When planning to run a pay per click campaign through Google, understanding the different types of PPC bidding strategies is essential to making sure you don’t break the bank. After all, it can be tempting to just pick five of your best performing keywords, set a budget then sit back and see what happens. But for the best chance of success you’ll need to bear in mind factors such as your business model, marketing goals and of course your budget.
So, what is a PPC bidding strategy? When you sign into your Google Ads account (previously known as AdWords) you have different options to control or automate your keyword bids. When starting out you might find that you prefer a fully automated strategy before switching to a more hands on option as you find your confidence with the platform.
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How to Find Your PPC Campaign Goals
Like pretty much everything else in life, having a goal in mind will help your focus. After all it’s not always about boosting sales. If you’re looking to find your campaign goals, ask yourself a couple of questions.
What do I want my audience to do? Are you looking for people to click buy, or to sign up for an event? Or perhaps you’re just building a buzz and increasing brand visibility? Maybe you’re just looking to generate leads and you’re offering something that is of interest to a niche audience. Ask yourself what the final goal of your PPC campaign is
What is your marketing budget and do you have leeway to go over that? Some PPC campaigns can be quite, ahem, fluid with the amount of money they can cost. If you’re on a solid budget there are more rigid options to ensure you don’t spend too much. But keep an eye on your campaign performance regularly and change things that aren’t working as expected.
Your campaign goals might switch around, or you might even have a couple of different campaigns on the go at the same time. But keeping track of, and regularly updating your goals, will allow you to stay focused and avoid going astray or over budget.
So now your campaign goals and your marketing strategy are all planned out thoroughly (right?), we can take a look at the most popular PPC bidding strategies.
Manual Cost Per Click
- Set your maximum cost per click.
- Often CPC is much lower than your maximum.
- Easy to change and manage.
- Can overpay or underpay if not researched properly.
If you’ve done your research properly and you know your most effective keywords then manual cost per click is an option you can choose. With this strategy you set your maximum cost per click (CPC) and can adjust and manage bid prices across multiple campaigns. The benefit is that you’ll never pay over your specified bid price per click.
The danger with this bidding strategy is that if you’re not sure about the PPC bid price you can either end up overpaying for your chosen keyword, or underpaying and not getting many clicks.
There are some schools of thought that you don’t need to do manual cost per click ever, as the automated options are much better than they used to be. Although it isn’t the best option for beginners, this is the most basic option and can come in useful on occasion for specific or perhaps secondary keywords.
Automatic Cost Per Click
- Google finds best CPC based on your daily budget.
- No need to set maximum CPC.
- Not ideal for low volume keywords.
This PPC strategy is one of the easiest to manage and lets Google take the strain. Using your daily budget as a guideline, Google’s algorithms aim to get you the best bids on your chosen keywords within your budget. This means you can almost just set up your ideal cost per click and let the campaign do it’s thing.
The problem with full automation is that you can end up paying an excessively high price for some clicks, if that’s what Google figures you should do. Be aware that your maximum CPC can easily be exceeded. Factors such as a surge in popularity or a competitor paying a high price for a keyword can cause your bid to climb.
Another thing to bear in mind is that if your search terms are fairly generic or quite low volume, then automatic cost per click might not be your best PPC strategy. For generic search keywords you might find that you attract accidental or mistaken clicks, or even show up incorrectly in the SERPs.
Enhanced Cost per Click (ECPC)
- Allows you to set your maximum CPC.
- Can exceed your maximum CPC for best chance of conversions.
- Uses smart bidding technology to find the auctions most likely to convert.
If you’re using manual CPC this bidding strategy is an optional feature that can maximise your results. The theory is that using enhanced cost per click will adjust your bid for the best chances of getting a conversion, even if this means exceeding your maximum CPC. But it works both ways and you might also be able to bid low for certain keywords.
ECPC uses a combination of your own conversion history and Google’s analysis to choose the best time to bid. This means you need to already have been running a CPC bidding strategy for the last 30 days and have at least 15 conversions. ECPC will then analyse the timing, location and demographics of searches and bid accordingly.
