A Guide to Google AdWords Bid Adjustments & 10 Top Strategies

In "Google AdWords Bidding Strategies: The Complete Guide" we covered many bidding strategies in a Google AdWords account that can be applied at the campaign settings and even flexible bidding strategies that work down to the ad group and keyword level.

While bidding strategies apply to campaign or ad group level, we also have bid adjustments that apply to targeting.

What Are Bid Adjustments?

Bid adjustments are a percentage change to a bid and allow for an increase or decease for better control of where ads are shown. For example, a location that produces more valuable leads can be targeted more aggressively with an increase in adjustment to bid.

Location Bid Adjustments

There are also several places in AdWords where a bid adjustment can be made.

Google AdWords Bid Adjustments

Adjustment can range from -90 to +900% for a given location, time period, placement, etc with negative numbers obviously deemphasizing that setting or target. For mobile, the adjustment of -100% is used to opt-out serving on mobile devices.

What About Multiple Bid Adjustments?

Multiple bid adjustments are multiplied together to set the bid.

Here is an example Google provides to illustrate the calculation:

  • Ad group max CPC bid $1
  • California targeting +20% bid adjustment
  • Saturday -50% bid adjustment
  • A bid for a search that occurs in California on a Saturday will be U.S. $0.60.

Starting bid: $1
California adjustment: $1 x (+20%) = $1.20
Saturday adjustment: $1.20 x (-50%) = $0.60
Resulting bid for searches in California on Saturday:$0.60

Note that multiple adjustments for the same location are not combined. Another Google example of how this works:

  • Adjustment of +50% for France
  • Adjustment of +100% for Paris
  • Only the adjustment for Paris, the most specific location, will be used

Notable outliers:

If an advertiser is using Conversion optimizer, the only bid adjustment accepted is a mobile -100% opt-out.

For campaigns using automated bidding (advertisers give AdWords control over individual CPC bids), ad scheduling bid adjustments can't be used

10 Strategies For Bid Adjustments

  1. Increase bid adjustments for peak sales hours to maximize opportunity.
  2. Decrease bid adjustments for nights and weekends when the office is closed.
  3. Identify locations where the greatest number of conversions occur or highest conversion rate then increase the bid adjustment.
  4. Use a combination of device and location to serve more to people on mobile in the area of your physical store.
  5. Bid less for mobile on if your mobile user experience is poor.
  6. For interest targeting, bid more on core interest categories closest to your target market and less for a complementary interest.
  7. In a display placement campaign, arrange placements in a first choice, second choice, and third choice tiers by bid adjustments.
  8. Increase bid adjustments +300% on mobile devices to create a faux mobile campaign or “mobile focused” campaign.
  9. Enable bid adjustments for ad group level topic targeting, then exclude a gender or age (to leave the one you want to target) to achieve persona level targeting in display.
  10. Increase bids during lunch time to reach people searching over lunch hour.

What strategies have you tried and do you think it was effective? Let us know in the comments.

About the author

Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co. , an online advertising company and Google AdWords Certified Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. More than just passionate about search, Lisa has led strategy on dozens of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients' search campaigns with ecommerce websites, behavioral targeting strategies, and web analytics.

In addition to agency work, she has led successful online marketing programs at Thomson Reuters in search marketing, merchandising, and ecommerce strategies at the enterprise level.

Lisa frequently lends her expertise to the search industry through organizational involvement, speaking, and writing. She has participated extensively in the local interactive community, as well as at national search engine marketing conferences. Lisa's recent speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as numerous private and public training engagements. As a columnist for ClickZ, she writes on the topic of paid search. She holds a BA in Economics from Valparaiso University and is a Google AdWords Certified Partner.