27 Sep

Look Before You Leap: Google Ads Automated Bidding Recommendations

Google Ads automated bidding can be a good strategy, but only if you’re already meeting the minimum conversion threshold. Here’s how to check.

Google is a brand we love and trust. We ‘Google’ our questions or problems and count on it to offer the best solutions.

When you use Google Ads, Google will offer recommendations to help improve your advertising performance. These suggestions can range from new keywords to Google Ads automated bidding, such as Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), or Maximize Conversions. For campaigns boasting a high conversion, automated bidding can be an effective strategy. But if your conversions are below minimum thresholds, applying these suggestions can do more harm than good.

How Google Ads Automated Bidding Works

Automated bidding relies on campaign history—particularly conversion history—to make bids that will attract more conversions. To do this, there needs to be a significant amount of historical data in your campaign before automated bidding can be effective.

Just how much historical data is enough for automated bidding to be effective? The answer is pretty vague. Google Ads’ documentation says 15 conversions in 30 days is the minimum, but others indicate it should be way higher.

‘But Google Recommended It!’

A couple of months ago, I audited a small business’ Google Ads account after they had implemented Target CPA bidding. The business owner told me he did this because “Google recommended it.” They had 12 conversions in 30 days (3 less than Google’s recommended minimum) when Target CPA was implemented.

For this client, Target CPA was an unmitigated disaster. Here’s why:

  • Impressions declined more than 50%
  • Clicks declined
  • Conversions became non-existent

Why did this happen? Because Google’s automated algorithms had not accumulated enough conversion history to know when to bid. To be effective, automated bidding needs to learn the characteristics of a conversion for your business. In other words, there needs to be enough successful bids in the historical data for the algorithms to know when to bid. The fewer conversions you have, the longer it takes to build sufficient historical data.

After four weeks of poor performance, my client reverted back to manual bidding, with some bid adjustments for mobile devices and days of the week. After several weeks, the customer’s account returned to normal, and eventually conversions rose above 25 in 30 days. They never returned to Target CPA bidding.

Just Because Google Recommends Automated Bidding Doesn’t Mean You Should do It

Google Ads frequently recommends automated bidding, despite insufficient conversion history. The answer to why it does this is anyone’s guess. A cynical approach might suggest that Google is trying to dupe us into automated bidding. I doubt that, because for those with a low conversion rate, impressions and clicks decline when automated bidding is implemented, and Google only gets paid when there’s a click.

What To Do When You See Automated Bidding Recommendations

So, what if you’re managing your own Google Ads account, and Google recommends ‘Use Maximize Conversions Bidding’ or ‘Enable Target CPA Bidding’? There are a couple of things you can do to make sure these recommendations will work in your favour:

  1. Read the documentation about the suggested bidding and decide if it’s right for you.
  2. Check your campaign history. Specifically, see if you have at least 15 conversions in 30 days. Ideally, you should have way more than that!

Many of Google’s recommendations are useful. But when it comes to automated bidding, it’s best to check first. Make sure you have more than 15 (ideally 30 or more) conversions over 30 days before clicking that ‘apply’ button.


17 Apr

How to Plan For Google Analytics Events

Google Tag Manager Logo courtesy of DMR dot org

In a previous post, (The Clicks Google Analytics Does Not Report) we introduced Google Analytics events. Events happen when there is a website click that does not change the page; for example clicking a video, a link to another website, a file download, or even a button.

Event Requirements

Each, event must have a category and an action, and there’s an option to add a label.

Planning Website Events with Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics

Let’s look at ways you can ‘plan’ your website events, and provide your website developer clear instructions so that click data is transferred to Google Analytics in a way you will understand.

What to Track as an Event

Here are some events I always track:

  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Form completions
  • Email subscriptions
  • Purchases (ecommerce)
  • Video starts

Some or all of the items listed above may apply to you. Just remember, when it comes to event tracking, the possibilities are endless. But that doesn’t mean you have to track inconsequential things like a file download.

Once you’ve identified everything you want to track, the next step is to decide how you want each event to appear in Google Analytics. Each item must have a category and action, so it’s important to name them in such a way that you will know what they mean when you see them in your Google Analytics reports.

Here’s an example. There are three ways people can contact us through a website: Completing a contact form, clicking on a phone number, or clicking the email address. For all three, the category is contact.

Event Appearance in Google Analytics Reports

Google Analytics reports Categories, Actions and Labels in the “Behaviour” reports on the left navigation:

Behavior > Events > Top Events

This allows for grouping when doing analysis; for example, tracking when people contact you via the phone, completing a form, or email. A click on any of these three items has the category ‘contact.’  

Naming Convention Matters

The naming convention used for Category, Action, and Label is important because that impacts how information appears in your Google Analytics Reports. The reports need to be easily understood by anyone looking at them. There should be no guesswork involved.

