I spend a vast amount of my time working in the company of my laptop and one very irritating cat. The other parts of my week are me with my four-year-old, where the conversation mostly centres around diggers and dumpers. I generally tend to crave adult company where we can talk about grown-up things like ROI, KPIs and where the best wine bars are. This is the main reason why I go to the Google Breakfast Briefings and I get the added bonus of learning something. Since there hadn’t been one for two months and those included Christmas and the shortest most confining days of the year, I was rearing to get out of the house for any good reason.
Adult company, big words and acronyms aside, I was really glad that I went to this briefing, it was a good kick start to some of my clients planning as this was all focused around Google Ads and Smart Bidding. Tom Gillespie (with his amazingly well-ironed shirt, yes I noticed this), took the time to walk us through the still relatively new Smart Bidding options in Google Adwords.
The Customer Journey is Changing
Tom reminds us that the customer journey has really changed in the past few years. When a customer was buying before there journey would be quite short. They would search, maybe do some research then make a decision on where to buy. However, the simple straight forward sales funnel (online) is pretty much dead. With the natural growth and development of the internet, the customer journey now includes touch points with ads, websites, videos, social media and many other possibilities before the sale. This convoluted and complicated customer journey has made manual bidding on ads a cumbersome and difficult process, however, Tom and his shirt were here to break it all down for us and give us some key takeaways.
Tom reminded me of why Google has always been my preferred area of focus when it comes to marketing. There are a number of reasons that efforts directed towards Google matter the most, but the main one is, intent.
When a person is watching cat videos on YouTube, reading their emails or scrolling through Facebook, they are in a more passive phase (with the complicated exception of remarketing). However, when they are searching on Google for a specific thing, then they have an active intent. They have a problem in mind that they are looking to solve and the closer they get to solving their problem the more specific their search and the results, this means that they are getting closer to buying.
This is where Google Ads comes in, however with more content, ads and noise out there, it’s getting increasingly difficult to reach our customers through these digital lines.
Google’s aim is to continually improve advertising so that the searcher gets the best and most accurate results and the closest match to what they need. AI is playing an increasingly bigger part in this, and this has been introduced to Google Ads in the form of Smart Bidding.
Why is Smart Bidding Such a Big Deal Then?
Smart bidding helps everyone benefits, you the advertiser, the searcher and Google. Smart bidding uses Google’s extensive knowledge from all it’s search platforms and information to ‘understand’ the searchers intent and bids your ads according to the best likely match of a conversion. The searcher gets a better and more accurate ad and is more likely to click, you get better-qualified leads that are more likely to buy and Google makes more money on clicks as the ads are now more accurate and returning better results.
Tom pointed out all the touch points for googles data collection. Google uses Gmail, Google Search, Play, YouTube, Chrome, Android and Maps to gather the information for smart bidding. What makes this so powerful is, all of these platforms are used in very different ways for searching, so Google Ads has a unique understanding of how we search and the subtle psychological changes of intent that come with it. Google Ads uses the full queries, not individual keywords that are used in manual bidding, this means that words that change the meaning and context of the search matter. It also reacts in real time, intelligently adjusting to the search environment, so as the searches change and evolve it can apply these learnings to where you need to be placed to benefit from the search.
There is a (Google Ads) Tool For Every Job
Tom took the time to advise us on selecting the right ads for the goal that you wish to achieve with smart bidding. Like anything, you needed to select the right ‘tool’ for the job. This is the same for Ads, you need to select the right type of conversion strategy that suits your goal, budget and needs.
Smart bidding strategies must align with your marketing goals, all of these are conversion based strategies.
- Maximize Conversions – drive as many conversions as possible within your allocated budget. This is great for small businesses, start-ups, tight budgets and short fast campaigns. You do not need a conversion history, but you do need to have tracking conversions enabled. This will look to spend all of your daily budgets, so make sure you are happy with your budgets and they are within what you can afford to do.
- Target CPA (cost per acquisition) – Driving as many leads as possible within budget. This is popular with E-commerce sites and lead generation businesses. For this, you really need to know how much a customer is worth to you and your business. Make sure you have calculated your Customer Lifetime Value and know this inside out (CLV).
- Target ROAS (return on ad spend) – Best conversion value to get most out of your ad spend, again you need to have a solid Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) worked out, as this will determine what your ads click cost should be. Just remember you need to have at least 15 conversions in 30 days for this to be an available option to you.
The main thing to understand with Smart Bidding is powered by machine learning. This means that there is an algorithm that needs to be ‘trained’. When it is in the ‘learning period’ the algorithm is learning how best your ad works in the search environment and will become increasingly accurate in how and when your ad is best delivered to the user that is most likely to convert.
As you can see, Smart Bidding is not like traditional manual bidding ads where your results are static and what you see is what you get. Bearing all this in mind Tom gave us a number of really sensible tips to help you succeed with Smart Bidding.
- Don’t set a too aggressive target for your ads. We can’t ask too much in its infancy as it needs to learn and develop. Give your ad and the algorithm a chance to get through the learning period as easily as possible.
- Don’t over analyse the performance when it’s still learning. The learning period should be viewed as a control period, the performance will fluctuate from good to bad in the early days as it learns what is working and what is not.
- Make sure you are using the right ads for the task, if you’re using a bad match for the outcome you need, you will find yourself looking at the wrong metrics and misjudging the success.
- You need to set up your budget for success. By having a budget that is 5-10X the Target CPA you give the algorithm more opportunities to show your ad, which means more data to learn. A good flow of data means more clicks so that it can learn more effectively and faster.
- Know your conversion dealy. Some goods and services don’t require a lot of steps of decision making, however, some require long journeys, such as cars or insurance. Be careful that you are not overlooking high conversion delay when analysing performance. Allow for all of that potential activity to occur within the conversion time frame.
- Don’t keep making constant changes to the campaigns, especially in the early stages of learning. By making changes you can actually reset all the data that has been collected and this means that you are starting the learning process all over again.
To me, these tips were a good solid reminder of what we need to be conscious of in the relatively new environment of smart bidding. The learning period is about 2 – 3 weeks, to ensure that you are prepared for this time.
Reducing the risk with Drafts & Experiments
This is a tool that is really worth utilising as it reduces the risks of changes and it allows you to show this to any stakeholders that you may need to work with.
With Drafts, you can make a number of changes to your ads in a safe environment that is not the live ad. If you are happy with your changes you can apply these to the campaign directly or you can run an experiment allowing you to test your changes against your original campaign – effectively creating an A/B test setting. If your experimental campaign is more successful than your current campaign, you can simply apply this to the original campaign or create it as a new campaign.
Of course, if you are unhappy with your drafts you can delete them and you can also have lots of different drafts created and continue to update or change them as you please. Keep in mind though, you can only run one of your drafts as an experiment against your existing campaign at a time.
I’m really delighted that I went to this Google Breakfast Briefing, even if I only learn one thing from the briefing or the networking while I’m there, it’s worth the trip. This time, I was unaware of how useful the Drafts and Experiments could be and to be honest, I hadn’t really noticed it before now and it will make work significantly easier.
Smart Bidding, for me, is the way to go. It takes the time investment, reduces the guesswork and reduces the risk that we as advertisers have to take. I also feel that because of the nature of smart bidding and the increased accuracy and trust that the consumer will have in ads, we may over time see a better click through and conversion rate from ads.