Google Ads (a.k.a. Adwords) bid strategy question: Manual CPC vs Maximise Clicks

In a recent discussion thread, a question regarding Google Ads Search bid strategy came up. Below is a paraphrase of what was asked:

“I have set my campaigns with Manual CPC and I had a call twice now from Google analyst wanting me to change to Maximise Clicks option. I asked him to explain what are the benefits for my campaign if I change and his answers were very wishy washy so I refused to change it and he was not impressed. I guess it has to do something with their targets etc.
Could someone advise from experience the way you run your campaigns in terms of Bid Strategy?”
Here’s my take (and response) on this:
Definitely do not listen to the Google sales reps who call you up. They are not trained to help you “optimize” your ad account, they’re only trained to sell the product.
But having said that, I advise my clients to move away from Manual CPC now (it’s also advised by Google to their Google Partners). The reason why is their Smart-Bidding strategies are pretty good now but to take advantage of these you must have Goals & Conversions setup.
I can’t think of any scenario where a business wouldn’t be able to setup any goals and conversions so hopefully you’ll have this setup.
Same as what the others have said here, the smart bidding strategy you’d choose would depend on your business but I’d definitely say it would not be Maximize Clicks.
If your business is an e-commerce site, then you should consider Target ROAS bidding (but only if you’ve got high volume conversion data). Otherwise, consider Maximize Conversions or Target CPA bid strategies.
Google’s AI/machine learning only needs about 5 days worth of data (assuming there’s enough conversion data during that period) to learn how to optimize your campaign for ROAS, CPA or Max. conversions.
This will save you tons of time versus using Manual CPC but also help optimize your campaign performance according to your budget.
It looked like others found my response useful and also asked:

Several months ago, I took over an Adwords account that had been managed via input from the Google rep, so it was running ECPC and allowing auto-suggest for new ads. Yikes.

Immediately, I started with new ads and decided to test for various ad rotations and bidding strategies. I tried manual, but because the keywords/ad group pairing needed work and because it happened to be the busiest time of the year for the company (people signing up for free fencing estimates), I didn’t really have the time to test for very long and didn’t want to put their lead flow at risk.
So, I tried the Maximize Conversions strategy (conversions = completing the estimate/appointment request or calling) and each week I track the performance YOY, when the bidding strategy was ECPC.  Overall, I have to say the Maximize Conversions is delivering more leads than the ECPC strategy a year ago.  But, there are a couple of things I’ve noticed that I’m a little puzzled by – for instance, our positioning in the Auction Insights has deteriorated significantly.  Granted, more of our competitors are on the Adwords bandwagon, but we managed to stay ahead of the pack when using ECPC.
Anyone have any insight on this? It seems counter-intuitive that we would end up with more leads when our average position slips from a 1.8 or 2 to a 2.5.
I plan on testing manual bidding once we are out of season – but for right now, the company has all the work they can handle with Maximize Conversions.
My response to this question:
The difference in positioning via eCPC vs Max. Conversions wouldn’t be surprising.
eCPC falls under semi-automated bidding so this bid strategy doesn’t quite take advantage of Google’s AI.
Also, from what I understand from the info below, under eCPC you were able to stay in top positions for most of your ad auctions, but just remember being in a top position (ie. in #1 position) doesn’t necessarily result in a conversion (maybe a click but not necessarily a conversion).
Whereas using Max. Conversions, Google’s AI will use the data history it’s built up from your campaigns to get you a higher probability of a conversion versus keeping you in a particular position in the ad auction.
So, it looks like using Max. Conversions is doing its job of getting more conversions. Just note, using this bid strategy will mean you could be in various different ad positions and CPC will be all over the place too but will keep you under the budget you set.
If you want advice and help with your Google Ads campaigns, have a look at our Adwords service.
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