Which Google Search Bidding Strategy is Right For You?

EJ Herd / 8th May 2020 / Comment / PPC

Bids are an essential part of ad rank, which determines what position your ad shows in an auction. Over the years, Google has developed an array of automated bidding strategies that utilize predictive behavior modeling to help you achieve your advertising goals. Here’s a breakdown of each Google Ads bidding strategy.

Maximize Clicks

When to use it: If you’d like to drive more traffic than manual CPC. While most advertisers choose to set a CPC limit when using this bid strategy, it isn’t required. If you decide to forgo setting a CPC limit, keep in mind that Google will select bids, however low or high they may be, until your entire daily budget is spent.

If your goal is to drive as many clicks as possible within your budget, then maximizing clicks is the right automated bidding strategy for you. With this bidding strategy you can set a maximum CPC limit so you won’t pay more than you’re comfortable for a click. This gives you more control over the maximum amount you’re willing to pay while still getting as many clicks as possible.

For the below example, the CPC limit is set to $6.50, but this number can vary depending on competition and industry.

Target Impression Share

When to use it: If you’re looking to build specific levels of awareness, or if you’re confident in your conversion funnel and need certain levels of traffic without worrying about click costs.

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The absolute top of page is the #1 slot, while the top of page is typically the #2-#4 slot, depending on competition. When there’s less competition, the top of page bid can win the #1 slot. If you bid for “anywhere on the results page,” typically you’ll show below the organic results, but this also varies with competition.

To bid for one of these 3 ad positions, you must choose your ad frequency based on a percentage. Here’s an example:

The goal of this bidding strategy is to show up anywhere in the top of the results page, which is typically the #2-#4 slot, 60% of the time without exceeding a $5 CPC. What you want is to set the bid at a level where the impression share target is attainable, and understanding how much traffic will accompany the percentage goal is vital.

Another aspect to keep in mind is closely monitoring current keyword match types, CPCs of traffic entering through these keywords, and the search terms report for relevant traffic, since the goal of this bidding strategy is heavily traffic-based.


Target CPA

When to use it: If you’re focused on paying a goal amount for each conversion, regardless of click costs.

This is a popular bidding strategy to get as many conversions as possible at a target cost-per-acquisition, or CPA, you set within your budget. Like target impression share, bids are automatically set, so be sure to monitor CPCs and the search terms report.

In order for this bidding strategy to work effectively, proper conversion tracking must be set in place and a minimum of 15 conversions needs to be recorded within the last 30 days. Remember that this is a minimum, so the higher the number of conversions, the more data Google has to work with to identify your target audience.

You should also keep in mind that setting your Target CPA too low can limit how often your ads are served, making it difficult for Google to collect and use this data effectively. Alternatively, if there is enough data accrued, Google will recommend a Target CPA based on past performance:


Target ROAS

When to use it: If you’d like to get a specific return on a product/service, regardless of click costs. This is a popular option to use with shopping campaigns since product traffic levels/click costs and profitability don’t always align.

This  bidding strategy will aim to maximize your return on ad spend, or ROAS, you set within your budget. Below is a sample of a Target ROAS goal of over 4:1, or $4.30 made for every $1 spent:

To use this bidding strategy effectively, you’ll have to set up conversion tracking with transaction-specific values and have at least 20 conversions in the last 45 days, according to Google Ads guidelines. 


Maximize Conversion Value

When to use it: If you’re confident in your conversion funnel and don’t mind potentially higher click costs to reach your desired conversion value goal.

Google Ads will use machine learning to optimize bids to reach the highest conversion value possible within your budget. Like Target ROAS, transaction values will have to be set with proper conversion tracking in order for this bidding strategy to be utilized properly. Here’s an example with the same ROAS goal as before:

Maximize Conversions

When to use it: If you’re confident in your conversion funnel and want to drive the highest number of conversions regardless of click costs.

The goal is to help you get the highest number of conversions within your set budget. Bids are automatically set and like Target CPA, the proper conversion tracking needs to be setup with at least 15 conversions in the last 30 days. This bidding strategy aims to spend your whole budget, so if you’re selecting maximize conversions, be ready to increase or adjust campaign budgets to daily average spend. Here’s an example of how this bidding strategy thinks:

Testing for Effectiveness First

Before going off and changing bidding strategies, try running an experiment first to determine the effectiveness of an automated bidding strategy on a campaign. This can be found in the “Drafts & Experiments” section in Google Ads. Here is what a campaign experiment might look like:


As testing progresses, Google comes up with a confidence score that measures the statistical significance of the test. Usually it will take at least a few weeks to reach this point, so allow plenty of time for Google to gather the data that will let you make an informed decision.

The example below shows high confidence in this experiment that was run from January 31st to March 14th:

The +50% and +69% under clicks and cost means there is statistical significance to these numbers. Ideally, the closer to 100%, the better. But generally, numbers won’t even go in the 80% range or above in these experiments, so this is a pretty good range of confidence.

The numbers in the bracket show a range of how much the actual data may differ. For clicks, the [+35%, +64%] means there is a 95% chance that there will actually be 35%-64% more clicks than the initial projection of just over 2,000 clicks. If you’re willing to take time to get the right data, this can be an extremely powerful tool for projecting the future gains (or losses) you might see if you switch to a different bidding strategy.

Final Thoughts

Google is constantly updating bidding strategies and developing brand new ones to meet advertiser goals. As the competitive landscape continues to shift, Google will continue to customize and improve its algorithmic features to put you in the best position to succeed.

Questions About Bidding Strategy?

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By EJ Herd