Flexible Bid Strategies are a series of bidding preferences, opted into at a campaign level, but controllable at keyword (except for enhanced CPC) and ad group levels. There are four main types of bid strategies available, and they are as follows: Target search page location, target CPA, maximize clicks, and enhanced CPC.
A Brief Overview of the Strategies
Target Search Page Location
Target search page location allows the advertiser to set a goal location on the page, though limited to two general areas. One can target the top of the page, while the other can target anywhere on the first page. The system then allows for some finer controls, such as using manual bidding, as long as the minimum matches the bid strategy objective, automatically raising and lowering bids to the estimated bids to reach the objective, adding in a bid multiplier adjustment to all of the bids done by the strategy, setting maximum CPC’s, only raising bids when there is budget to do so effectively, and only raising bids on keywords with mid to high Quality Scores.
This is very similar to the campaign level setting most advertisers are familiar with, which utilizes the Google Conversion Optimizer algorithm. The difference here, is that it is always a target, instead of allowing for “Maximum CPA”. The system will attempt to maximize conversions to the point that they come in close to the target CPA.
This is a feature I’m very happy to see, as it now bundles two features into one. The idea is that, without any additional settings, all keywords, ad groups, or campaigns utilizing this bid strategy, will attempt to get as many clicks as possible within the budgets. For an advanced bit of help, you can set CPC bid limits, so that no click goes above a certain amount. The feature I like most about this, though, is that you can set a budget per day objective to this strategy. This allows you to blend a shared budget feature with the maximize clicks feature, so that you can take a segment of your campaigns and get as much traffic for the spend as possible.
This very closely follows the campaign level setting that we’ve become accustomed to, but now allows for the setting at a more granular level. This bid strategy algorithm will adjust bids based on the perceived likelihood of a conversion event happening. This strategy can be applied to ad groups and campaigns, with max CPC’s being set at the keyword level.
Flexible Bid Strategies settings are managed in the Shared Library of AdWords. One of the nice considerations of this feature, is that reporting is rolled up to the bid strategy level. Each bid strategy that you implement has a line on the report in this section, which includes (along with the standard columns available in other reporting) the number of campaigns, ad groups, and keywords using each strategy. This makes it very easy for the advertising manager to see how each objective is performing.
Pros and Cons
To date, there have been numerous efficiencies and inefficiencies noted for this feature. Among the efficiency benefits are the reduced number of individual items to have to manage to. Flexible Bid Strategies allow you to set objectives, manage the objectives in wide strokes, and free up the rest of your time to fine tune particular keywords, ad groups, or ads. Another efficiency improvement is being able to have some keywords or ad groups using Conversion Optimizer, while other ad groups or keywords in the same campaign can be focused on trying to stay on top of the page, maximizing traffic to pages, or testing out the enhanced CPC effectiveness.
Some disadvantages that have come up include the very rough nature of the “top of page” estimates that are the backbone of the Target Search Page Location bid strategy. Often, we have seen that a top of page estimate bid will still result in low to off the first page positions. I usually have to add an extra 100% to 500% to this bid estimate to get keywords in the top 3 positions for non-branded or mid to low Quality Score keywords.
Scenarios Where Flexible Bid Strategies Might Be Helpful
Scenario #1 – Branded vs Non-Branded CPA Targeting
This is a subset of a broader scenario where the advertiser might already know that two segments are likely to have a backend value that differs greatly. For example, let us say that I know that people have larger purchases when searching on my brand than when not. I can then have a larger CPA target for all of the branded terms, than I would for the non-branded terms. Not only can I report on this easily now, by having the strategies dimensionallized, I can also make adjustments to the entire set of branded terms over time in one place, rather than needing to adjust each ad group in the account, as would have been needed before. Additionally, non-branded terms are often in multiple campaigns, and require a lot of filtering to be able to adjust bids. Now, this can be done in one line within the Shared Library.
Scenario #2 – Re-Exploring Old Words
Let’s say that a non-branded terms campaign drives a considerable amount of conversions using Target CPA bids, but only off of a few keywords. The rest of the keywords have long since been demoted, due to poor historical performance. Now, you have a new product or landing page, and it might suit those new keywords well. You’d like to boost their positions to the number one position, but you don’t want to destabilize the very well performing few keywords that are on Conversion Optimizer, which average positions 3 – 5.
You can now apply the Target CPA bid strategy to just those well performing keywords, but Target Search Page Location on all of the remaining keywords. If you set the bid strategy to then adjust the “Top of Page” bid estimate by 100% (or more), you might be able to push all of those other keywords up into the number one position, and run the test. The new product gets its increase in traffic, the old keywords remain stable, and you only have to manage two line items in the Shared Library, rather than constantly filtering and re-filtering keywords across potentially thousands of lines.