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Google and Facebook Manual vs Automated Bid Optimization: Which is Better?

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Sometimes, Google is viewed as the marketer’s enemy. However, this isn’t the case at all. As long as you follow their rules and guidelines, Google wants to reward your business. In fact, they’ve made it easy for us with automated bidding.

If we look at Google’s own description, automated bidding allows businesses and advertisers to save time micromanaging bids. With different types of bidding strategies, we can refine our efforts and go for the one that best contributes towards our next goal.

In marketing, we know the importance of reaching the right audience at the right time…but does this mean we should immediately switch to automated bidding? Today, we’ll compare automated and manual bidding to answer this question.

1. Automated Bidding

What is it?

A Google Ad bid strategy bids the amount that’s ‘likely’ to result in a click or conversion. After you set goals for your campaign, Google will analyze information such as the time of day, location, operating system, demographics, and even the device the user is on. From there, the platform will automatically set a bid amount based on the chance of success.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, you can choose between a number of different strategies. It does more than just improve optimization rates too. The strategy spans keywords, campaigns, and ad groups.

As you may know, finding the perfect balance with bids is incredibly difficult. On the one hand, you’re concerned about bidding too low and not competing with others (and therefore missing out on valuable exposure). On the other, you don’t want to go too high and waste the budget on those who aren’t interested in your brand or product. This is the problem that Google aims to resolve with automated bidding.

Once applied, you don’t need to spend time updating bids for ad groups and keywords because everything is handled on your behalf. In terms of the wider platform, it shows Google’s willingness to invest in technology and, in particular, machine learning.

Google bidding automation and optimization

Is it the same as Smart Bidding?

No, and this is something we want to clear up before continuing. Though it is associated with automated bidding, Smart Bidding is actually a category within the automated bidding program. Using machine learning, Smart Bidding will track and analyze data signals in order to boost conversion rates. In fact, the category is solely based on conversion strategies.

In simple terms, Google considers whether or not a change in bid will lead to a conversion. If yes, the change is made. If no, it’s left alone.

Mad Men character holding up a sign: Stay Out of It

What are the automated bidding strategies?

When entering this domain, you’ll come across different automated bidding strategies. In the next section, we’ll discuss all seven, with pros and cons for each.

• Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) — When you choose this strategy, Google will set Search or Display bids. Ultimately, the aim will be to convert as efficiently as possible while remaining at your set target CPA. If you’ve already established a CPA that captures consumers and maintains a profit, this is a good strategy for you.

• Clicks — Just as the name suggests, the aim here is to boost traffic to your website. Available in both single campaigns and multiple campaigns, bids are set to maximize clicks while remaining inside your budget. For us, we believe this is best used for those who have a developed conversion funnel and are confident in their content. You’ve got the funnel, now it’s time to get people in it.

See how your Ads performance convert in 60 seconds!
  • Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) — How can you increase conversion at your set ROAS? This is the aim of this strategy; for those who haven’t seen ROAS before, it assesses the value we get from each dollar spent on ads. With this strategy, we’re interested in the value of conversions rather than just the conversions themselves. Remember, one profitable conversion has the potential to be worth more than five lesser-valued conversions.

• Conversions — We’ve discussed strategy to maximize the value of conversions, but this fourth bullet focuses on conversions alone, regardless of value. For Google, the only thing they care about is getting the most conversions for your budget. As far as conversions go, your optimization rates should skyrocket.

• Target Search Page Location — Available for campaigns, choose this strategy if you want to be visible on the first page of Google results. Although only available on the Search Network, having a presence on the first page of given results is a great way to boost exposure and get authority for individual clicks.

• ECPC (Enhanced Cost Per Click) — Suitable for ad groups, keywords, and campaigns, the penultimate strategy is actually a great way to combine manual and automated bidding. Once selected, manual bids are adjusted by Google with the aim of boosting conversions (while retaining the same cost per conversion).

• Target Outranking Share — The aim of the game is to beat the competition wherever possible, right? In this last example of automated bidding strategy, you’ll select the domain of a rival you want to outrank. From there, Google decides how to optimize search bids and, hopefully, that’s what will happen.

Read More: Using Google Ads: The Beginner’s Guide

What are the advantages of choosing automated bidding?

With the seven strategies above, we have a real opportunity to not only focus on specific areas, but contribute to the overall success of our campaigns. Rather than spending time working on bids ourselves (and potentially making mistakes), the clever Google algorithms assess various data points and boost optimization rates in specific areas.

When you first start with a strategy, you might notice that your maximum bid falls all the way down to $0.01, but don’t panic. As Google learns more about the right audience and the competition for important keywords, this will slowly increase until the optimum level is found. In total, it will probably take between four days to a week for this to stabilize.

On the whole, the advantages are quite obvious — we can target different strategies, save time adjusting the bidding ourselves, and take advantage of the fantastic technology Google continues to develop.

Get more out of your social media ads

Are there any reasons to stay away from automated bidding?

Perhaps above all else, you need to pay attention to what you’re doing, otherwise the whole experience could take a turn for the worse. Without setting a budget, for example, bids will continue to rise. In fact, experience tells us that manual bidding is the more cost-effective solution of the two. As we’re going to see, manual bidding allows for a hands-on approach and more refinement.

2. Manual Bidding

What is it?

If you want full control over bidding, this is where to find it. Initially, you’ll set your own CPC (cost per click) and you’ll then need to pay attention to particular metrics and performance indicators in order to adjust this figure over time. With manual bidding, you have control over what you’re spending for every single click.

Google has made this process simple. If you want to control ad spending and optimization rates, you can access a brilliant chart showing the potential for CPC increases. Available via the dashboard, it’s a quick way to see whether or not the intended change would yield a positive return.

What are the benefits to choosing manual bidding?

We’ve seen the benefits of automated bidding, but what’s the argument for putting the burden on your own two shoulders? For most people, it’s controlling costs. Though automated bidding works well with limited campaigns, most experts will tell you that manual bidding is the best method for long-term ones.

Especially in such a competitive environment, it’s important not to waste money unnecessarily. You can focus in on how your ad ranks, targeting, ad groups, keywords, campaigns, and more. With manual bidding, you always know what you’re bidding towards. This is a level of control and insight that isn’t available with automated bidding.

Parks and Recreation character expressing uncertainty

3. Automated vs Manual Bidding — Which is Best?

So here we are, at a fork in the road. If you’re currently weighing your bidding options, your dilemma is which one to choose. Generally speaking, we believe that automated bidding is suited for short-term projects. With small accounts and a handful of campaigns, automated bidding is a good place to start. However, an eventual switch to manual bidding will allow for precise control over your budget and targeting efforts.

However, there are situations where automated bidding is clearly the best solution, including monitoring keyword impressions. Otherwise, as long as you have the time, digging into the deeper territories of manual bidding will reap the greatest rewards.

If you need tailored advice, don’t forget to contact a marketing expert. After a conversation with an agency, you’ll know which system suits your business and goals for the coming period.

Bonus! Marketing Tools:

  1. Trapica Suggest: Keyword Research Tool

2. Bilbi AI: Daily Marketing Campaign Insights




We believe that every brand and agency will have one easy way to use marketing platform that will automate Ad campaigns across existing and new marketing channels, optimize targeting, protect Ad accounts and provide cross-channel insights in real-time to the marketing teams.

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Meg Grasmick

Meg Grasmick

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