Don’t let the idea of manually setting bids overwhelm you. Here are a few rules of thumb for manual bidding:
- Your average max CPC for any given keyword in the campaign should be around 10% to 20% of your daily budget for that campaign.
- You don’t need to do much research as its mostly a waste of time. There is a pay to play rate for most keywords and the best strategy is to start low and gradually raise your bids.
- You don’t need to set a different bid for each keyword match type immediately. Wait until you have some data to back up your bidding decisions.
- You have two different bidding levels:
- Ad Group Level – Set the same bid for every keyword in the ad group
- Keyword Level – Set specific bids for each keyword and keyword match type
Assuming you’re using SKAGs (single keyword ad groups) you can start by setting a max CPC bid on the ad group level so that each keyword match type has the same max CPC bid. Then you can monitor how performance differs for each keyword match type and adjust the bids higher or lower on a keyword level according to the performance of that match type.
Since your budget dictates what you can bid I’ve included a sample budget in the example below to help get you started:
Keyword: Chiropractor Near Me
Max CPC: $2.50
After your campaign has been running for several days, you may start to see some bidding discrepancies on the keyword level. To gain a better understanding of how your bids are faring in the Adwords auction, you’ll want to add the Avg. Position column to your keywords table.
Your instinct may be to skyrocket the bid for a keyword that has a low average position, but that may not be the best move as there are many factors to take into consideration before increasing or decreasing a bid. Most of these considerations rely on the keywords match type and CPA (cost per acquisition) and have little to do with your average position.
- Exact Match – If your avg. position is low, and your CPA is below your target then you’re usually safe to increase the bid. On the other hand if your keywords avg. position is low, and your CPA is too high you want to lower the bid and seek out some of the different more advanced strategies covered further down in this article.
- Phrase & Broad Match Types – Before making any bid adjustments to keywords with the phrase and broad match type you should check your search terms report as these match types will continuously mine new keywords that should be added as a SKAG before the bid is increased for that keyword. Using this process, you should eventually end up with a near 1:1 keyword to search term ratio which will allow you to bid accurately on each keyword. There are some obvious exceptions to this rule, for example, if you’re not getting enough impressions because of an extremely low ad position then your usually safe to increase your bid unless it would exceed your target CPA by doing so.
Your bid adjustments might look something like this:
Goal/ Target CPA: $50.00
Ad Group Max CPC: $2.50
Keyword: [Chiropractor Near Me] Avg. Position: 3.5 CPA: $30.00
Bid Adjustment: +20%
Keyword: “Chiropractor Near Me” Avg. Position: 3.5 CPA: $40.00
Bid Adjustment: +10%
Keyword: +Chiropractor +Near +Me Avg. Position: 2.5 CPA: $55.00
Bid Adjustment: (-10%)
Be wary of common bid adjustment issues.
Depending on the search volume of keywords in your campaign you may need to increase your budget or lower your bids to prevent the dreaded “limited by budget” notification. Be careful when decreasing bids as you will eventually eradicate any chance of appearing in search results. Also, you shouldn’t assume that increasing your budget or lowering your bids will solve the problem. When you find that your campaign is limited by budget, it could be an indicator of other more serious issues.
For example, you may be paying for junk clicks that are wasting your budget, and by increasing your budget, you’re only further indebting yourself to wasted ad spend. Spending fifteen minutes creating a negative keywords list could be the solution in this case. Or maybe you’ve let a treasure chest of search terms rack up in your search terms report and separating those terms into SKAGs will improve quality scores and may lower your cost per click.
If you’ve already checked your account for the previously mentioned issues, raising the budget isn’t an option, and lowering bids any further will send you to the island of lost toys then you want to use a different strategy to target these expensive keywords. This strategy is called RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads), and I’ll cover it extensively in the next few sections.
Bid modifiers stay true to their name and give you the opportunity to modify your original bid allowing you to apply an increase or decrease to your original max CPC if and when certain conditions are met. You can use bid adjustments to decrease bids by as much as (-90%) or increase bids up to (+900%). And luckily for you, Google Ads gives you plenty of conditions to choose from. The most common bid adjustments are:
- Type of Device (Desktop/ Mobile)
- Day of Week/ Time of Day
- Geographic Location
- Demographics (Age, Gender, Household Income)
I strongly recommend taking a look at your time of day report because you may be able to find some quick savings by eliminating some non-profitable hours. This may also help if you’re currently dealing with the “limited by budget” notification.
RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) is a feature for search ads that allows you to customize your ads and bids for people who’ve already visited your website. Here are a few rules you need to be aware of before using RLSA:
- The audience size must be 1000 or greater before it can be used
- Import audiences from Google Analytics or customer email lists
- Increase bids up to 900% decrease bids by 90%
- Choose observation or targeting settings
RLSA bidding opens up a whole new world of strategies that can add a ton of leverage to your Adwords account. Here are a few of our favorite RLSA strategies.
Depending on what industry you’re in you may find broad search terms are too expensive for you to bid on without draining your ad budget at warp speed.
If this describes your situation, then RLSA gives you more than one way to remedy the problem. You can lower your bids on these expensive broad terms even if it takes you off the first page of results. Then add the appropriate bid modifier to shoot you up to the top when a searcher has been to your website previously. This will drastically lower your impressions for these search terms so you’ll want to take advantage of cheaper clicks via social or display ads to drive traffic to your site. Now you can use RLSA to serve search ads to past visitors who will be more likely to convert.
Bidding on your competition’s branded search terms will almost always be expensive, and you may find that it costs you more than your getting back. You can use RLSA to target ads only to searchers who’ve been on your website before then utilize a more aggressive bidding strategy as your ads will only be shown to searchers that have been on your site before and are more likely to convert.
You probably don’t want to pay for clicks from people who’ve already converted if the majority of your customers are one-time buyers. RLSA allows you to add a negative bid adjustment to visitors that have bounced from your page. Of course, you can tailor this to your needs by specifying how many times the visitor needs to bounce within a given amount of time to be included in your blacklist of bid decreases.
If you understand your customers and the steps they take on the way to a conversion, then you can really go all out on this one. This is ideal for warming customers by sending the right message at the right time. For example, you may want to bid cautiously on lower intent keywords to widen your net and start gaining the interest of customers still in the consideration phase. Then crank up the heat as the searcher becomes closer to making a purchasing decision. If you know visitors typically view multiple pages before converting your RLSA bid adjustments might look something like this:
Funnel Step 1.
First Time Visitors (+10%)
Funnel Step 2.
Viewed 3+ Pages (+25%)
Funnel Step 3.
Visited “Sign Up Page” (+50%)