I am a big proponent of manually controlling bids inside Google search campaigns. I believe by manually controlling bids, you can effectively dictate the impression share and optimize for the lowest possible cost per acquisition by adjusting bid by device and location as well as continuing to update your negative keywords. It is my believe that a campaign will ultimately perform much better when it is optimized manually opposed to relying on Google’s automated bidding strategies.
It is no secret that Google is strongly pushing their automated bidding strategies.
* For a full list of Google’s bidding strategies, check out this recent article – Google Automated Bidding Strategies.
If you are actively running Google campaigns, you probably have seen a Google notification like the one below inside your Google account advising you that changing your bid strategies to a Target CPA strategy will attain more conversions at a similar or lower price.
I’m a big proponent of testing. I’m also a big proponent of generating sales for my private clients at the lowest possible CPA (cost per acquisition). That is why I recently launched a test to determine whether a single campaign using manual bids would perform better than that same campaign using Google’s automated Target CPA bid strategy.
How can you test a single campaign with different bidding strategies at the same time you may wonder?
By using Google’s ‘Drafts & Experiments’, Google offers the ability for advertisers to test the same campaign with different settings such as bidding strategy. When setting up the experiment, the advertiser determines which percentage of the traffic for that campaign goes to which draft version and the data will determine which campaign will best perform.
For my test of Manual bidding vs. Target CPA strategy, I plan to divide (allocate) the traffic evenly for one month.
In order to first set up an experiment, you will first need to create a ‘draft’ of the campaign that you wish to test. The ‘Drafts & experiments’ link is located in the left-hand navigation bar.
Before you can create and experiment, you must make a draft of the campaign that you wish to test. Then, using the new draft, you will change the setting you wish to test.
To create a new draft.
- Click on the ‘Drafts & experiments link’.
- Click on the blue plus icon.
- Select which campaign you would like to use as the base for your draft, name your draft and add a draft description (optional).
One you create a new draft, you will want to open the draft and make the changes you wish to test.
For our experiment,
To change the bidding, click on settings in the left-hand navigation and click on the Bidding option. There click on ‘Bidding Strategies’. Once you make your desired changes, make sure you remember to click on Apply at the top of the screen to make sure changes are saved.
The next step is to launch the actual experiment.
To do this, we again a click on the ‘Drafts & Experiments’ link. This time, we are going to click on the ‘Campaign experiments’ link and create a new experiment by clicking on the blue plus icon.
Google will then prompt us to select which Draft we wish to use for the experiment, name the experiment and select the date to start the experiment.
In addition, you will be asked which percentage of traffic you wish to be allocated to the draft during the experiment.
Once you save, your experiment is finished. Once they begin running, you will be able to view experiments along side normal campaigns in the campaign view of your account.
I’m a big believer in testing and measuring. I fully subscribe to the theory if you aren’t continually testing inside your Google Ads account, you soon will be left behind by your competitors.
Google has been aggressively promoting their automated strategies for over six months. From messages inside your Google Ads account to calls from Google reps advising that you would achieve better results from changing your campaigns to automated bidding strategies, the promoting has been extremely aggressive.
When Google first released their different strategies (over a year ago), I tested quite a few of those strategies inside different client accounts in the process of working to improve results.
However, there was not a single instance that I felt that an automated campaign outperformed a fully optimized manual campaign.
With that said, in order to test at the time, I had to change the settings back and forth. This means that the test was covering different times, which opens the door to other factors such as seasonality and competition pricing, etc. could have been responsible for some of the results.
Now with the new ‘Drafts and experiments’ advertisers such as us can test using the same timeframe in order to fully determine which performs better – manual or automated bid strategies.
Note, it is worth noting that using drafts and experiments are only available using Search and Display campaigns. It is not currently possible to use experiments in Shopping or other type of campaigns.
P.S. – I just launched this experiment late last week – check back in 30 days and I’ll update this article with results.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Splichal is the founder of True Online Presence, the founder of The Academy of Internet Marketing, author and certified online marketing strategist with twenty plus years of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues. To find more information on Andy Splichal, visit www.trueonlinepresence.com or read The Full Story on his blog, blog.trueonlinepresence.com.