About Target CPA bidding

Our guided troubleshooter can help you identify, explain, and address potential causes of unexpected fluctuations in your Performance Max campaign spending.

Note: Starting July, you’ll find optional target fields in Search campaigns for new Maximize conversions or Maximize conversion value bid strategies. Be aware that for Video Action campaigns, these are 2 different bidding strategies. With an optional target, Smart Bidding will optimize to these goals the same way it would for Target CPA (cost per action) and Target ROAS (return on ad spend). Maximize conversions with a set target CPA will behave like a Target CPA strategy does today, and similarly, Maximize conversion value with a set target ROAS will behave like a Target ROAS strategy does today. Note, Hotel campaigns only supports Maximize conversion value with a mandatory target ROAS.

Learn more about Changes to how Smart Bidding strategies are organized.

Target CPA bidding is an automated bid strategy that sets bids for you to get as many conversions or customer actions as possible. When you select the Target CPA (cost-per-action) bid strategy, you set your desired average cost per conversion. Google Ads uses your Target CPA to set a bid based on the likelihood of the ad to convert.

Note: For App campaigns, Target CPA is the same value whether the conversion is for installing the app (cost per install) or for using the app (cost per in-app action).

Target CPA is available as either a standard strategy that is applied to a single campaign or as a portfolio strategy that can apply to multiple campaigns. Learn more About automated bidding.

This article explains how Target CPA bidding works and what its settings are.

Before you begin

How it works

Target CPA bidding automatically finds an optimal bid for your ad each time it's eligible to appear by using historical information about your campaign and evaluating the contextual signals that are present at Google Ads auction-time.

Some conversions may cost more than your target and some may cost less, but altogether, Google Ads will try to keep your cost per conversion equal to the target CPA you set. These changes in CPA take place because your actual CPA depends on factors outside Google's control, like changes to your website or ads or increased competition in ad auctions. Additionally, your actual conversion rate can be lower or higher than the predicted conversion rate.

For example, if you choose a target CPA of $10 USD, Google Ads will automatically set your bids to try to get you as many conversions at $10 USD on average. To help improve your performance in every ad auction, this strategy adjusts bids using real-time signals like device, browser, location, time of day, remarketing list, and more.

Use the Target CPA bid strategy

You can select the Target CPA bid strategy for a single campaign, which is standard strategy, multiple campaigns, or portfolio bid strategy, through any of these ways:

  • Use it with a new campaign
  • Shift to this strategy from campaign settings
  • Select it through the Shared library “Bid strategies”

Explanations for Target CPA performance

Explanations give you insights into large changes in your Google Ads account performance. If you find a significant fluctuation in performance for a Search campaign or ad group using target CPA strategy, explanations help you quickly find out why it happened.


Target CPA (or cost per install or cost per in-app action for App campaigns)

This is the average amount you’d like to pay for a conversion. The target CPA you set may influence the number of conversions 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.

If your campaign has historical conversion data, Google Ads will recommend a target CPA. This recommendation is calculated based on your actual CPA performance over the last few weeks. The calculation also accounts for traffic so average targets may vary slightly based on the traffic in the places where your ads show.

When formulating a recommended target CPA, we’ll exclude performance from the last few days to account for conversions that may take more than a day to complete following an ad interaction (conversion delay). You can choose whether to use this recommended target CPA or to set your own.

Tip: Choose which conversions to bid for

The Include in "Conversions" setting lets you decide whether or not to include individual conversion actions in your "Conversions" and "Conversion value" reporting columns. The data in these columns are used by bid strategies like Target CPA, Target ROAS, and ECPC, so your bid strategy will only optimize based on the conversions that you've chosen to include. Learn more About account-default conversion goals.

Cross-device conversions from Display Network, Video, Search, and Shopping campaigns are included by default. This isn't applicable for Hotel campaigns.

Average target CPA

Your average target CPA, is the traffic-weighted average CPA that your bid strategy optimized for. It includes the average of your device bid adjustments, ad group target CPAs, and any changes you’ve made to your target CPA over time. Because of these variables, your average target CPA may be different from the target CPA that you set. When evaluating bid strategy performance, you should compare your CPA achieved with the strategy’s average target CPA because the average target CPA more accurately reflects what Smart Bidding is optimizing towards. It's recommended to monitor your campaign performance and average target over time.

Bid limits

Setting bid limits for your Target CPA bid strategy isn’t recommended, because it can restrict Google Ads’ automatic optimization of your bid. It can also prevent Google Ads from adjusting your bids to the amount that best meets your target CPA. If you do set bid limits, they’ll be used in Search Network auctions only. Bid limits are only available for portfolio, not standard, Target CPA bid strategies.

  • Max. bid limit: The highest CPC bid that you want Google Ads to set when using Target CPA bidding.
  • Min. bid limit: The minimum CPC bid that you want Google Ads to set when using Target CPA bidding. Note that the Google Ads 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.

Device bid adjustments

Device bid adjustments for Target CPA allow you to prioritize conversions by device. You can set adjustments for desktop, tablet, and mobile.

Unlike bid adjustments for manual CPC, your bid adjustments for Target CPA modify the value of your CPA target, rather than the bids themselves. For best performance, you may want to remove your manual CPC bid adjustments when switching to Target CPA.

If your target CPA is $10 USD, setting a bid adjustment of +40% for mobile will increase your target CPA to $14 USD on mobile devices. To prevent your ads from showing on any mobile devices, you can set a mobile bid adjustment of -100%.

Note: Non-device bid adjustments are ignored on the Search and Display Network.

Pay for conversions (Display network only)

With Display campaigns, you can choose to pay for conversions instead of paying per click or engaged view. When setting up your campaign, go to the “Bidding” section. Look for the header labeled “Pay for” and select Conversions from the dropdown menu. Learn how to Use pay for conversions in Display campaigns.

Where you’ll find these metrics

The average target CPA metric lets you measure the CPA that your bid strategy targeted for specific time periods. By changing the date range, you can learn what your strategy actually optimized for over that period. Keep in mind, you won’t have an average target CPA for time periods without traffic.

You’ll find the average target CPA metric in the performance table at the top of your “Campaigns” page, so that you can evaluate actual performance against target performance. Select “Avg. target CPA”, “Avg. target cost per install”, or “Avg. target cost per in-app action” from the “Performance” category when adding a new column, or by adding it to the performance chart.

You can also find this metric in your bid strategy report beside your “Actual CPA”, which represents the actual CPA that this strategy was able to achieve. Learn how to Find your bid strategy reports.

Average target CPA is available for both standard and portfolio bid strategies.

Note: To view the average target cost per install and the average target cost per in-app action metrics, select a date range from June 5, 2020, and beyond. The setting is applicable only for App campaigns.

Related links

Was this helpful?

How can we improve it?
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu