Google Ads Bidding Strategies Compared
Updated: Jul 23
In the world of online advertising, effective bidding strategies play a crucial role in optimising Google Ads campaigns. Amidst the array of bidding options at advertisers' disposal, the ability to align goals with a suitable strategy holds the key to maximizing return on investment (ROI). In this insightful article, we embark on an exploration and comparative analysis of diverse Google Ads bidding strategies, meticulously examining their respective advantages and drawbacks. By delving into this comprehensive examination, advertisers can gain the necessary insights to make informed decisions that align with their specific objectives, fostering optimal campaign performance and achieving desirable outcomes.
You will notice many references to machine learning strategies and user signals in this comparison when we talk about Target CPA, Target ROAS, Maximise Conversions and Maximise Conversion Value. In the context of machine learning bidding, "signals" refer to the various data points and indicators that are used to inform the bidding algorithm about the current auction and user behaviour. These signals provide valuable information that helps the algorithm make more accurate predictions and bidding decisions. By considering a combination of these signals, the machine learning bidding algorithm can make more informed decisions about how much to bid for a specific ad placement. Signals include browsing history, past interactions with ads, demographic information, device type, location, the content of the webpage, keywords, past click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates, cost-per-action (CPA), return on ad spend (ROAS), current bid landscape, competitive bidding activity, ad position, ad visibility, device type and user engagement to name just a few of these signals.
So what bidding options are available for you?
Manual CPC Bidding
Manual CPC (Cost Per Click) bidding is a basic and widely used strategy that allows advertisers to manually set the maximum amount they are willing to pay for a click on their ads. It provides complete control over keyword-level bids, allowing you to allocate budget based on performance. Pros of manual CPC bidding include control over bids, flexibility and the ability to focus on high-value keywords. However, it requires continuous monitoring and adjustments, making it time-consuming. Without such work, you run the risk of under-bidding resulting in fewer clicks (and not using the entirety of your budget) or over-bidding resulting in budget waste (and depleting your budget too quickly).
The Maximise Clicks bidding strategy is designed to generate as many clicks as possible within a given budget. It utilises automated bidding to adjust bids based on historical data and real-time signals. This strategy is suitable for advertisers seeking maximum website traffic and brand exposure. It is easy to implement and requires minimal ongoing management. However, it may not prioritise conversions, potentially resulting in low-quality clicks and limited control over cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Furthermore, instead of using the budget over the day, you are likely to see it used in a matter of hours (or minutes in some cases).
Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)
Target CPA bidding focuses on achieving a specific cost-per-acquisition goal. It utilises machine learning to automatically adjust bids based on historical data and signals to maximise conversions at the target CPA. This strategy is beneficial for advertisers looking to generate leads or sales while maintaining a specific acquisition cost. It offers efficient optimisation and simplifies the bid management process. Nevertheless, it may not guarantee a specific volume of conversions and can be sensitive to fluctuations in conversion rates. Naturally, when optimising for CPA, you should have a figure in mind that serves your business objectives. If you are unsure and your campaigns have gained conversions using manual CPC or Maximise Click, Google will likely suggest target CPA in due course. This suggestion will appear in the recommendations section of your Google Ads account.
Target ROAS (Return On Ad Spend)
Target ROAS bidding aims to maximise conversion value or revenue while maintaining a specific target return on ad spend. It leverages machine learning to optimise bids for higher-value conversions. This strategy is ideal for advertisers with specific revenue targets and different value propositions. It helps maximise overall profitability by focusing on high-value conversions. However, it requires accurate conversion tracking and sufficient historical data to perform effectively. It may sound like this strategy is only suitable for e-commerce sites where revenue is tracked, but it can be used with other conversion actions by assigning a value next to each conversion action in Google Ads. For example, newsletter subscriber can have a nominal value of £5, contact us form submission £10 and phone call lead £20. Giving your non-transactional conversion actions value in this manner will allow you to use this strategy well.
The Maximise Conversions bidding strategy focuses on generating the maximum number of conversions within a given budget. It utilises machine learning to automatically adjust bids based on real-time signals. This strategy is suitable for advertisers looking to drive high conversion volumes and may work well for campaigns with multiple conversion actions. However, it may result in higher CPA if conversions are not consistently profitable. Furthermore, similar to Maximise Clicks, you are likely yo see your budget depleted quicker.
