

Google has designed its algorithm for google adwords to play with your minds, and the bidding process is not real, its just "make to believe" system that draws you into increasing the bid amount to drive traffic.

In simple language google is telling you that rest are paying more so no u pay more, but that it tells to everybody.

In real example: Lets say you have selected mannual bidding process, then the first page big that google claims is required to be on top is totally unreal, but it would make you to believe into it bcoz it wouldnt allow your ad be dsiplayed on the first page, so how does google algorithm calculates its minimum first page bid when it has nothing do with real competition, it actually depends on 

1) Number of logins

2)your defaut bid price

3) your willingness to increase the bid amount

4) your activity graphs 

5) how active are you in making adjustments to drive traffic at any cost

Few TIPs to avoid their math game is:

Do not follow what google tells you, it is not true for eg: Ad score or keyword score or first page bid vaues.

Go with your instincts

Lets say ur first page bid under manual bidding process for PPC has reach a high amount, just delete all the keywords, reduce the default bid and enter the keywords again, it will showcase new prices

even a little change in keyword helps the math calculations: like Web designer new york to web designer in new york

Hope it helps!!

 

Thursday May 02, 2013

Sjak PPC manager (not verified) Said:

I always find it funny to see how Google has set up AdWords in their favour. Every time I come in to optimise a AdWords account I notice how most businesses are loosing money just because they used the standard settings. It makes sense to use the standard in the beginning as a business wants to spread their message as quick as possible, on top of that Google sends out nice reminders to add more keywords and even gives relevant hints. In the mean time the business is more and more visable and get more and more click, hey with out clicks Google would miss out so Google will help you to get more click, just not automaticly with optimising with conversion.

An other thing I noticed with most buisinesses going into AdWords is that they rarely worked out how much a lead would be worth if they do then they are just one step away from tracking this as they just need to know how many of their website visitors actually convert into leads or clients.

This is what I love with the PCC industry, most are aware of conversio tracking and know that an important part of PPC management is on the web page and not just in AdWords.

just my two cents ;)

Jacques does Pay Per Click Management in London, UK.

Friday August 16, 2013

Kermit (not verified) Said:

The tip regarding using the scheduler to set your rates is indeed very valuable.  For a small business it is difficult to figure out the optimum timing and bid for each ad - especially as it relates to optimizing CTR.  A little bit of a shotgun approach, but time saving for sure.  Thanks for the article and the research behind it!

Monday November 04, 2013

jessica jose (not verified) Said:

Great article and valuable contents. thanks for sharing this article. it conveys lot of ideas and information anout the ppc services.

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