Mastering Bid Management: Top 5 Tips and Tricks to Save Your PPC Campaigns
Bid management is one of the trickier parts of PPC management, and one that search marketers often automate using their PPC software of choice. When you have dozens of campaigns running at once, the time commitment can seem like too much to handle. However, while it might be tempting to just leave bid management to the vagaries of the PPC market, investing a little time into your bidding strategy will increase the effectiveness of your PPC campaigns in the long run. Here are some key tips and tricks we use ourselves that can help you master your bid management techniques and improve your campaign performance.
Key Factors in Effective Bid Management
Bid management might be tedious, but it requires a certain measure of analytical thinking if you want to get the most out of your cost-per-click, which is why you can’t just set it and forget it. Part of that is targeting the right keywords based on what brings traffic to your business via the usual search engines, and then using that information to determine exactly what you want to accomplish with your PPC campaign strategy. One of our contributors, Ben Plomion of Chango, offered his opinion from a retargeting perspective:
Keyword data comes in multiple forms. The two primary sources of data are keywords from search engines but also keywords consumers search for on a given publisher’s site (e.g. Comparison shopping site search box). The source of data can determine how keywords can be optimized for a given campaign.
In order to improve PPC campaign performance, studying the keyword data from your site is important to ensuring that you’re bidding properly on the right keywords. At Business-Software.com, we run dozens of PPC campaigns based on thousands of keywords; so while it does take a while to sift through the data, we have to make the time in order to ensure that our campaigns are optimized.
Establishing rules-based bidding and monitoring your bid rules carefully is part of that optimization process. For example, if a certain keyword is costing us over $60 and isn’t performing well, i.e. has zero conversions, then we lower the bid or pause the ad while we determine what the best approach is. In the end, it may just be that this particular keyword isn’t helpful to our campaign, and we have to remove it.
Using Bid Management Automation — Do You Really Need It?
The answer is yes and no. Bid management automation is great for zeroing in on the best position for your ads, as well as optimizing and controlling your cost-per-conversion. However, your bidding strategy still needs human monitoring to ensure that the rules you’ve established still continue to be effective, as I mentioned earlier. With that said, you also need to give your campaigns some breathing room in order to gather enough data to make informed decisions about bids. We generally give ads and ad groups about a week or two to run, then we look at the data for that past week to determine how well they’re performing.
Staying within your budget is also important with bid automation, and it can be deceptively difficult. You’ll be tempted to pay just a little more to get a higher position, and Google’s Bid Estimator in particular will try to convince you to spend more money on a badly performing ad; but as long as your position stays within the top three or four, there’s no reason to increase the bid. This is also where your bid rules come in—if you have an ad that’s seeing a good number of conversions, the cost is relatively low, but the position is also low, then that’s when you want to increase the spend in order to get a better position. If you’re already within the top three positions, then spending more will probably just be a waste of money.
Finally, you have to continually test new and different strategies for your bid management. Something that worked a month ago won’t necessarily have the same impact now because the conditions under which online advertising works changes on a daily basis. Maybe there was an article or blog post that saw an unusual amount of traffic, and your ad just so happened to be served during that period, thus the bump in impressions and conversions that you saw with that particular ad or ad group. Those conditions won’t hold forever, though, so constantly experimenting with your bids is always going to be a high priority in improving PPC campaigns.
Your Bid Management Checklist
To recap, here are the top five things to remember when optimizing your bid management strategies:
- Know What You Want to Achieve – The only way you can create an effective bid management strategy is to have clear goals that you want to achieve. A directionless campaign will never succeed.
- Monitor Your Rules Carefully – Automation is great, but it’s no substitute for human analytical thinking. You need to stay on top of your bid management rules and monitor whether they’re still performing well.
- Give Your Bids Some Breathing Room – While you do need to monitor your bidding rules, that doesn’t mean you have to tweak them on a constant basis. Give your campaigns some time to develop so that you have more data with which to modify your bidding strategy.
- Stay Within Your Budget – It seems to go without saying, but the temptation to bid higher in order to get that top spot will only lower the overall effectiveness of your campaigns; on top of which, sometimes the number one position isn’t necessarily the best position for your ads.
- Always Keep Testing – There will never be a campaign that performs perfectly forever. Constantly experimenting ensures that you not only eliminate what doesn’t work, but also that you uncover what does work.
Need more help with your bid management efforts? Then take a look at our Top 5 PPC Software to Improve Your PPC Campaign Performance, most of which were also singled out by Forrester’s Best Bid Management Providers of Q4 2012.