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Every Google Bidding Strategy Explained 2021

Sam Carr

Sam Carr

April 1st, 2021

Sam Carr is a content marketer at PPC Protect with 10 years of digital marketing experience. With a keen interest in ad fraud, Sam shares all his insights on the PPC Protect blog.

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A major part of PPC is getting the most out of your ad budget. Of course, this is much easier said than done.

In fact, it’s common for many SMEs to throw a lot of money at their keywords and then hope for the best.

However, paid search ad networks do offer plenty of options to help you optimize your campaigns. So, if you want to make the most of your ad budget, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these bidding strategies.

To help you get the most out of your ad budget, we’re taking a look at all the different bidding strategies Google Ads has to offer.

If you’re a small business new to PPC, you’ll find our guide helpful in structuring your bids and campaigns.

For everyone else, you’ll discover the best strategies that’ll help you realize your advertising goals.

The Need For Different Bidding Strategies

There are 11 different strategies currently available on Google Ads. These are:

  1. Manual CPC Bidding
  2. Maximize Clicks
  3. Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)
  4. Target ROAS (Return On Ad Spend)
  5. Maximize Conversions
  6. Maximize Conversion Value
  7. Enhanced Cost-Per-Click (ECPC)
  8. tCPM Bidding (Target Cost Per Thousand Impressions)
  9. vCPM Bidding (Viewable Cost Per Thousand Impressions)
  10. CPV Bidding (Cost Per View)
  11. Target Impression Share Bidding

We break these down into more detail further below. But first, why does the search giant have so many? Well, every business has different advertising goals.

This means Google provides a range of bidding strategies, as not all businesses are looking for the same outcome.

Yes, many businesses want to improve their conversions and sales. But other businesses want to increase their online presence, which requires different types of optimizations.

This means it’s crucial to match the right strategy to your advertising goals.

It’s also important to remember Google is always adjusting existing bidding strategies while adding new ones based on advertisers’ feedback.

As a result, you should keep up to date with the latest industry developments and announcements.

Best Google Ads Bidding Strategies

These days, Google is using advanced AI technology to improve on all of its bidding strategies.

It means businesses can use the search giant’s automated bidding features or manually manage their campaigns.

But with so many different bidding strategies out there, even for experienced PPC managers, it can be confusing knowing what they all do.

To help you understand what each strategy does, we’ve broken down all of Google’s different strategies and when you should use them.

1. Manual CPC Bidding

manual cpc bidding google

Manual CPC is, arguably, the most popular bidding strategy. It’s also one of the most basic.

It provides you with a lot of control over your bids. Although as it’s a manual process, it means you’ll have to dedicate more time to managing your campaigns.

To use it, you set bids for ad groups or keywords. If you then spot keywords that look more profitable, you can change your budgets to update your spend across campaigns.

This makes it pretty flexible as an approach. And it really suits people familiar with pay per click advertising, such as agencies looking to update campaigns for clients. Or in-house PPC teams looking to squeeze the most out of their current ad spend.

On the downside, it can lead to a large amount of work if you’re juggling multiple campaigns simultaneously.

But if you’re skilled at PPC, it can be a great approach, as you can adapt your campaigns as you get more data.

And if you want total control of your bids, it’s the right option. If you’re working on branded or remarketing campaigns, it’s an effective strategy.

Or, if you’re starting with non-branded campaigns, it’ll help you understand what sort of CPC you’re dealing with.

2. Maximize Clicks

maximize clicks google bidding

Maximize Clicks is one of Google’s automated strategies.

It works by setting your bids, so you’ll receive a lot of clicks. As many as possible, in fact, just within the budget you specify.

As you set a cap on bids, this means you get quite a lot of control around your daily budget and how much you’re happy to pay.

It’s useful because it lets you force spend your budget to a specific amount. And you can use it with CPC bidding (a manual strategy) to make the most of your money.

And, of course, it all means you maximize the amount of traffic to a landing page. This makes it a pretty efficient technique to rely on.

With a big emphasis on getting as many clicks as possible, if you want to drive more traffic to your website, this is the bidding strategy for you.

3. Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)

target CPA google bidding

Target CPA is a bidding strategy aimed at maximizing conversions at or below the CPA you specify.

It’s another option that uses Google’s advanced machine learning to automate your bids. This means it tailors bids for each auction you enter.

Google does this by using your historical conversion volumes. Target CPA evaluates contextual signals during auctions to find the best bid for your ads. It also checks to make sure you’re eligible to enter bids.

You can use the strategy in either a single campaign or an entire portfolio.

Basically, the strategy lets you optimize for your conversion goals. And you can do this by focusing on your acquisition cost.

Target CPA is an excellent choice for any business with multiple campaigns. Why? Because it streamlines the bidding process.

B2B businesses with lead generation goals will find it effective, as it optimizes campaigns towards a CPA/CPL that is going to help with ROI.

4. Target ROAS (Return On Ad Spend)

target ROAS bidding strategy

Target ROAS (return on ad spend) allows you to bid on the basis of what your target ROAS is.

For example, if you’re looking to optimize for conversions, then Google Ads sets bids to maximize your conversion value.

And it’ll base its calculations on the return you’re looking for from your budget.

In other words, Google predicts future conversions using the conversion values you’ve reported (you’ll need to install conversion tracking and set it up on your website).

Google then sets your maximum CPC bids, so your conversion value is maximized. While doing that, it delivers the average ROAS you want.

It’s a balancing act Google’s AI manages in real-time.

For this strategy to work, you’ll need conversion tracking data that’s accurate. You’ll also need enough conversion performance history for Google to work with. The search giant recommends 15 conversions (at least) within the past 30 days.

Who’s this strategy suitable for? Target ROAS optimizes on conversion value, so it’s very effective for e-commerce campaigns.

This is because the cost of products is always different, so using this strategy helps deliver the best conversion value rather than the best conversion volume.

5. Maximize Conversions

maximize conversions bidding strategy

Maximize Conversions is a fully automated strategy that, as you guessed, aims to maximize conversions. It sets bids so you can spend your budget on getting the most conversions possible.

With this approach, there aren’t keyword bids. Instead, Google uses a CPC bid it works out from the goals of your campaign.

It’s another example of Google’s advanced machine learning, as it optimizes bids automatically.

It’ll also tailor bids during auction-time to make sure you set the right bid. It uses your historical data from your campaign to do this.

This means it’s crucial to have a daily budget for every campaign using Maximize Conversions. If you happen to use a shared budget, then you may end up spending all of your budget across a shared group instead.

When should you use this strategy? If you have a strong Quality Score, plenty of historical data, and well-optimized campaigns. This historical data will feed nicely into Google’s AI and help make the best optimizations to get the most out of your budget.

6. Maximize Conversion Value

maximize conversion value bidding strategy

If you’re looking to maximize your conversion value, this is the bid strategy to use.

One of the newest bidding strategies in Google Ads, it works by automatically finding an optimal CPC bid for your ad. And that’s every time it’s eligible to appear in Google’s SERPs.

It’s a useful tactic for businesses who want to spend their whole budget without targeting a ROAS.

Maximize Conversion Value is a tactic that efficiently spends all of your budget while bringing in the highest possible conversion value.

This makes the strategy very effective for e-commerce businesses, as Google will head straight for conversions that deliver the most revenue and hopefully the most profit.

7. Enhanced Cost Per Click (ECPC)

enhanced CPC bidding strategy google

ECPC is a type of smart bidding strategy. It uses auction-time signals to tailor your bids to every user search. Although it doesn’t do this to the same degree as Target CPA and Target ROAS.

The difference is it partially automates your manual bids. Google does this by changing your maximum CPC, which stops you from setting a specific target.

It means users can sleep well knowing they won’t wake up to a $10 per click bid.

To decide which bid to increase and decrease, Google uses its historical data to determine which keywords are more likely to convert.

And what does that all lead to? ECPC helps you to get more conversions from manual bidding.

