Using flexible bid strategies

  • Flexible bid strategies automatically set bids to optimise for your performance goals across specific campaigns, ad groups and keywords.
  • Once you create a strategy, it will be stored in your Shared library for centralised management and performance tracking. You can apply your strategy from the Campaigns, Ad groups or Keywords tabs.

Benefits of flexible bid strategies

Flexible bid strategies give you automated bidding exactly when, where and how you want it – across multiple campaigns, or within a single part of a campaign.

For example, by applying the "Maximise clicks within target spend" strategy to your lower priority keywords, AdWords automatically optimises their bidding, while you retain manual bidding control over your most important keywords. Or you can apply the "Target search page location" strategy to important keywords across your campaigns to increase the likelihood that your ads show as much as possible on the first page of Google Search.

To help improve your performance, some of our bid strategies incorporate real-time details such as device, browser, location and time of day to adjust your bids during each ad auction.

Types of flexible bid strategies

Flexible bid strategy When to use it Where to apply it
1 Maximise clicks automatically sets bids to help you get the most clicks within a target spend amount that you choose.

Flexible version of automatic bidding

When site visits are your primary goal

When you want to maximise traffic on long-tail terms while keeping within a certain spend

Campaigns, ad groups, keywords
2 Target search page location automatically adjusts bids to help you get your ads to the top of the page or the first page of search results.

New bid strategy

When you want more visibility on the first page of Google search results or in the top positions Campaigns, ad groups, keywords
3 Target cost per acquisition (CPA) automatically sets bids to help you get as many conversions as possible while reaching your average cost-per-acquisition goal.

Flexible version of Conversion Optimiser

When you want to get the most conversions with your target CPA Campaigns, ad groups
4 Enhanced cost per click (ECPC) automatically adjusts your manual bid up or down based on each click’s likelihood to result in a conversion.

Flexible version of Enhanced CPC

When conversions are the main objective, but you also want control over your keyword bids Campaigns, ad groups
5 Target return on ad spend (ROAS) automatically sets your bids to maximise your conversion value, while trying to reach an average return on ad spend.

New bid strategy

When you value conversions differently, and want to meet a target ROAS Campaigns, ad groups, keywords

Some advertisers may see different options in their campaigns' settings tabs. This is because different campaign types support different features. If you can't locate the options below, learn how you can switch campaign types to see those options.

1. Maximise clicks

How the maximise clicks strategy works

AdWords focuses on increasing clicks for any set of keywords, ad groups or campaigns while spending a target amount. If you don't specify a target spend amount, then AdWords will attempt to use the remaining daily budget of any campaigns using this bid strategy.

You can set up custom ad scheduling to show your ads on certain days or during specific times, and use the maximise clicks strategy to focus on increasing clicks during those days and times. Note that if you set bid adjustments based on day and time with campaigns using this strategy, those bid adjustments won't be applied to your bids.

Settings options

  • CPC bid limit: You can set a cap on bids for any keywords, ad groups or campaigns using this bid strategy. It lets you control the maximum amount that you're willing to pay for each click. If you don't enter a maximum CPC bid limit, AdWords adjusts your bids to whatever amount will earn you the most clicks.
     
  • Target spend: This is the amount that you're willing to spend each day on all of the keywords, ad groups and campaigns that use a specific bid strategy. AdWords will try to stay within your target spend, but may spend more, or less, depending on your remaining budget and fluctuations in click costs. It's distributed across any keywords, ad groups and campaigns that share the strategy, which could span multiple campaign daily budgets.

    If you don't enter a target spend amount, AdWords attempts to meet your bid automation goals while staying within your daily budget (or budgets, if you've applied your strategy to keywords, ad groups or campaigns using multiple budgets).

    Even if you set a target spend that's higher than your daily budget, your total spend for each campaign will be capped by its daily budget as usual (subject to standard overdelivery).

Example

Let's say that you have a £100 daily budget. You're using manual bidding to manage some of your keywords, but using the "Maximise clicks" bid strategy to manage the rest. If you don't set a target spend amount, AdWords will first spend whatever amount is required by your manually managed keywords. Then it will try to get as many clicks as possible while spending whatever is remaining from your £100 budget.

In other words, the amount of budget that's consumed by this bid strategy, whether you've set a certain target spend or not, always yields to any other bidding. Let's use the example of a £100 daily campaign budget again. Say you have a campaign that includes both manual bidding and a flexible bid strategy with a target spend of £50. If the manual bidding keywords would typically spend £80, the effective target spend will be limited to £20 (although you'll still see the target spend set at £50 in your account).

2. Target search page location

How target search page location works

AdWords automatically raises or lowers your bids to show your ad on the top of the page or the first page of Google search results. This bid strategy works with keywords, ad groups and campaigns targeting the Search Network only.