The table below is an example of tag naming convention: 

Table 1 Google Analytics Event Naming Convention

Item Number

Item to Track

Location on the website





Email subscription form submission

Contact Us Page





Email Clicks (user clicks on an email)

Across website



{send to email address}


Phone Number Clicks

Header and Contact page



Phone number clicked


File downloads

Across website


File type

File Name


Outbound  Links

Across website





Linked In Icon


Social Media

Linked In



Video starts

Across website



Title & Link

Role of Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is a free product that collects click data (category, action and label) on your website and sends it to Google Analytics.

In Google Tag Manager, you will set your event naming as identified in the table above. However, although Google presents GTM as “easy to use,” it’s not always so. In short, that some HTML and Java Script knowledge is required, which is why I often recommend working with a website developer to make your tags are correctly configured in Google Tag Manager. 

Working with Your Website Developer

You should be able to give your website developer a table similar to the one in this post. From there, they should be able to create the tags in a few hours if they have worked with Google Tag Manager before. If they have not, it may take them a bit longer, but for technical people I’ve heard it’s pretty easy.

Find Your Event Data

Your event data will be in Google Analytics under Behavior > Events.

Now it’s your turn. Let me know how your event tagging goes for your website.

03 Apr

Segmented Google Analytics Audiences: Your Pandora’s Box to Remarketing

What are your customers doing on your website the first time they visit? Are they looking at specific pages? Putting items into a cart, but not following through with the purchase? Maybe they’re reading your Contact page, but not getting in touch.

That’s ok. Most website visitors don’t become customers right out of the ‘Pandora’s Box,’ so to speak. To convert their interest into a sale, they will need to return to your site.

Remarketing is a very effective and inexpensive way to remind them to return to your site through Google Adwords. But targeting every visitor who lands on any page on your site may not be the most effective way to increase sales.

A better use of your advertising dollars is to set up Segmented Audiences. By targeting only visitors who meet a certain criteria, you are increasing the chances they’ll return and ultimately become a customer.

The more you segment your audiences in Google Analytics, the more targeted your advertising can be. When it comes to remarketing, Google Analytics provides plenty of audience creation options.

Audiences are created using the Audience Builder in your Google Analytics. Navigate from Admin (lower left side navigation panel) > Property > Audience Definitions.

The first audience is always ‘All Users.’ If your All User audience is not set up, follow these instructions.  

Once you have your ‘All Users’ audience, go to the ‘Audiences’ home page.

Opening Pandora’s Box of Remarketing

There are multiple combinations of audiences you can choose from. The more targeted your audience, the more precise your remarketing campaign will be.

Google Analytics’ ‘Audience Builder’ lets you go deep with segmentation. Let’s take a look at some remarketing audiences you can choose from:

Custom Audience Targeting

If you don’t like any of the standard choices below, you can always just build a custom audience to suit your needs by using the ‘Conditions’ on the Audience Builder home page. You will be amazed at the options available.

I have built many custom audiences to remarket to visitors who:

  • Abandoned their shopping cart;
  • Abandoned the Contact Us page without completing the form; or
  • Visited a group of product or service pages.


This is a powerful audience option because it’s based on what people actually did on your website.

You can target website visitors by:

  • Number of sessions – Visitors coming to your site a lot are likely considering a purchase, but something is ‘holding them back.’ This is the perfect time to give them an offer they can’t refuse.
  • Session Duration (per user or per session) — An indication of website engagement. The longer they are on your site, the more engaged they are with your brand.

Date of First Session

This targets people who visited your website during a specific time period (holiday period, special promotion period, etc.).  Simply select your desired start and end dates.

Traffic Sources

Traffic sources are based on Campaign, Medium, Source or Keyword (taken from UTM Parameters) from previous marketing programs.

Using these traffic sources allows you to retarget people who have visited your website from other campaigns run in the past.

Technology-Based Audiences

This is a great option if you need to reach website visitors who have visited your website with specific technology types. As you can see, it gets quite detailed, from operating systems to browsers (even browser versions), screen resolutions, mobile device brand, and a lot more.

Demographic Audience Targeting

Despite being, well… boring, demographics are a staple in many advertising programs. This audience builder lets you pick through your standard demographic criteria:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Location (city, province / state, city)

The remaining criteria pull their designations for Google AdWords.

Just Remember: Minimum Audience Size for Google Remarketing

Google likes big audiences. It takes a minimum of 100 users over 30 days to make presenting ads economical for you and them. So as you set up your remarketing audiences, check to see how many of your website users meet your criteria).  If it’s too small, don’t bother.

20 Mar

Keyword Strategies for Attracting Buyers at Different Buying Stages

With all the options and information available online nowadays, few people purchase a product or service immediately after finding it. Instead, they will go through several Buying Stages: Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, and Ready to Buy.

Each of these buying stages results in a different ‘Moment of Search,’ which is the moment when someone Googles their problem. 

