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As you’ll know all too well, there are many things in life that are simply too good to be true. The issue is that despite our acknowledgement of this common rule, we still fall for seemingly incredible things like AdWords Automatic Bidding.

More recently, I provided some information and advice for bail bondsmen who are currently using automatic bidding and wish to switch to manual bidding. However, this post is going to be an explanation for why switching from automatic bidding to manual is so important. It’s understandable that whilst some of the smaller bail bond advertisers may find the results gained from the automatic system ample for their marketing strategy, although most if not all serious bond advertisers should take the time to operate under a manual bidding system, which will ensure that you’re optimized far beyond just the essentials. Does this sound like you? If so, here are five primary factors to consider prior to making your decision between Automatic and Manual Bidding.

#1: Impression Share

Bidding on specific keywords does not guarantee that your advertisements will be displayed each and every time the terms are searched. In fact, it may surprise you to know that your advertisements may only show up 1 in every 10 times your chosen keyword(s) are searched for, meaning that your chances of having your advertisements viewed are decreased massively.

Your Ad Rank has a large influence on your Impression Share, and if you’re rank is low, then you’re less likely to show up on the results. It’s a common misconception, however, that the quality rank is the most important factor in play. The truth of the matter is that you can often substantially improve your Ad Rank, simply by increasing your bid. The Automatic Bidding system does not allow for you to increase your bids for your most important keywords and, therefore, you’re letting potential clients and traffic pass you by, as you don’t have the ability to sway the impression share of these terms.

#2: Page Position

There’s no doubting the fact that search is a crucial aspect of growing your bail bond business/website from the dirt, due to the speed at which you can experience growth, however, in order to do so, people still need to see your advertisement. If your advertisement is occupying a low position on the SERP, potential clients may overlook your website as they’re skimming the page. Preferably, you want to place your website no further down than 3rd or 4th position on the page. Consider the last time you made a search. Did you bother to even glance at the results beyond the 3rd or 4th result?

For the best chances of ranking high for your critical keywords/key terms, you want to make sure that the majority of your bidding budget is allocated to these terms, over the ‘not-so-important’ ones. This, as you may have already worked out, cannot be achieved whilst utilizing the automatic bidding system, meaning that you must switch to the manual bidding system to be able to allocate your bidding budget efficiently.

#3: Tiered / Stacked Bidding

Some advertisers may be utilizing a more progressive bail bond advertising strategy, Stacked or Tiered Bidding, which pertains to your PPC precise match types. One of the best ways to improve your CTRs and Quality Score is to use match types that are specific. This has proved on countless occasions to be more cost-effective than generating clicks on match types that are more generalized.

Due to their value and greater priority, it is often the case that bail bond advertisers bid higher for these terms than broader variations. The more exact your match type, your bid increases by 10-15% more for: Broad < Modified Broad < Phrase < Exact. It goes without saying that the highest bid falls on the exact match key term as it is the most precise. The other types are stacked/tiered in accordance to their precision to the exact keyword.

Though it may make financial sense to receive all your clicks on the exact match type in order to benefit from improved click through rates and a substantially lower expenditure, Google has a tendency to take more of an interest in your maximum CPC (Cost Per Click.) In a scenario where your maximum CPC on a Broad Match key term is higher than your exact, then it is likely that the term will also retain exact matches too. This is regardless of whether you already have an Exact Key-term match in the same account (Impression Share has an influence on why this happens.) Typically, you could prevent this from occurring by utilizing a Bid Stacking Strategy, although, if you choose to use automatic bidding, the lack of the ability to edit your bids, means that you don’t have control over where your clicks are attributed.

#4: Exorbitant Bids

In all honesty, inflated bids aren’t so much an inevitable concern as an incredible insight regarding how Google will administrate your account/bids when you provide it with complete control. Suffices to say, you can avoid excessive bids with a well thought-out maximum Cost Per Click value, as one without one will surely prove as enough justification as to why you shouldn’t leave the bidding process to Google.

As demonstrated in the image below, this is a long-tail keyword with a relatively selective Modified Broad match type using automatic bidding. Whilst it is from a largely competitive business, the average Cost Per Click varies from $10 to $50. It received a single click, which cost a total of $362.63. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Yet again, these extortionate prices can be evaded through applying a lower setting on your maximum CPC, but this example truly emphasizes the kinds of extremes that can come from automatic bidding. For comparison, it should be noted that even in some of the most competitive industries around such as Law or Insurance, it is a rarity for the cost for a click to be this high. Despite the maximum Cost Per Click being set high in order to achieve, an increased Impression Share, the majority of the clicks did stay at an average of $10 to $50 as anticipated. The conclusion to be drawn from this example is that when provided more control over your individual bids, you can be guaranteed that such a scenario wouldn’t happen and the extravagant $352.63 would be avoided. Unfortunately, Google does not have your perception nor preference for minimizing waste and, therefore, you shouldn’t merely trust their verdict on your keyword value.

#5: Manual Management of CPA

It’s rational to assume that since you’ve taken the first step of expanding your knowledge about PPC that you’re interested in having full control over your account and your bids. Ultimately, your objective is to minimize costs or CPA (Cost Per Action) by maximizing your optimization, which simply cannot be achieved through the automatic bidding system.

Take a moment to consider the keywords you’re targeting with the highest conversion rates. It would be logically sound to want more traffic or ‘impressions’ on these keywords and hence you’re willing to invest more into these keywords over ones with a lower conversion rate. In other words, it is beneficial to have the freedom to allocate higher bids to better-performing keywords and lower bids to those that significantly underperform. From this standpoint, using the automatic bidding system by which Google controls your bid amounts, will do more harm than good to your marketing campaign.

Is there ever a situation where it is beneficial to opt for Automatic Bidding?

For the reasons stated above, the majority of serious bail bond advertisers tend to choose manual bidding over automatic. However, even if you’re a complete newbie to using AdWords and optimizing advertisements for keywords, I’d still recommend doing the same. The only exception would be if you’re currently seeing any success using this system, and you’re operating at a small scale. If you’re fortunate to find yourself in this (rare) scenario, don’t feel the need to change your setting to manual, unless you can see distinct benefits for doing so.

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