After you have first applied this strategy, it may take a few minutes before your bid is updated. Also, with this strategy, your bid will be updated several times a day to show your ads in your target location.

Bear in mind: The target search page location bid strategy doesn't guarantee placement on the first page, or ad position on the first page of search results. These estimates and the bid strategy will typically attempt to achieve your target location, but final placement is ultimately determined by the outcome of the ad auction, which is influenced by advertiser competition and Quality Score.

Search page location settings

There are two options depending on whether you want to show your ad on the top of the page or the first page of Google search results:

  • Top of the first search results page: Let AdWords automatically raise or lower bids to meet the top of the page bid estimate. The estimated top of the page bid amount approximates the cost-per-click (CPC) bid needed for your ad to reach the top of the page of Google search results when a search term exactly matches your keyword.
  • Anywhere on the first search results page: Let AdWords automatically raise or lower bids to meet the first page bid estimates. The estimated first page bid amount approximates the cost-per-click (CPC) bid needed for your ad to reach the first page of Google search results when a search term exactly matches your keyword.

Bid automation settings

  • Automatically raise and lower bids to match the estimated top of page bid or estimated first page bid. With this setting, there's no need to set bids manually.
  • Set bids myself, but automatically adjust bids so that they are at least as high as the estimated top of page bid or estimates first page bid. With this setting, you'll allow AdWords to automatically raise bids when they drop below the estimate.

Optional settings

  • Bid adjustment: Bid adjustment can help make your bid more competitive. Use it to increase or decrease your bid by a percentage of the top of the page or first page bids. There are other types of bid adjustments that allow you to increase or decrease bids for mobile devices, locations, ad scheduling and more. Learn more about setting these bid adjustments.
  • Max. CPC bid limit: You can set a cap on bids for any keywords, ad groups or campaigns using this bid strategy.

Advanced settings

  • Limited budgets: Choose whether to raise your bids if your campaign becomes "Limited by budget". Raising your bids in this situation may result in fewer clicks. Consider lowering your bids or increasing your budget instead. Lowering your bids could reduce the average amount that you pay when someone clicks your ads, with the potential for your budget to go further and get more clicks.
  • Low quality keywords: Choose whether or not to raise your bids on keywords with a Quality Score of less than 4. Raising your bids could cause you to pay more for keywords that need improvement. Learn more about ways to improve keyword quality.
3. Target CPA

How target CPA works

AdWords sets bids to achieve an average CPA equal to your target across all ad groups and campaigns using this strategy. Some conversions may cost more than your target and some may cost less, but altogether AdWords will try to keep your cost per conversion equal to the target CPA that you set. For example, if you choose a target CPA of £10, AdWords will automatically adjust your bids to try to get you as many conversions at £10 on average. To make your bids more effective, this strategy factors in real-time details such as device, browser, location and time of day to adjust your bids during each ad auction.

Keep in mind: This strategy sets bid adjustments to reach your target CPA, superseding other bid adjustments that you’ve set (except where you’ve set a mobile bid adjustment of -100%.)

Requirements for target CPA

Your ad groups or campaigns typically need to meet the following requirements before you can apply the Target CPA flexible bid strategy to them:

  • The ad group or campaign has received at least 15 conversions in the last 30 days. This conversion history enables the system to make accurate predictions about your future conversion rate. So, the more data we have, the more accurate we can be.
  • The ad group or campaign has received conversions at a similar rate for at least a few days.

Settings option

  • Target CPA: This is the average amount that you’d like to pay for a conversion. The target CPA that you set may influence the number of conversions that you get. Setting a target that is too low, for example, may cause you to forgo clicks that could result in conversions, resulting in fewer total conversions.

Advanced options

  • Max. bid limit: The highest max. CPC bid that you want AdWords to set for any keywords, ad groups or campaigns using target CPA.
  • Min. bid limit: The minimum max. CPC bid that you want AdWords to set for any keywords, ad groups or campaigns using target CPA. Note that the AdWords bidding algorithm might set a max. CPC bid that's below your minimum bid limit, generally due to smart pricing. This means that the bid limit that you set here isn't the absolute lowest bid that could be set.

Keep in mind that setting bid limits can restrict AdWords' automatic optimisation of your bids. While bid limits allow you to have more control over the max. CPC bids set, we recommend not setting them so that AdWords can adjust your bids to whatever amount will best meet your target CPA. If you do set bid limits, they'll be used in Search Network auctions only.

4. Enhanced CPC (ECPC)

How Enhanced CPC works

This strategy helps you bid more effectively to maximise conversions. It lets you set your own maximum cost-per-click bids (max. CPC bids) for each keyword while automatically adjusting bids depending on the likelihood that a click will result in a conversion.

