Best automated Google Ads bidding strategies for small businesses in 2021

How to promote your product or service with Google Ads

If you have a small business, and you are looking to dip your toes into the world of Google Ads to promote your product or service, it can be really daunting at first glance.

What keywords do you go for? How much do you need to bid? Is it better to go all-out on your bidding or act more reserved? How can you tell if your ads are working? It can feel like a bit of a minefield, especially if you have never used Google Ads before.

No need to worry though, as Google can help you to optimise your bidding strategies to ensure that you are paying the right amount of money for your bids, depending on what it is your company wants to achieve.

Automatic bidding strategies could save you money as well as time, meaning you can set your Google Ads up and running and be confident that your adverts will be presented to the right people, at the right time, at the right price.

Want to know more about automated bidding works? Here are some of our favourite bidding strategies and how you can use them to maximise your Google Ads account’s efficiency.

Before you start…

Before you start to set the right bidding strategy for your business, there are a few things you need to do first.

Know your goals: Before you even set up your Google Ads account, you need to know what you want to get out of it. Do you want to increase the number of people that visit your website? Do you want to raise awareness of your brand? Do you want to grow the number of people buying online?

If you don’t know this, you will just be throwing money into Google Ads without reaping the benefits. Once you know what you want to achieve, this will help you pick the right strategy for your needs.

Start with search: Google Ads offers you a wide range of different ad options including display ads and shopping ads, but if you’re a Google Ads newbie, we’d recommend starting with Google Search as it is the easiest to get to grips with.

Google Search ads are the adverts that pop up at the top and bottom of the page when you use Google search, both on your desktop and on mobile.

This article focuses on bid strategies specific to search ads, but you will find that there are other bid strategies in play with display ads, shopping ads and video ads. More on these another time!

Know your starting bid: Use Google Keyword Planner to determine a reasonable starting bid for your keywords. If you’re not happy with the recommendations, Google gives you, start with £1 per click. You can always change the value later and remember, Google Ads is a reverse auction, so even if you pledge £1 a keyword, it doesn’t mean that this will be the final bid value, it’s just the highest amount you are willing to pay for the keyword.

Customise your stats: Google Ads shows you stats for all the ads groups and keywords you have so you can see how they are performing at a glance. Go to the ‘keywords’ tab, click on ‘column chooser’ and under ‘attributes’, select these three additional columns:

  • Estimated first page bid
  • Estimated top page bid
  • Estimated first position bid

These columns will help provide a rough guide about how much money you will need to spend to get your ad right at the top of Google where people are more likely to click on it, so you can take action if you think you are spending a disproportionate amount on a keyword.

Now that your account is up and running, it’s time to choose the right bid strategy for you. Go to the ‘shared library’ and under ‘bid strategies’ you can select the strategy that is best for your business.

Here are the seven main bid strategies for Google Search:

1.      Enhanced cost per click (ECPC)

This strategy is where you set your default bid and Google will increase or decrease your bid by up to 30% depending on whether it thinks a click will lead to a conversion. It’s one of the most simple automated bidding strategies and can be used in conjunction with setting your bids manually for a bit of an extra boost.

Ideal for: Companies that are just starting out on Google Ads or do not have much time to spend on the platform.

2.      Target cost per acquisition (CPA)

If you have conversions set up in Google Ads (and if you don’t, get them set up today!), this strategy will help to maximise conversions on your website, whether that is people buying your products, signing up to your newsletter or requesting a quote.

Ideal for: Companies that want as many people as possible to carry out a specific action on their website.

3.      Target return on ad spend (ROAS)

This strategy is similar to CPA but instead of a total number of conversions, you are going after a monetary value. So for example, if you want to generate £50 of spend on the website for every £10 you spend on Ads, Google will consider this when adjusting your bids.

Ideal for: Companies that sell online that want to define precisely how much money they want to get back from their ad spend.

4.      Maximised clicks

If you want as many people to visit your site as possible and you don’t mind whether they convert or not, you may want to consider maximised clicks. This means Google will serve your ad to as many people as it possibly can.

A word of warning though: this strategy can get very expensive very quickly. Make sure you set a daily limit for Google Ads, or you may get a nasty shock when your credit card statement comes in!

Ideal for: Companies that are looking to raise brand awareness

5.      Target search page location

If you don’t just want to get on the first page of results, but you want to get to the very top of the page then this bid strategy may be a good one to try.

According to Wordstream, 45% more people could click on your ad if you are the number one ad on the page, so being in pole position could mean more eyes on your advert and ultimately more clicks!

Similar to maximised clicks though, this strategy could cause you to you rattle through your ads budget much more quickly.

Ideal for: Companies that want to go all out on their advertising

6.      Target outranking share

If you have a competitor that uses Google Ads, and you want to ensure your ad ranks above theirs, this strategy will increase your odds of beating them to the first page of Google.

Bear in mind though that Google doesn’t guarantee that you will always outrank them and it could increase your budget dramatically, especially if your competitor is bidding a lot of money.

Ideal for: Companies that have a lot of competition and want to make sure their Google Ads come out on top.

7.      Manual bidding

Not a fan of automated bidding? No problem! This strategy is when you do not use any of the six strategies above, and you manage your own bids, adjusting how much you are willing to spend on a regular basis.

This strategy gives you more control over your bids and the money you spend, but it is a lot more time-intensive. This strategy can be combined with ECPC to give your manual bids an extra boost if required.

You can set manual bids at keyword or ad group level, but keyword bids override ad group bids.

As well as setting specific values on keywords and ad groups, you can also set bid modifiers. As an example, if you know that you get most of your conversions on desktop, you can reduce the amount you are willing to bid on mobile by a specific percentage.

Ideal for: Companies that have the resources to carefully manage their Google Ads account for maximum efficiency.

Don’t forget: Just because you have set an automated bidding strategy for your business doesn’t mean that you can set it and then forget all about it.

We’d recommend checking your keywords at least every week to make sure that the bid strategy is working for you and is helping lead to the right goals for your business (for example, if you have chosen CPA as your strategy, are you getting enough conversions coming through?)

If the bid strategy isn’t working, you may want to adjust the amount you are willing to bid or see if another strategy may deliver better results instead.

Do you use automated bid strategies, or do you prefer to set your bids manually? If you use automated bids, which one works best for your business requirements?



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