Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) bidding

  • Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) bidding is a bidding method that lets you tell AdWords the amount you're willing to pay for a conversion.
  • CPA bidding can help you reach customers who are likely to take action on your website.
  • It's part of Conversion Optimizer.

CPA bidding focuses on maximizing conversions, rather than clicks. You still pay per click, but AdWords automatically sets your bids to help you get more conversions.

CPA bid types

You can use CPA bidding by setting up conversion tracking and turning on Conversion Optimizer for your campaign. When setting up Conversion Optimizer, you can choose between two types of CPA bids:

  • Target CPA: This is the average amount you'd like to pay for a conversion. Some bids will be above this target and some will be below it, but altogether, the cost per conversion should average to the Target CPA you set.
  • Maximum CPA: This is the most you're willing to pay for each conversion. When you use Conversion Optimizer, most of your bids will be below your maximum.

We recommend using target CPA since it's easier to track your average conversion costs. Also, people using this option tend to get more conversions.

Determining your CPA bid amount

When you set up Conversion Optimizer, we provide a recommended bid, which is calculated to help ensure a smooth transition to your new bidding mode. The recommended bid is based on your historical performance, so it’s best to start with the recommended bid, then observe your performance and adjust as necessary. If you set your max. or target CPA bid to the recommended amount, you should see more conversions without much change to your existing average CPA.

After you've used Conversion Optimizer for a while, look at your average cost:

  • If it's within an acceptable range, you can try raising your max. CPA to get more conversions.
  • If it's higher than you'd like, you can lower your bid. This will likely lower your average CPA, but will also likely reduce the number of conversions you get.

Use the Target CPA simulator to estimate how changes to your target CPA might affect your conversion volume.

The final amount you're charged

Your actual CPA may exceed your specified max. CPA or target CPA bid. This is because:

  • Your actual CPA depends on factors outside Google's control, like changes to your website or ads or increased competition in ad auctions.
  • Your actual conversion rate can be lower than the predicted conversion rate.
However, the system is designed to adjust over time, so the longer you use CPA bidding, the less likely it is that your actual CPA will exceed your specified bid.


How to edit your CPA bid

Though you provide your first CPA bid when you turn on Conversion Optimizer for your campaign, you can go back and change the bid at any time afterward by following the steps below.

Edit your CPA bid for a single ad group

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account.
  2. Click the Campaigns tab.
  3. Click the Ad groups tab.
  4. Find the ad group that contains the max. CPA or target CPA bid you want to edit.  As you place your cursor over the rows, a pencil icon appears. Click the Max. or Target CPA bid to edit it.
  5. Enter the amount you'd like to use for your bid.
  6. Select Save to finish.

Try it now

Edit your CPA bid for multiple ad groups

  1. On the "Ad groups" tab, select the checkbox next to the "Ad group" column. This should select all the checkboxes for every ad group.

    Select ad groups to edit

  2. Click the Edit menu.
  3. Select Change bids.

    Select edit

  4. Select the Max. CPA or Target CPA field from the menu and enter the bid amount you'd like to use for all the selected ad groups.
  5. Click Make changes to save.

Try it now


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