With this bid strategy, you’ll still manually set max. CPC bids on your ad groups or keywords. With ECPC enabled, AdWords automatically raises this bid up to 30% or lowers it as much as 100% depending on how likely that click is to lead to a conversion. To make your bids more effective, this strategy factors in real-time details such as device, browser, location and time of day to adjust your bids during each ad auction.

5. Target return on ad spend (ROAS)

How target ROAS works

Using your reported conversion values, which you assign though Conversion Tracking, AdWords predicts future conversions and associated values. Then, AdWords will set maximum cost-per-click (max. CPC) bids to maximise your conversion value, while trying to achieve an average return on ad spend (ROAS) equal to your target.

Using target ROAS with different campaign types:

  • For campaigns that target the Search Network only or the Search and Display Networks, AdWords will try to achieve an average ROAS equal to your target across all keywords, ad groups and campaigns using this strategy.
  • For campaigns that target the Display Network only, AdWords will achieve an average ROAS equal to your target across all ad groups and campaigns using this strategy. Note that target ROAS can't be used for the "Display Network only – Mobile apps" campaign type.

Some conversions may return a higher ROAS and some may return a lower ROAS, but altogether AdWords will try to keep your conversion value per cost equal to the target ROAS that you set. For example, if you set a target ROAS of 500%, AdWords will automatically adjust your bids to try to maximise your conversion value, while reaching this target ROAS. To make your bids more effective, this strategy factors in real-time details such as device, browser, location and time of day to adjust your bids during each ad auction.

Requirements for target ROAS

  • You've assigned a value to the conversions that you're tracking. Read more about setting conversion values.
  • All ad groups or campaigns using target ROAS typically need at least 30 or more conversions in the last 30 days and at least 30 days of consistently reporting conversion values.
  • The keyword, ad group or campaign has received conversion values at a similar rate for at least a few days.

Keep in mind that this conversion history enables the system to make better predictions about your future conversion value. So, the more data we have, the more accurate we can be.

How to set your target ROAS

Your target ROAS is the average conversion value (for example, revenue) that you'd like to get for each pound that you spend on ads. Keep in mind that the target ROAS that you set may influence the conversion volume you get. For example, setting a target that's too high may limit the amount of traffic that your ads may get.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Try setting a target ROAS based on the historical conversion value per cost data for the keywords, ad groups or campaigns that you'd like to apply this strategy to. This will help you maximise your conversion value, while reaching the same return on ad spend your keywords, ad groups or campaigns have been getting.
  • To find your historical conversion value per cost data, you'll need to select "Customise columns" from the Columns drop-down and add the "Conv. value/cost" column from the list of "Performance" columns. Then, multiply your conversion value per cost metric by 100 to get your target ROAS per cent.

Example

Let's say you're measuring sales for your online women's shoe shop and you want to optimise your bids based on the value of a shopping basket total. Your goal is £5 worth of sales (this is your conversion value) for each £1 you spend on ads. You'd set a target ROAS of 500% – for every £1 you spend on ads, you'd like to get 5 times that in revenue.

Here's the maths:

£5 in sales ÷ £1 in ad spend x 100% = 500% target ROAS

Then, AdWords will automatically set your max. CPC bids to maximise your conversion value, while trying to reach your target ROAS of 500%.

Advanced options
  • Max. bid limit: The highest max. CPC bid that you want AdWords to set for any keywords, ad groups, or campaigns using target ROAS.
  • Min. bid limit: The minimum max. CPC bid that you want AdWords to set for any keywords, ad groups or campaigns using target ROAS. Note that the AdWords bidding algorithm might set a max. CPC bid that's below your minimum bid limit, generally due to smart pricing. This means that the bid limit you set here isn't the absolute lowest bid that could be set.

Keep in mind that setting bid limits can restrict AdWords' automatic optimisation of your bids. While bid limits allow you to have more control over the max. CPC bids set, we recommend not setting them so AdWords can adjust your bids to whatever amount will best meet your target ROAS. If you do set bid limits, they'll be used in Search Network auctions only.