Maximize Conversion Value
Similar to Maximise Conversions, the Maximise Conversion Value strategy aims to maximise conversion value rather than volume. It automatically adjusts bids to drive higher-value conversions based on historical data and signals. This strategy is beneficial for advertisers focusing on revenue generation and prioritising higher-value conversions. However, like Maximise Conversions, it may result in higher CPA if not carefully managed. This strategy works best with transactional conversions where value is tracked such as a website order. If you are not tracking transactional conversion value and you have manually assigned a value next to your other conversion actions such as newsletter subscriber (£5 for example), contact us form submission (£10 for example) etc, this strategy will optimise to the conversion action with the highest value (contact us form submissions in this scenario) so bear this in mind to ensure this conversion serves your business objective best.
Enhanced Cost-Per-Click (eCPC)
Enhanced Cost-Per-Click bidding adjusts manual bids using machine learning to increase the likelihood of conversions. It raises or lowers bids based on the predicted conversion rate for a specific ad auction. eCPC combines manual control with automated bidding to optimise for conversions. It allows advertisers to retain some control while leveraging the benefits of automated bidding. However, it may lead to increased average CPC and requires ongoing monitoring. While eCPC may seem like a viable smart bidding strategy, in reality it is closer to maximise clicks in that it optimises for traffic more than revenue or conversions. eCPC does require some historical data before you would see real benefits, so refrain from starting with this strategy if you have a new account with no or limited data.
tCPM Bidding (Target Cost Per Thousand Impressions)
tCPM bidding focuses on achieving a specific cost per thousand impressions (CPM) rather than clicks or conversions. It is primarily used for brand awareness campaigns and display advertising. This strategy ensures that your ads are shown to a large audience within the specified budget. It is effective for generating impressions and improving visibility but does not guarantee clicks or conversions.
vCPM Bidding (Viewable Cost Per Thousand Impressions)
vCPM bidding is similar to tCPM bidding, but it focuses on viewable impressions. Ad impressions are counted as viewable when they meet specific viewability criteria, such as being in the visible portion of the user's screen. This strategy is useful for display campaigns when the goal is to maximise viewable impressions. However, it does not guarantee engagement or conversions.
CPV Bidding (Cost Per View)
CPV bidding is commonly used for video campaigns and charges advertisers based on the number of views their video ads receive. This strategy is suitable for advertisers who want to prioritise video views and engagement. It provides control over the cost per view and allows for effective budget allocation. However, it may not directly translate into conversions and requires compelling video content to engage viewers.
Target Impression Share Bidding
Target Impression Share bidding allows advertisers to specify the desired share of ad impressions for a particular keyword. It automatically adjusts bids to achieve the target impression share. This strategy is valuable when brand visibility is a priority (for example when you want to push your own brand keywords), ensuring that your ads are displayed prominently. However, it may result in higher costs, especially for competitive keywords and requires careful monitoring to avoid overspending. Advertisers can choose from three different target impression share types:
Absolute top impression share: This refers to the percentage of ad impressions your ads receive in the absolute top position above the organic search results.
Top impression share: This represents the percentage of ad impressions your ads receive in any of the top positions above the organic search results.
Absolute top impression share and top impression share: With this option, you can set a target for both the absolute top impression share and the top impression share simultaneously.
Comparison of Google Ads Bidding Strategies
Manual CPC Bidding
Control over bids, flexibility
Time-consuming and requires continuous monitoring
Maximum website traffic, easy implementation
Limited control over CPA, potential low-quality clicks and rapid budget depletion
Efficient optimisation, simplified management
No guarantee of specific conversion volumes
Maximises conversion value and profitability
Requires accurate value tracking and sufficient data
High conversion volumes, suitable for campaigns with multiple actions
Potentially higher CPA if conversions are not consistently profitable
Maximize Conversion Value
Focuses on higher-value conversions
Potentially higher CPA if not carefully managed
Combines manual control with automated bidding
May increase average CPC, requires ongoing monitoring
Effective for brand awareness, large impressions
Does not guarantee clicks or conversions
Focuses on viewable impressions
Does not guarantee engagement or conversions
Prioritises video views and engagement
No direct guarantee of conversions
Target Impression Share
Prominent brand visibility
Potential higher costs, requires careful monitoring
Choosing The Right Bidding Strategy
Choosing the appropriate bidding strategy is crucial for achieving your advertising objectives in a Google Ads campaign. This process involves a thorough understanding of your goals, evaluating the available bidding options and conducting comprehensive testing of different strategies to optimise your campaign's performance. In fact, testing should be considered a fundamental principle in your daily operations and self-assessment endeavours. Note that some bidding strategies require a learning period of 5 to 14 days before you are able to determine if the bidding strategy if working or not, so avoid making too many bid strategy changes in a short period of time.
