The Mother Of Optimizations: Audit AdWords Bidding

When auditing AdWords bids, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s no one right way to approach bid strategy, and it can be difficult to judge bidding tactics and actions without context. With that caveat, consider these top factors when auditing AdWords bids:

 

Top-Level Insights:

 

  • Are multiple bid strategies being tested? — AdWords provides a number of both manual and automated bidding options. The best option depends varies from account to account, and campaign to campaign. Testing multiple bidding options against each other should be done for the purpose of finding the best option for your account.
  • Is there a clear bidding strategy in place? — This one’s a little tricky to pin down. While it can be tough to identify a bid strategy in place, it’s often less tough to identify a complete lack of strategy. For example, keyword bids set arbitrarily, with no connection to performance. From-the-hip bid adjustments without any tactical or strategic logic are very common and identifying this approach is useful because it often suggests that a great deal of improvement in performance can be achieved simply by a more structured approach to setting bids.

 

Manual Bidding:

 

  • Are tier-based bids being applied? — When running multiple match types of the same keywords, it’s a common best practice tier-based bidding, setting higher bids for the tighter match types, and lower bids for the looser ones. This is often a handy approach, but it can easily be abandoned accidentally when single keywords bids are adjusted based on performance. In other words, with this system, you must adjust three bids (one for each match type) for every single adjustment. This can be a useful strategy, but it takes some commitment.

tier based bidding

 

  • Are bids for high volume terms being optimized to hit performance goals? — Take a look at the keywords delivering the highest amount of traffic and/or value. Major improvements in performance can often be achieved simply isolating the ten top terms in an account. One might call this the 80/20 method of bid optimizations.
  • Is attribution (assist / last click conv. ratio) being considered before altering bids? — While it’s often not practical to take a large amount of attribution data into account when adjusting bids, one simple metric to peek at is the assist / last click conv. metric. This will show whether the keyword possesses more first click value or last click value. If a keyword is driving a lot of non-direct conversions, you should take this into consideration.

 

assist : last click ratio

 

 

Auto Bidding:

 

 

  • Using Enhanced CPC? — In my experience, enhanced CPC is almost always a good idea. It allows for the setting of manual bids, but the system will bump the bids up beyond your max. CPC if it feels a conversion is likely.
  • Is Auto-bidding delivering better CPAs but lower ROAS for e-commerce sites? — The conversion optimizer tries to hit a target (or max) CPA, not return. This why CPA bidding sometimes does not work as well for e-commerce sites. The system doesn’t understand that some conversions will produce more value than others. For this reason, manual CPC bidding is sometimes the better choice for businesses with dynamic conversion value. AdWords recently released an ROAS optimizer option to try to deal with this, but doesn’t work that well yet.
  • Mining SRQs for keyword elimination with CPA bidding? — It’s true that the conversion optimizer is supposed to do all the work for you when activated. That said, it’s still a good idea to mine search query reports and eliminate low performing terms. The optimizer will eventually bid these terms down or out of the auction, but if they’re already meeting your elimination thresholds, why wait?
  • Are campaigns being returned to manual bidding after significant changes to campaign content? — Big changes in your account will confuse the conversion optimizer. This means: adding a whole bunch of new keywords, changing landing pages, anything that might significantly affect conversion performance. In this situation, the best thing to do is return the campaign to manual bidding until enough conversion performance has accrued with the new content, and then fire the conversion optimizer back up after that.
  • Are CPA bids being optimized regularly? (every few weeks) — The fact that you’re using bid automation doesn’t mean you can just set your bids and ignore them. Don’t forget to optimize CPA bids every few weeks.

 

  • Are CPA bids being optimized TOO regularly? (every few days) — It takes the conversion optimizer a while to find it’s footing when new CPA bids are set. Changing bids too often will likely result in poor performance. This often feels counterintuitive to anyone who takes a tenacious approach to optimizing their manual CPC bids, but you need to fight the urge!

 

 

Conversion Import:

 

 

  • Ecommerce / Sales sites using “all conversions” (vs. unique conversions)? — Your conversion settings are important for understanding your conversion performance. “All conversions” will count every item purchased, as opposed to just counting a single checkout with multiple items purchased as one conversion.
  • Lead Gen sites using “unique conversions” (vs. all conversions)? — Conversely, if you’re only interested in tracking single conversion actions, such as a single submission of a contact form  the ‘unique conversions’ will count this as a single conversion.
  • Tracking Conversions vs. Converted Clicks? — Because many conversions from AdWords often do not take place on the first visit, it’s a good idea to look at all conversions within your attribution window, as opposed to conversions that occurred directly as the result of an AdWords click. ‘Converted clicks’ measures this. ‘Conversions’ measures all conversions within your attribution window.

 

 

 

Audit AdWords bidding Checklist:

 

Top-Level Insights:

  • Are multiple bid strategies being tested?
  • Is there a clear bidding strategy in place?

 

Manual Bidding:

  • Are tier-based bids being applied?
  • Are bids for high volume terms being optimized to hit performance goals?
  • Is attribution (first / last click conv. ratio) being considered before altering bids?

 

Auto Bidding:

  • Using Enhanced CPC?
  • Is Auto-bidding delivering better CPAs but lower ROAS for e-commerce sites?
  • Mining SRQs for keyword elimination with CPA bidding?
  • Are campaigns being returned to manual bidding after significant changes to campaign content?
  • Are CPA bids being optimized regularly? (every few weeks)
  • Are CPA bids being optimized TOO regularly? (every few days)

 

Conversion Import:

  • Ecommerce / Sales sites using “all conversions” (vs. unique conversions)?
  • Lead Gen sites using “unique conversions” (vs. all conversions)?
  • Tracking Conversions vs. Converted Clicks?

 

Resources:

Another look at AdWords bid optimizations: Determine max profitable CPC