Academy On Air – Smart Bidding

// By Jason Deegan

Recently we joined an Academy on Air session that was focused on more advanced use of Google Adwords to help reach your digital marketing goals. This week the session was on ‘smart bids’. If you’re familiar with Google Adwords you’ll recognise what a ‘bid’ is – it’s google’s process to decide which ads to show on its Google ad network, but the smart bit is what we will speak about today, how can you use this function to reach your marketing goals and what exactly does it do?


Well firstly, we’d suggest before you make your bids behave smarter, it’s important that you go back and check out our recent post on Adwords attribution and ensure you’ve enabled the right attribution model for your campaigns (we promise – it’s worth your while).


We here in Viralbamboo are all too familiar with the speed of change taking place in digital marketing. It seems to be moving so quickly that it’s tricky to keep up – but this same rate of change is taking place in user behavior and interactions and smart bidding allow us to keep up by automating the process of bidding in your campaigns.


You may be familiar with keyword bids, the process where you pick your keywords and say how much you’d like to spend per click on these keywords, you may even be familiar with bid adjustments the process whereby you add a premium to particular keywords or other factors such as location. The pace of change and the number of components you can bid on is increasing and allowing an automated process handle your bids allows you to focus on the strategic aspects of your business and marketing.


Using machine learning, a tool which can analyze up to 70 million signals in 100 milliseconds, that takes account of these factors in your digital marketing toolkit is a tremendous asset, using smart bidding puts this machine learning algorithm in your campaigns

Machine Learning Adwords

“The ability to automate more mundane, machine-like functions makes marketers more effective and efficient at their jobs and able to focus on more high-level work, like strategy, in order to achieve better results” – John Sutton Global Head Of Data & AI Publicis.Sapient


This ability to work smarter by focusing more on other tasks, and focusing less on bidding allows you to focus on more complex marketing tasks and gives you a distinct advantage over your competition. Alongside this (and unsurprisingly considering the analyzing ability) google’s smart bidding process has been proved to consistently outperform human influence bidding and indicates the potential to achieve a higher ROAS (return on advertising spend)


Below you can see examples of the way in which these models can be used to reach your marketing goals, specifically by bidding up the funnel and targeting users more accurately.

Smart bidding google adwords

Below you can see which bidding strategy fits most comfortably with your business goals and how you can choose based on what’s important to your business.

Google adwords smart bidding

Approaches Used:

Enchanced Cost Per Click

Enhanced Cost Per Click (ECPC)

This is an entry level smart bidding strategy, this is a baseline bid of a Cost Per Click (CPC), on average it will not exceed the average there could be some changes, and it will try to get as many conversions as possible, while remaining within your ECPC.

Its primary function is that it continues to learn from user behavior and will aim to reach conversion targets while staying within limited budgets.

Maximise Conversions

Maximise Conversions –

This approach is best used when you are seeking to maximise your conversions within a predetermined budget, this is similar to maximise clicks function on conventional search campaigns.

Target Cost Per Acquisition

Target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) –

some similarities to maximise conversion will try to get average CPA at or below your target, it eliminates guesswork from your campaign structure. Important to take account of the time lag of conversions, so you may see your CPA higher or lower – over time that will equalize.

Staircase to smartness, adwords

It is important to consider portfolio bid strategies (in shared library section) here you can seek to bundle your campaigns to reach a common CPA, this works when for example you have a number of similarly priced products ( for example variations of a product) to reach your target CPA. This is not to be recommended if you are for example looking at large variations in target CPA (for example a €1 product being bundled with €100 production would skew your target CPA)


The real advantage of smart bidding is how it structures the data it uses to deliver the best ads – for example, Smart bidding takes a combination of 1st party data, some data from Google and some more from the users to target the information accurately.


When using smart bidding there are some important factors for you to take account of to ensure you are getting the most from your campaigns.
Clean up audience strategy

  • Add high-quality creatives (using if functions as mentioned previously)
  • Give it a control period (roughly 2-3 weeks) for the smart bidding to learn, so don’t make dramatic changes if your target CPA is not being immediately met, it will learn what works and what doesn’t


  • Make significant changes to budgets and bids (+/- 20% changes are acceptable on your CPA, outside of this and you will re-enter learning phase)
  • Replace all creatives on the same day (do a gradual introduction)
  • Don’t manually pause campaigns during learning periods as it will stop the learning period.

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