Google Ads Smart Bidding Guide For Agencies

Google Ads LogoGoogle implemented smart bidding last year as a way to assist account managers and clients with the bidding process, allowing them to focus more on strategy and less on the day-to-day management.

They began with the simple option to use enhanced CPC, which automatically adjusts your manual bids for clicks that seem more or less likely to lead to a sale or conversion on your website, but there are now far more options to choose from.

If you’ve set up smart bidding in your accounts and been disappointed by the results, there might still be some strategies you could employ to turn things around. Before you switch the option off, this post should give some tips that could get you better results.

Before we start, it’s important to make sure that your ad groups all contain 3 ads to get the most out of smart bidding. You also need to make sure that you have made use of all of the extensions available and that they are all up to date. Many accounts have historical extensions that were set up when the account was created or when a new campaign was added, but then they are never revisited and updated with the most relevant information.

There are many reasons why your smart bidding campaigns may not be working or haven’t worked in the past. We will take you through these one by one below.

Automation isn’t here to fix campaigns it is here to drive campaigns. If you just switch over the bidding strategy without making sure that the rest of the account has been optimised then don’t expect to wave a magic wand and everything be fixed. The campaigns work best if you have made use of all the options available in the account.

Root causes for smart bidding issues:-

Strategy is in learning mode – the strategy is trying to figure out what it is doing, likely because the settings are not appropriate for the campaign
Strategy is limited – the budget is not working effectively or some of the settings are not working out
Not enough data – there isnt enough data running through the strategy to give it enough information to optimise
Long conversion delay – There is a long timeframe between someone coming onto the website and converting (lead generation or somthing such as a holiday purchase where people conduct a lot of research before purchase)
Inappropriate targeting – the targeting has been set for a strategy when there isn’t enough data to be effective



There are now numerous strategies available to us depending on what you are trying to achieve in your campaign and your end conversion goal. For example, if you were looking to promote your brand to get brand awareness you would use a different strategy for a campaign that was targeting sales volume.

Below is a list of the different strategies and why we might use them

Maximise Clicks – This is the best strategy for Brand campaigns as it encourages the most clicks for the budget. If you are working to an ROI then this option will not be suitable for your shopping campaigns for example
Target Search Page Location – This strategy allows  you to select the top of the page or first page to ensure that your ads are always shown in this position and never drop below page 1
Target Outranking Share – This is a portfolio bid strategy that helps your ads outrank ads from another domain
Target ROAS – This strategy is all about trying to maximise our financial profit gains – higher ROAS means more efficiency and lower ROAS means more conversion value
Target CPA – The target for this strategy is all about cost per acquisition. Higher CPA = more conversions, Lower CPA = more efficiency


Bid Modifiers

Another thing to be aware of with smart bidding is that not all bid modifiers are compatible with Google Ads Smart Bidding

Below is a list of the smart bidding options and the compatible modifiers:-
Enhanced CPC (eCPC) – Geo, RLSA, DFSA, time modifiers are respected by eCPC, however, Google recommends setting them at 0% as the signals are already factored in by the algorithm EXCEPT device. Keep your mobile bid modifier.
Target CPC (tCPC) – All bid modifiers are ignored unless set to -100% EXCEPT device bid adjustments. Change your CPA target rather than your bid.
Target ROAS (tROAS) – All bid modifiers are ignored EXCEPT -100% on devices and demographics

Scaling smart bidding

Different bidding strategies should be used depending on what you are looking to achieve with your campaign. If it is visibility you are looking for (perfect for brand awareness) Google recommends you use Position based bidding such as Maximise Clicks or Target Search Page Location – 10% of your campaigns should be using this strategy.

If you have a high conversion volume, non-brand campaign you should be using Target CPA or Target ROAS as your strategy – this should be applied to 20% of your campaigns.

Finally, for all the low conversion volume, non-brand campaigns you should set the strategy to either enhanced CPC Maximise Conversions or Portfolio Bid strategies for Target CPA and ROAS – 70% of campaigns in your account should be set to one of these options.

Google Ads Smart Bidding at Scale Table


Portfolio Bidding Strategies

This strategy can be used in accounts where you have multiple campaigns with low volumes all working towards a similar CPA. You can bundle them together to optimise for a shared bidding strategy and use combined data for the clients with more infrequent conversions and low traffic numbers.

Google Ads Portfolio Bidding Strategies



Google recommends that if you have a business that is affected by seasonality, you should change your bidding strategies around this.

Key examples are around:-

A change in season – BBQ campaign for example – a window of 2-3 months
Black Friday – a spike in sales 1 or 2 days
Easter – A small 2-3 week window
Christmas – Christmas gift products Oct – December. Not time specific like black friday or A’Level results day

If there is a big change in conversion rate (over 20%) which causes a spike in conversions then you need to think about a change in strategy. If not then stick with what you have and the strategy will automatically adapt in time without any changes.

Google Ads Seasonality Charts

If you have a spike of over 20%, make a change in the previous conversion cycle. For example, if you have a 7-day conversion cycle make the changes a week before and then change back 1 conversion window after the spike. If your campaigns are using Target CPA you will want to loosen the CPA target to allow for an increase in conversions and if you are targeting ROAS, decreasing the target to aim for an increase in volume.


Limited by budget campaigns

Limited by budget campaigns work well under maximise conversions. A recent Google case study saw a 2.4x increase in conversion volume, 12% increase in conversion rate and 59% reduction in cost per conversion just by switching strategy.

If you’re still unsure about which strategy to change your campaigns to, you’ll need to look at all the different options available and set up dedicated trials to test different parameters. You need to give the system a chance to learn, so don’t expect immediate results. You may also find that, as with some attribution models, it could take a while for your conversions to show in the account.

Start by setting your brand campaigns to maximise clicks and see if that works for you. One thing for sure, you shouldn’t have any of your campaigns set to manual CPC, at least set it to enhanced CPC.


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