You are able to set a maximum CPC price but if ECPC thinks going over this will help a conversion then it can and will do that. Previously the bid cap was 30%, but ECPC can now go over that, although it will try and keep your average CPC at or below your specified amount.
Cost per Acquisition (CPA)
- Set your average target price for individual acquisitions.
- Google will try and get as many conversions as possible at target CPA.
- Target conversions by device: choose to focus on mobile or desktop as you wish.
- Works well on high volume searches and large ad campaigns.
Similar to ECPC, this bidding strategy allows you to set a target price for acquisitions and uses smart bidding for the best chances of success. Using target CPA means that your target price is more a guideline and that it can be exceeded regularly, although Google aims to keep the target cost at around your ideal CPA.
If you’ve been running a CPC campaign for a while and you know what works then using target CPA can be an effective way to manage your budget. You can optimise the results to target particular devices, which is great if you find that most conversions come from mobile or tablets. This works well for advertisers with bigger budgets and a range of keywords, rather than a small business with niche search terms.
Cost per Mile (CPM)
- Pay per 1000 (one thousand) views of your ad.
- No pay per click.
- Possible to get lots of views but no clicks throughs to your site.
By using the CPM bidding strategy you’ll only be paying for the amount of times your ad is seen on the Google display network, that is, partner sites running AdSense. The appeal of this is probably obvious for those running a brand awareness campaign rather than those looking to get more leads or sales.
For each one thousand views of your ad, you pay your specified cost per one thousand impressions (CPM) and you pay precisely zero for any click throughs. If you are still relying on people clicking through to your site then it is of course possible to pay for all these views and get no conversions.
If you have a display ad that you already know converts well, it might be cost effective to switch over to CPM instead of a CPC strategy.
- Automated bid strategy designed to get the most clicks for your budget.
- Set a target budget and Google will find the best CPC.
- Optional bid limits to stop you going over budget (not recommended by Google).
This might seem like a bidding strategy similar to ECPC, but there is one clear difference. With maximise clicks you set the daily budget and Google tries to make sure you get the best value per click for the most conversions. While with ECPC you set the actual per click cost so your daily budget can vary.
You can set up a target spend across campaigns or specific keywords and let Google do the rest. Using this particular bid strategy is best when you have a campaign with a good conversion history, much like CPM, but you’re looking to get people to take action. Although it is an efficient way to boost website traffic, you might find that the traffic quality is variable.
Google also recommend not setting bid limits as this can impact on the effectiveness of the strategy.
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
- Optimise your CPC based on predictions of future engagement.
- Apply to specific keywords or whole CPC campaigns.
- No guarantee of return on investment.
This clever bid strategy aims to use your ad conversion history to enable it to predict your ROI from certain keywords. If you’ve been running a campaign with conversion history activated, Google can analyse the effectiveness and optimise your CPC to drive traffic and conversions.
Of course this works best where you are directing traffic to an online store or other business where the spend is measurable. Although the name implies you’ll get more money back, there is of course no guarantee of success. The Google algorithms will aim to set a maximum CPC to maximise your click through conversions, based on your CPC history.
As with many of the previous bid strategies, it helps if you have identified keywords and campaigns that are effective and then implement this bidding strategy.
There are lots of bidding strategies designed to help you drive traffic and conversions. The one you choose depends on your own marketing strategy, budget and knowledge of the Google Ads platform.
In many cases, it can be useful to change between the different Google Ads bid strategies as and when your business demands change. When using automated bidding strategies you should always monitor the performance and be sure to change things that aren’t working and keep an eye on your spend.
Getting the most out of your PPC bid strategy is hard enough without having to worry about click fraud. Using ClickCease alongside your PPC campaign is one of the best ways to make sure your money is being spent as you envisage, and not wasted on invalid clicks.
We hope this guide helps you achieve your marketing goals and clears up the many Google Ads bid strategies available.