The strategy can work well in e-commerce, but if there isn’t enough data for certain niches, then Google will struggle to make the strategy reach its full potential.

8. tCPM Bidding (Target Cost Per Thousand Impressions)

target CPM bidding strategy google

With tCPM, you set how much (on average) you’ll pay for every 1,000 impressions on Google’s search results.

Google will optimize your campaign to determine the available reach.

This keeps your campaign’s CPM average low. Or at least equal to the target you’re aiming for.

It provides an increased focus on visibility, making it an effective way for a business to get seen online within a set budget.

tCPM is a sound strategy if you’re working on Display Network Campaigns. It’ll help to improve your brand’s visibility.

9. vCPM Bidding (Viewable Cost Per Thousand Impressions)

viewable CPM bidding strategy

Adapted from tCPM, vCPM keeps track of cost per viewable thousand impressions.

To do this, Google counts your Display ads as viewable when 50% are on screen for one second or longer.

For video, it must play for two seconds (or longer) to register as viewable.

vCPM is a manual strategy. If you want to improve brand awareness online, it’s a strong tactic to make sure you’re seen by your target audience. You also only pay for ads when searchers view them.

Google’s recommendation is to use a higher vCPM bid than in normal CPM, so you remain competitive.

10. CPV Bidding (Cost Per View)

google maximum cpv bidding strategy

CPV Bidding charges you for your video ads and does this based on how many views or interactions your ad receives.

It works by setting a bid and entering the maximum you want to pay.

Using this bid strategy will help your video ads to win auctions and get your target audience to watch your videos.

It’s the default strategy in Google Ads for your video campaigns. So, obviously, if you want to increase your video views, this strategy is a great approach.

11. Target Impression Share Bidding

target impression share bidding google

As a Smart Bidding strategy, Target Impression Share Bidding will set your bids with the aim of running ads in three locations:

  1. Absolute at the top of a page
  2. Top of the page
  3. Anywhere on the page

This works as the options reveal the preferences to Google. The search engine giant can then follow this preference to set a maximum CPC bid.

It’s a sound tactic if you’re looking to increase visibility and awareness of your business, products, or services.

And that means it’s excellent for your brand campaigns as your ads will only show up when someone searches for your business.

Just remember to set a maximum CPC, so your bids don’t move beyond any potential profitability.

Should You Use Manual Or Automated Bidding?

ai vs manual bidding

Typically, automated bidding is a great option if you have a small account with only a few campaigns.

Otherwise, it’s generally thought of as a temporary bid strategy. And one not well suited to large accounts with many campaigns.

However, there can be occasions when automated bidding is the way to go. Such as using automated controls to monitor keyword impressions alongside conversions and CTR.

If you see low CTRs, setting an alert will help you fix the issue. This may involve pausing the keyword.

But, ultimately, manual bidding is a precise approach that allows you to take complete control of your ad budget

If you need to make immediate changes to a campaign, whether large or small, you can do it.

While this presents many challenges across large campaigns, it’s usually the preferred choice for larger businesses.

The Best Google Ads Bidding Strategy

Unfortunately for businesses wanting a definitive answer, there isn’t a “best” bidding strategy to pick.

What you need to do is consider what you’re trying to achieve with paid search, then choose which strategy aligns with your goals.

Here’s an example. If you’re looking to increase the visibility of your brand, you may want Target Impression Share Bidding. But if you were to choose Maximize Clicks instead, you might receive results that don’t align with your marketing goals.

Understanding the difference between the 11 strategies is crucial to getting the most out of your ad budget and to make sure you achieve your goals.

Google’s approach may appear complex, but it’s to ensure there’s a mixture of opportunities for all types of businesses.

And so you can advertise to specific requirements as and when you need to.

The best starting point is to consider your budget and goals. These two will influence the bidding strategy for your next campaign.

Sometimes experimentation in PPC can lead to unexpected results. Trying out different strategies can lead you to find the one that works best for your business.

PPC is often about fine-tuning your strategies to improve ad performance, so be flexible with your campaigns when necessary.

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