Look Before You Leap: Google Ads Automated Bidding Recommendations

Look Before You Leap: Google Ads Automated Bidding Recommendations

By David Bird

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.