Read More

06 Mar

A Fine Balance: Google’s Remarketing Rules

Remarketing can be a powerful incentive to get web users to return to your website or Facebook page after they have visited. Often times, a return visit results in a sale or contact. It’s pretty exciting tool.


But at the risk of being a ‘killjoy’, Google has certain governing rules that need to be followed, or your ads may not show at all. Being aware of these rules before you embark on your remarketing campaign can save you time and money.

Remarketing Governing Rules for All Businesses

There are two main rules governing AdWords: Audience Size and Protecting Privacy:

Audience Size

When you create an audience in Google Analytics, <link to Audience Creation> it must have a minimum of 100 active users in the last 30 days. When you create your audience, Analytics will tell you your audience size.

If you are making a Remarketing List Search Ad (RLSA) campaign, you must have a minimum of 1,000 active users in the last 30 days.

Learn more about audience lists, size, membership, etc.

Your Policy on Audience Privacy

Remarketing ‘follows’ people around the web, and that raises obvious privacy issues that Google takes seriously. If you don’t have a privacy policy, it’s a good idea to create one. Web users are more apt to trust sites that are clear about their data use.

In terms of setting your remarketing privacy policy, yours should basically inform people you are using cookies for Google’s (and other platforms) marketing. Some of the details about this can be found on the ‘Policy requirements for Google Analytics Advertising Features’ page. 

Check Before You Build

If you want to avoid having Google stop showing your ads and start sending you warning letters, review the governing rules before you begin your remarketing campaign.

A Case Study in Google’s Remarketing Rules—Personally Identifiable Information

Here’s a policy I wish I had understood before I created the campaign for a client:

MyLiberty.life is an ecommerce business selling incontinence products (diapers, pads, etc.) across Canada. We set up a remarketing audience to get people back on the website after their initial visit, just like I had done for other clients. 

However, when MyLiberty’s ads were not being seen by anyone (we had zero impressions), I knew Google was not showing the ads at all and investigated why.

Personally Identifiable Information is a No–No!

It turns out, Google placed MyLiberty Life’s products in the health category, and clicks on remarketing ads may reveal personally identifiable information, or PII (incontinence, special needs children, etc.) about the person clicking. Essentially, ‘when using certain personalized advertising features, additional requirements apply.’ 

There are several product categories that Google considers revealing PII, including alcohol, gambling, restricted drugs, health, and more. While remarketing is a no-no with these products, you can still actively advertise them on Google.

Look before you create

If you think your product falls into Google’s PII category, check before your start creating remarketing campaigns.

06 Feb

Getting Started with Google Remarketing Audiences

How to Set-up Your First Audience

Buyers rarely make a purchase the first time they visit a website, so getting them to return to yours is crucial to making the sale. Remarketing is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to do this.


To get started with your remarketing campaign <link to long theme article>, you will need:

  • Google Analytics, to identify who will see your ads; and
  • A Google AdWords account.

Some Rules / Caveats of Google Remarketing (Check these Before you Start)

  • Google requires an audience of at least 100 users over a 30-day period.
  • Your Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts must be linked together so Analytics can pass the audience members to AdWords.

Now, let’s begin by setting up your first Google Analytics remarketing audience. 

Google Analytics Remarketing Audience Setup

By default, Google will display your audience to be ‘all users’ who visit your website. However, you do not have to enable this audience.

All Users Audience

  1. Log into your Google Analytics account.
  2. On the ‘Home’ page, follow the left navigation panel to the bottom and select ‘Admin’ (it will have a gear wheel icon next to it).
  3. In the middle column (Property), select ‘Audience Definitions.’

4.  From the Audience Definition drop down, select ‘Audiences.’

5.  Create your first audience’ screen will open.

By default, Google will create your first audience and name it ‘All Users.’ It’s an audience that captures every user that lands on any page of your website.

6.  Open the dropdown menu under ‘Audience Destinations.’ If your Google AdWords account is linked to your Google Analytics account, you will see your AdWords account listed. Select it, and click ‘Enable.’

To ensure your audience was successfully created, select ‘Audience’ on the Admin main page.

Now you’re ready to set up your remarketing campaign in your Google AdWords account.

23 Jan

Remarketing Ads: More than just a pretty ‘Facebook’

Remarketing is an effective way to get people back to your website for a second look and make the sale. While Google’s Display Network offers two million plus websites to show your ads, Facebook offers access to just over 2 billion (you read that correctly, billion) users.

The Value of Facebook Remarketing

The fact is, people don’t just hang out on Google and Google advertising sites. Facebook

Read More

16 Jan

Choosing The Right Google Remarketing Campaign For Your Business

Most people don’t make a purchase or fill out a contact form on their first visit to your website. They may need to return a few times before making that kind of commitment.


To get them back to your site after they have visited, you need a strategy. Remarketing is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to do this.

Remarketing with Google comes in a couple of flavours:

  • Advertise on the Display Network
  • Remarketing List Search Ads (RLSA)

Read More