Measure target ROAS performance

Here are a few tips to help you evaluate your target ROAS performance:

  • Review your target ROAS data several weeks after you start using this bid strategy. Make sure that you add the "Conv. value/cost" and "Total conversion value" columns to your statistics table and evaluate these metrics.
  • When first using target ROAS, segment your target ROAS data by day to evaluate your performance over time. Evaluating your performance by day rather than as a weekly average can give you a better idea of how your performance is improving as the system optimises its predictions about your future conversion value. To do so, select "Time > Day" from the Segment drop-down menu.
  • In the "Default Max. CPC" column on the Ad groups tab or the "Max. CPC" column on the Keywords tab, you can get more insight into the bids that are being set. If you're reviewing the "Default Max. CPC" column, note that for each keyword in this ad group that's using the default bid, AdWords tries to set bids to roughly average the bid shown. If you're reviewing the "Max. CPC" column, note that AdWords tries to set bids across auctions for this keyword to roughly average the bid shown. Use these bids to get an idea of the max. CPC bids that are helping you best meet your target ROAS. Note that these max. CPC bids aren't used for Display Network auctions and can't be edited.

Creating and managing flexible bid strategies

How to create, edit or delete a bid strategy in your Shared library
  1. Sign in to your AdWords account at https://adwords.google.co.uk.
  2. Click the Campaigns tab.
  3. Click Shared library in the left-hand sidebar.
  4. In the Bid strategies section, click View.
  5. Here are the actions that you can take:
    • To create a bid strategy, click the + Bid strategy button, and select a bid strategy type.
    • To edit a strategy, click the name of the strategy and go to its settings page.
    • To delete a strategy, select the checkbox next to its name, then click Delete. Note that you must first remove it from any keywords, ad groups or campaigns before you can delete it from the Shared library.
How to apply, change or remove a bid strategy

Here's how to apply, change or remove a flexible bid strategy in an existing campaign:

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account at https://adwords.google.co.uk.
  2. Click the Campaigns tab.
  3. Click the Settings tab for the campaign that you want to make changes to.
  4. In the "Bid strategy", section, click Edit.
  5. Here are the actions that you can take:
    • Apply or change bid strategy: To apply a bid strategy or change to a different one, click "Select a flexible bid strategy" and select the bid strategy that you want to use.
    • Remove bid strategy: To remove a bid strategy, you'll need to switch to another strategy (either a different flexible bid strategy or one that isn't flexible). That's because your campaign needs to have a bid strategy.
  6. Click Save.

Here's how to apply, change or remove a bid strategy for multiple campaigns, ad groups or keywords:

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account at https://adwords.google.co.uk.
  2. Click the Campaigns tab.
  3. Click All online campaigns in the left-hand sidebar, or click the Ad groups or Keywords tabs.
  4. Select the row that's using the strategy that you'd like to change or remove.
  5. Click Bid strategy drop-down menu and select a strategy.

If you want to apply, change or remove a bid strategy for a campaign that contains ad groups or keywords using manual CPC bidding, first you'll need to reset those ad groups or keywords to the setting "Use default bid strategy" before changing the bid strategy at the campaign-level. The same steps apply for ad groups that contain keywords using manual CPC bidding.

Here's how:

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account at https://adwords.google.co.uk.
  2. Click the Campaigns tab.
  3. Click the Ad groups tab or Keywords tab.
  4. Select the row that's using the strategy thyou'd like to change or remove.
  5. Click the Bid strategy drop-down menu and select "Use default bid strategy".
  6. Click the Settings tab for the campaign that's using the strategy that you'd like to change or remove.
  7. In the "Bid strategy", section, click Edit.
  8. Here are the actions that you can take:
    • Apply or change bid strategy: To apply a bid strategy or change to a different one, click "Select a flexible bid strategy" and select the bid strategy that you want to use.
    • Remove bid strategy: To remove a bid strategy, you'll need to switch to another strategy (either a different flexible bid strategy or one that isn't flexible). That's because your campaign needs to have a bid strategy.
  9. Click Save.

Note

  • When running a campaign experiment, you won’t be able to apply a flexible bid strategy to the campaign or its keywords and ad groups unless you first disable the experiment.
  • When you download an account in AdWords Editor, the flexible bid strategies for the account are available for you to apply to the campaigns, ad groups and keywords in the account. Learn more
About removing or deleting a flexible bid strategy

When you remove a bid strategy from your ad group or keyword, it is stored in your Shared library and available for use elsewhere. If you remove a flexible bid strategy without applying a new one, AdWords will use the default strategy instead, which can come from the ad group or the campaign. For example, if you remove the bid strategy from your keywords, AdWords will use the ad group's strategy. If no ad group strategy has been applied, the campaign-level strategy will be used. Remember, campaign bid strategies can't be removed; you must switch to another strategy instead.

If you no longer want to use a bid strategy, you can delete it from your Shared library as long as it's not currently in use by any keywords, ad groups or campaigns. If it's in use, you must remove it from any keywords or ad groups first before you can delete it. After deletion, you won't be able to apply the strategy anywhere else, or view reporting for it.

Tip

You may need to add the "Bid strategy" and "Bid strategy type" columns in order to view bid strategy details in your statistics tables. Learn how to add columns.