When deciding on the most suitable strategy, it's important to begin by clearly defining your campaign objectives. Are you aiming to maximise website traffic, generate leads, increase conversions or focus on maximising your return on ad spend (ROAS)? By understanding your goals, you can align your bidding strategy with your desired outcomes effectively.
In addition to defining your objectives, it is essential to assess your budgetary constraints (for example, eCPC can prove dearer vs. manual CPC) and the resources available to manage your campaigns. Different bidding strategies may require manual adjustments and constant monitoring, while others leverage machine learning algorithms to automate bidding decisions. It is important to choose a strategy that aligns with your budget and the resources at your disposal.
By diligently adhering to these outlined steps and thoughtfully evaluating key factors such as campaign goals, budget constraints, available resources, and the diverse range of bidding options, advertisers can make an informed decision when selecting the most suitable bidding strategy for their Google Ads campaign. This systematic approach ensures that the chosen bidding strategy aligns harmoniously with the unique requirements of the campaign, fostering an environment conducive to optimal performance and desired outcomes. The biggest takeaway here that your current bidding strategy isn't set in stone and you can and often should experiment with an alternative strategy if your goals are not met.
For expert guidance and assistance in selecting and implementing the most effective bidding strategy for your specific needs, it is highly recommended to consult with Google Ads experts like Conversion Counts. Our professionals have the knowledge and experience to analyse your campaign requirements, provide tailored recommendations and optimise your bidding approach to achieve optimal results. These expertise can help you navigate the complexities of Google Ads bidding and ensure that your advertising efforts deliver the desired impact.
What is Manual CPC Bidding in Google Ads?
Manual CPC (Cost Per Click) bidding is a strategy that allows advertisers to manually set the maximum amount they are willing to pay for a click on their ads. It provides complete control over keyword-level bids, allowing you to allocate budget based on performance. However, it requires continuous monitoring and adjustments, making it time-consuming.
How does the Google Ads Maximise Clicks bidding strategy work?
The Maximise Clicks bidding strategy in Google Ads is designed to generate as many clicks as possible within a given budget. It uses automated bidding to adjust bids based on historical data and real-time signals. This strategy is suitable for advertisers seeking maximum website traffic and brand exposure, but it may result in low-quality clicks and limited control over cost-per-acquisition (CPA).
What is the advantage of the Google Ads Target CPA bidding strategy?
Target CPA bidding in Google Ads focuses on achieving a specific cost-per-acquisition goal. It uses machine learning to automatically adjust bids based on historical data and signals to maximise conversions at the target CPA. This strategy is beneficial for advertisers looking to generate leads or sales while maintaining a specific acquisition cost. It offers efficient optimisation and simplifies the bid management process.
What is Google Ads Maximise Conversions bidding strategy?
The Maximise Conversions bidding strategy in Google Ads focuses on generating the maximum number of conversions within a given budget. It uses machine learning to automatically adjust bids based on real-time signals. This strategy is suitable for advertisers looking to drive high conversion volumes, but it may result in higher CPA if conversions are not consistently profitable.
What does vCPM Bidding stand for in Google Ads?
vCPM bidding in Google Ads stands for Viewable Cost Per Thousand Impressions. This strategy is similar to tCPM bidding, but it focuses on viewable impressions. Ad impressions are counted as viewable when they meet specific viewability criteria, such as being in the visible portion of the user's screen. This strategy is useful for display campaigns when the goal is to maximise viewable impressions. However, it does not guarantee engagement or conversions.