Understanding bidding basics

Google Ads gives you several ways to bid for your ads, depending on what matters most to you and your business. Most advertisers focus on clicks, impressions, conversions, or views (for video ads).

Now that you're advertising on Google Ads, you probably have a clear goal in mind for your ads. If you sell coffee, maybe you want to get more people to visit your shop. If you run a hiking club, maybe you're aiming to get more people to sign up for your newsletter. And so on.

Knowing what you want your ads to do will help you decide how to bid.


Google Ads runs an auction every single time it has an ad space available -- on a search result, or on a blog, news site, or some other page. Each auction decides which ads will show at that moment in that space. Your bid puts you in the auction.

You can focus on different things when you bid: clicks, impressions, conversions, views, or engagements, depending on your campaign type. Which would you choose? Let's look at these more closely.

Focus on clicks (for Search and Display ads)

If your main goal is to have people visit your website, then clicks are a good place to start. Using cost-per-click (CPC) bidding, you'll pay only when someone actually clicks on your ad and comes to your site.


If you run a hiking club in Vermont, you might want to bid a lot for direct-hit keywords like "Vermont hiking" and a different amount for broader keywords like "hiking maps."

Focus on impressions

If your campaign is targeting just the Search Network and your main goal is to increase your brand visibility, consider using Target Impression Share. With this bidding strategy, Google Ads will automatically set your bids to help achieve your Impression Share goal. For example, if you choose an Impression Share target of 65% on the absolute top of the page, Google Ads will automatically set your bids to help show your ads on the absolute top of the page 65% of the total possible amount of times they could show.

If your campaign is targeting just the Display Network, instead of paying by the click, you can pay by the number of times your ad is visibly shown. That's called cost-per-thousand viewable impressions (vCPM) bidding, since you pay for every 1,000 times your ad appears and is viewable. If you're mostly interested in getting your name or logo in front of lots of people, this is a smart option. Learn how ads are measured as viewable.

Viewable CPM bidding, like CPC manual bidding, lets you set bids at the ad group level, or for individual placements.

Focus on conversions (for Search and Display ads)

With this advanced bidding method, you tell Google Ads the amount you're willing to pay for a conversion, or cost per action (CPA). A conversion (sometimes called an acquisition) is a particular action you want to happen on your website. Often that's a sale, but it could be an email sign-up or some other action. You pay for each engaged view and click on Display ads, but Google Ads will automatically set your bids for you to try to get you as many conversions as possible at the cost per action you specified.

To use CPA bidding you must have conversion tracking turned on, among other things, so CPA bidding is suited for intermediate and advanced Google Ads users.

Focus on views (for video ads only)

If your main goal is to evaluate how engaged viewers are with your video content, where they choose to watch your videos, and when they drop off from watching your content, you'll use cost-per-view (CPV) bidding. With CPV bidding, you'll pay for video views and other video interactions, such as clicks on the calls-to-action overlay (CTAs), cards, and companion banners.

To set a CPV bid, you enter the highest price you want to pay for a view while setting up your TrueView video campaign. Your bid is called your maximum CPV bid, or simply "max CPV." This bid applies at the campaign level, but you can also set a CPV bid per ad format.

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