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Testing Google’s Recommended Display Ramp-Up Strategy

John Lee
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green-arrow-upLaunching new Google Display Network campaigns is an exciting thing. You brainstorm on strategies. You pick your keywords, placements, topics and interest categories. You develop your creative. Then you launch.

More often than not, this launch produces nary a whimper – let alone those clicks and conversions you so desperately seek. Most of us then proceed to increase our CPC bids until we see traffic rise to an appropriate level.

The problem is that the ramp-up process I just described is not ideal. Maybe you can find the right CPC bids after 1 or 2 days. But maybe it takes a week or longer of testing before you are at full speed? In steps Google with a suggestion: Try launching your Display campaigns with CPM (cost-per-thousand impression) bidding instead.

The thought process here is that the auction process is different for CPM bidding vs. CPC. Since you aren’t bidding per click, your ads will get into rotation (e.g. gaining impressions) more quickly. Once you are seeing consistent traffic, switch over to CPC bidding to continue ramping up.

The Test and Results

I’m on the fence with this strategy. I’ve used it a few times before with mediocre results. Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve tested it on a bigger scale and have seen some interesting trends.

Starting on October 31st, I launched a new Display campaign in AdWords and followed this process of launching with CPM bids. On day 1, I had more than enough impressions, exhausted my daily budget caps and saw some traffic, too. So far, so good.

I am fully aware that CPM bidding buys me impressions, and that invariably, the stats will be different from what is expected under CPC bidding. That being said, it doesn’t mean that I have to like it! After launching my campaign on Halloween, I realized that my CPC was way too high, CTR was way too low and my daily budgets were exhausted far too quickly.

The CPC being too high just didn’t make the economics of my campaign work. The low CTR alarmed me as a potential quality score concern.

General best practice is to launch a new campaign with as high of a CTR as possible to create a solid Quality Score foundation – this CPM bidding process threw that out the window. And the budgets being exhausted by the impression buy was severely restricting my traffic flow (based on what I expected from this campaign).

On November 8, I switched from CPM bids to CPC bids. The very next day it was like I had a completely different campaign. Traffic more than doubled. CTR spiked. CPC dropped.

clicks-vs-cost-analytics

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So, is Google giving bad advice? The jury is still out on that one.

In full disclosure, this strategy has been dictated to me by multiple Google agency representatives. I have not seen it officially posted to the AdWords help section or blog. While the basic premise of the campaign is sound, I have difficulty reconciling with the high CPC and low CTR. Maybe this is acceptable for some advertisers, but not me.

I for one will continue to test and experiment with this idea until I find a process that achieves the goal of a quick ramp-up while maintaining acceptable performance metrics.

Has anyone else experimented with using CPM bids to ramp-up a Google Display Network campaign? Did it work? Did it fail? Leave a comment!


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