The seven most common mistakes made when implementing Google’s Smart Bidding

With many new features made available and ongoing improvements being made to existing products, 2019 has been an exciting year for Google.

We explored some of the key search marketing trends for 2019 in a previous blog post, but one of the newest Google features available to search marketeers is Smart Bidding. With a variety of bidding solutions available it’s important to know the pros and cons of each one. Our search specialists have compiled a list of frequent implementation mistakes to help you avoid some common pitfalls:

1. Use of an unrealistic CPA or ROAS goal

With Target CPA, Google uses a target cost-per-acquisition that you enter, automatically setting bids to help you obtain as many conversions as possible. Google is aware of historical conversion data and it is important to set a realistic CPA goal. Setting a target that is too low, for example, may cause you to forego clicks that could result in conversions.

Tip: Adjust Target CPA based on your business goals.

Use the Google Ads-UI recommended CPA goal to start with – after 30 days check your bid strategy report which includes key metrics such as Average Target CPA and Actual CPA.

2. Running analysis too early

Don’t analyse performance when the strategy is still in its infancy. Google uses learning algorithms in bidding strategies and the learning period is the period in which Google Ads gathers the performance data it needs to optimise your bids. The more stable, long-term data points they have, the better predictions they can make, helping optimise campaigns to meet your goals.

Tip: Before you start evaluating your bidding strategy, check if your campaign is still in a learning period. Usually, the learning period lasts for 1-2 weeks.

3. Ignoring the time lag for conversions

Most clicks do not generate conversions immediately. The time lag for conversions is the average time it takes for a click to lead to a conversion. So, when analysing a campaign’s performance, don’t overlook a potential period of conversion delay.

Tip: For search campaigns, identify your time lag by visiting Search Attribution reports, setting a 30-day window and looking at the conversion lag from first click. For display campaigns, set your date range to a 90-day window and segment your campaign-level conversion data by “days to conversions.” Use this data to calculate your average conversion lag.

4. Focusing on the wrong data

The success of a Smart Bidding strategy should be measured in conversion-based metrics. There should be no need to focus on Search Impression Share if you are using a Smart Bidding strategy. Your ads might appear in fewer auctions than they used to, but Google will show them only to the right people – the algorithm’s aim is to increase the number of conversions for your available budget.

Tip: Conversions should be your goal but If, for any reason, Impression Share is still important to you (more important than conversions) then you’d be best to avoid Smart Bidding.

5. Campaign budget is constrained

Smart Bidding strategies need a fair budget so that the algorithm can bid and find as many conversions as possible. You should also ensure that Impression Share is not maxxed out and ad groups are coherent and high-volume.

Tip: This is not applicable to the ‘Maximize Conversions’ bidding solution

6. Making frequent changes to campaigns

As previously mentioned, the algorithm that powers Google’s Smart Bidding strategies needs stable data. By making regular changes in your campaigns you will set the Smart Bidding strategy into a learning period and it will likely not achieve as many conversions as it could.

Tip: Try not to make major changes every day within your campaigns.

7. Having bid adjustments on user lists

Applying bid adjustments on audiences whilst you are using Smart Bidding in your campaigns is not necessarily harmful, but it likely won’t lead to better results. Google recently launched the integration of Audiences within Smart Bidding, so your RLSA lists will now automatically be incorporated at account level along with signals from Affinity, Detailed Demographics and In-Market Audiences.

Tip: If you want to see each audience’s list performance, apply that list to your campaign and check the main metrics in the ‘Audiences’ tab.

Smart Bidding strategies are designed to help you achieve your goals. By avoiding the above pitfalls, you will be one step closer to closer to campaign success. If you are not sure if Smart Bidding is the right solution for you, you could always set an experiment. Google Ads Experiments are the best way to measure the impact of changes you have made to your campaigns.

If you want more expert advice on search marketing strategies contact one of our regional offices. We’d be more than happy to help!