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The era of automation is upon us. As accounts begin to switch over to automated bidding strategies, it’s time to lay out some new best practices around managing spend. In the past, pacing to a budget was pretty straightforward. You had two main levers to pull: keyword bids and campaign budgets. Now we are relying on automation to set bids, and campaign budgets are more or less guardrails since you can spend up to 2X your daily budget on Google.

In this post, we’ll address how to operate in the new automated landscape: how to decrease spend, how to increase spend, and best practices for bid adjustments – all of which you’d better dial in before this weekend.

Let’s get started.

How to Pull Back Spend

Below are the three main levers available to help control spend:

  • tCPA/tROAS targets
  • Max bid
  • Device targets

Which lever you pull first will depend on what your goal is and how you have your bid strategies set up.

If you have a portfolio bid strategy running on either Google or SA360, you will have all three levers available to you. Bing campaign-level strategies also have all three levers available. However, if you are running a campaign-level strategy in Google, you will not have the ability to set max bids, which can make drastic pullbacks more difficult.

When you’re deciding where to start, it’s important to consider the level of spend reduction needed. If you are near the beginning of the month and just need to pull back a little bit to align your pacing, you would want to start off with more gradual changes. Typically, it’s best to just drop your target CPA/ROAS a few dollars and give the machine learning a few days for the change to take hold. Google and SA360 portfolio strategies both have a handy bid projection tool that will give you estimated spend at different CPA/ROAS levels. This can be used to identify how much you need to drop your target. If you are running campaign-level strategies on Google or Bing, the process will be more trial and error to determine where to set your targets.

If you get toward the middle of the month and you are still pacing hot, it’s time to take more drastic measures. If you have dropped your CPA/ROAS targets and still need to pull back, start capping bids around what the average CPC has been for your strategy over the last few days. If this initial limit does not bring spend in line, you’ll want to drop your max bids even further. If you are still pacing hot at this point, start adjusting your device bid adjustments – which in this case will just alter your target CPA or ROAS.

How to Push Spend

The process for pushing spend is very similar, except all the changes will be made in the opposite direction. Below are the levers to pull to increase spend.

  1. Lift campaign budgets
  2. Lift max bid caps
  3. Remove your device targets
  4. Raise your tCPA/tROAS targets

Always start off by making sure none of your campaigns are being budget-capped. It’s generally a good practice to have your caps set at about 3 times what your average daily spend has been over the past 7 days.

Once you clean that up, make sure you are not restricting your bid strategies ability to bid up on high-performing queries. This involves gradually walking up your max bid caps over several days until the desired spend level is reached. If you get to the point where you are no longer capping bids and still need to spend more, you should remove any device targets that may exist. Ideally, these should only be in place if you have specific CPA or ROAS goals from your client. Once you have removed those, start gradually hiking up your CPA/ROAS targets for the strategies.

Bid Adjustment Best Practices

  • Try to keep CPA/ROAS target adjustments within 15% either way
  • Don’t adjust CPA/ROAS targets more than once a week
  • Don’t rely on CPA/ROAS target adjustments if you need to pull back a lot in a short time
  • Apply/remove bid caps gradually, keeping the adjustments within a few dollars
  • Only use device adjustments as a last resort or per client direction
  • Don’t rely on campaign budgets to control spend
  • Always try to pull back on your high-volume, low-efficiency campaigns first
  • Act quickly! Spend adjustments take much longer to go into effect with automated bidding

With the Q4 surge about to hit top gear, you need to have these tactics mastered to make sure you’re able to adjust to dynamic traffic and performance numbers.