Bidding Farewell to Basic Bidding

For those of you just getting started in paid search, you might be amazed at the level of granularity offered in AdWords, astounded that every keyword can have a unique bid of its own. However, if you’ve been in the search game for a while now, you’re probably aware that during the past few updates to AdWords, bidding has been taken to a whole new level: not just algorithmically, which will be discussed at a later date, but manually, as well. Now, singular keyword bidding – and adgroup default bidding, which should have been abolished ages ago – is coming to an end.

In the new era of bidding, dubbed “Bid Stacking,” you’re now able to overlay bid percentage increases or decreases on top of your keyword bids based on certain attributes of the searcher, such as age range, gender, device, location and household income. In some cases, you can actually exclude searchers based on the variables above, as well.

The trick about bid stacking is that Google is still in beta with some of these features, and has been testing putting their data in different areas of the AdWords interface. Therefore, once you’ve set or adjusted a keyword bid, it becomes tricky to track down all other places where you might have adjusted your bid based on certain attributes. Some may argue that this makes bidding more difficult and less clear to the advertiser, who should be able to have full transparency when spending.

Let’s walk through some of the latest bid stacking features available since Enhanced Campaigns debuted. We’ll go through how to find where you make the bid adjustments, and how to find the data to support the bid adjustments.

Age/Gender Bidding

If you are opted into this beta, in the AdWords interface under the Campaigns tab, you’ll now notice that you also have a tab for Audiences; if not, contact your AdWords representative to inquire about joining the beta. Once you navigate here, you’ll see options for Age and Gender.

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You can select either of these to view all the ages and genders eligible for each adgroup. If you’ve never seen this before, all ages and genders will be eligible for all adgroups. If you notice that no bid adjustment is applied (the bid adjustment reads –), you won’t have any data for these ages or genders, either. In order to start collecting data, select all ages or genders, ensure you are selecting across all pages if you have a lot of adgroups, click Edit, and Change Bid Adjustment to 0%. Once this is set to 0%, data will start being collected for each of these adgroups at each of these levels.

Once you have a good 30 days worth of data, or enough to achieve significance, you can go through the data at either the campaign or adgroup level, and make bid adjustments as needed to improve performance. Once you’ve reviewed your data, you may have the need to exclude a certain age group or gender. This can easily be done by selecting Edit, then Exclude, for either Campaign or Adgroup level.

This can be used for more granular messaging, as well. It is possible that you’ll want to have one campaign excluding women if you only want to talk to the men and vice versa. This is particularly helpful if you are a brand trying to attract different audiences, but realize that you’ll need different messaging to do so.

Device Bidding

Though they’re now a standard, rather than a beta, I believe that device bidding adjustments are being greatly ignored by the general population of advertisers. It’s extremely important to review your data by device, as searchers can behave quite differently, depending on how they are accessing your content. To make bid adjustments at the campaign level by device, navigate into a selected campaign and click on the Settings tab, then on Devices.

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Regardless of whether you have bid adjustments set for specific devices, you should be able to see all data by device at the campaign level. From here, you can make bid adjustments, just like you would for age and gender targeting. If you want to remove mobile completely from the mix, you can’t exclude it per say, but you can set the bid adjustment to -100%, causing your ads not show on mobile.

Location Bidding

With the debut of Enhanced Campaigns, you’re also now able to increase or decrease bids for specific locations. You can see Locations in the above screenshot, which can also be found under Settings in a specific campaign. This is where you would make adjustments. However, in this view, you won’t be able to tell how locations are performing unless you’ve already set specific location adjustments. For example, if your campaigns are only targeting the U.S., you will only see data for the U.S., unless you’ve already set up specific state or city bid adjustments. So, where’s your data to make the call?

To find the data for your locations prior to making adjustments, you’ll want to navigate to the Dimensions tab, select the Geographic view, and then adjust your Columns to contain the correct Level of Detail. From here you can select what you want to see (Region, City, Metro) and if you want it at the adgroup level or campaign level.

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You’ll end up with quite a bit of data, but if you filter the data, either in-engine or through export, you can compare higher or lower performers against your baseline metrics and take note of which areas need bid adjustments. To add them, navigate back to the Campaign Settings (where we looked at Device bidding) and select Locations. From here, you would click +Location to add a specific location. Once added, you can then increase or decrease the bid adjustment for people in this particular location.

Household Income Bidding

Though this is still in beta, it’s probably the most confusing beta yet. Contact your AdWords rep if you’d like to get involved and be sure to ask for a tutorial on how to use it, as Household Income Bidding hasn’t quite found its home yet. Currently, this resides under Campaign Settings in the Locations tab we were just playing with.

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Once opted into this beta, and the Household Income selections are added through the Locations tab, you will not need to make any adjustments in order for the data to start tracking. There is no need to set this to 0%, like we did with Age and Gender targeting in order for the data to start populating.

Remember, in order to make sound bid adjustments, you’ll want a significant amount of data: at least 30 days or more.

Final Note on Bidding

One final note on all these adjustments is to proceed with caution. Many of these are still in beta because Google is working on refining these audiences. Much of the data is pulled from Google+ pages or users who have set up a Google profile, so it is not always accurate. You must also remember that this means a large portion of the data will fall into “Unknown” categories, which should not be excluded.

Before making any drastic bid changes, ensure that you are basing your changes on significance, or as close as you can get. Be sure to check back on your adjustments to make sure they are doing the job right. Though you’ll have to do a little hunting around in the interface, mastering these bid stacks now will set us all up for successful bidding in the future.