A Look Inside Adwords Smart Bidding & Automated Bidding Strategies

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PPC consumes a lot of time out of a marketer’s day. This is true whether you’re a Google Ads all-star or a rookie. No matter how superb your ads, campaigns and landing pages are, or how comfortable you are managing your strategies and testing new possible opportunities, your PPC efforts are still not fully optimized.

Why? Because you aren’t a robot.

You can be doing everything right, but the one thing that you’re lacking is precision-perfect timing. That’s because it’s impossible to oversee every bid, budget, variation and all the other moving parts of your campaigns all at the same time, 24/7. You’d have to be a robot.

We’re talking, of course, about automation tools. In this case, Google’s Smart Bidding functions. It’s not about replacing the human PPC professional, but rather using a machine to be in all the places that you can’t be.

Is automation necessary in PPC? No. And, you can certainly run super successful campaigns without it. But, if you really want to stretch your dollar further, the hyper-attention, which Smart Bidding provides, can help you waste less and earn more.

Let’s explore.

How Smart Bidding Is Making Automated Bidding And PPC Strategies Even Better

Before going for automated bidding everything you need to know about PPC advertising. Smart Bidding first came to Google Ads (back when it was still called ‘AdWords’) in July of 2016 as an addition to the already-implemented automated bidding options (circa 2010). These dates are significant because they showcase how long the system has been in place and how long it has had time to learn and adapt to the PPC environment.

This means that Smart Bidding has had two years to mature and grow in sophistication, particularly in its ability to understand and anticipate the ever-changing trends of PPC. This growth is supported by Google’s dedication to developing and expanding these tools further.

Before we tap into the specific strategies that Smart Bidding provides, let’s first explain how Smart Bidding works and why it has such a strong impact on PPC.

Too Much Data To Comprehend

We know that Google Ads uses a lot of different signals that help PPC professionals target the right audiences. Many of these parameters are simple demographic information: age of the search users, their gender, income level, location, etc. Other signals pertain to the user’s environment, like what device they are using, or what time of the day and week it is.

Most search advertisers are aware of these signals. More experienced PPC users even create bid modifiers to trigger when certain signals perform notably different from what’s expected. This strategy, however, still falls short because there are near-limitless variations and combinations of signals.

Not All Signals Are Visible

To make the task even more challenging for PPC advertisers, not all of the signals that Google Ads uses are visible to us humans. You’re not playing with the whole map revealed. Hidden PPC signals include:

  • Operating system and browser used
  • Site behaviors
  • Product attributes
  • Price competitiveness

And that’s just to name a few of the hidden, automated bidding signals.

Enter Smart Bidding

Not only can Smart Bidding “see” these hidden signals, but it is able to analyze all of the possible combinations and variations at once, even when these changes are small and seemingly insignificant. This just isn’t possible with manual bidding strategies because there’s far too much data at play.

Smart Bidding tracks these ever-changing signals against data from past PPC campaigns and strategies. This provides the machine learning engine to have an understanding of your place in the larger PPC market. It isn’t just optimizing based on what works for the masses, but what’s been proven over time to work for you and your business.

In short, Smart Bidding provides the data-driven approach to bidding that is very much needed to make the most out of your PPC ad budget.

Is Smart Bidding Right For You?

Automation is one of those buzz words in the Digital Age that we just seem naturally drawn to. As you look at the benefits of Smart Bidding, it may start to feel like a no-brainer, must-use tool. In some cases, this is true. But, it is important to realize that Smart Bidding is not the end-all-be-all for every campaign.

There are some instances where it can do more harm than good.

Historical Data

Because Smart Bidding relies so heavily on past performance data, Google recommends that users have at least 30 conversions in a month or 50 conversions for campaigns targeting return-on-advertising-spend. This ensures that the Smart Bidding performs accurately.

Thus, new PPC marketers may want to focus on building up manual conversions first, before switching on the Smart Bidding feature.

PPC Goal

Smart Bidding is designed to help ad performance in the way of clicks and conversions. It’s a great tool if your campaign goal is one of the following:

  • Improve CPC
  • Maximize clicks
  • Stay within your target CPA or ROAS
  • Maximize conversions

Not all campaigns, however, have these objectives in mind. If you’re not viewing success in terms of clicks and conversions, Smart Bidding is not the answer.

Short Or Niche Campaigns

Other scenarios where Smart Bidding may not be the best answer are short or niche campaigns. These are cases where manual bidding is preferred because advertisers can stay on top of their budgets better.

With short campaigns, Smart Bidding doesn’t have enough time to really develop that deep learning that leads to optimization. You may even end up overspending if you aren’t careful.

For niche campaigns, the audience is likely much smaller. This creates a small sample size for Smart Bidding to operate with, which can lead to inaccuracies or bad data-driven decisions. It’s better to just handle the bids manually. After all, you’re not working with a large audience, so the changes are much more perceptible to the naked eye.


If you’re using Smart Bidding for the first time, it’s a good idea to take a snapshot of your metrics and current progress with manual bidding. This will give you a great way to see the effects of Smart Bidding on your specific PPC projects and put numbers behind determining whether or not this machine learning tool is right for you and your business.

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