You may be tempted to just dive in when you dig into a new account and start changing bids based on the data, but before you get started you’ll want to get a firm understanding in three primary areas before determining which bidding strategy to take. If you fail to make build a plan based on these considerations, you’re bound to make some common bidding mistakes.

So what are those areas?

1. Define Your Goals

As a first step, you will need to define goals so your bid changes effectively improve the account in line with those goals. You’ll want to ensure all primary stake-holders agree on these goals and that they align with overall business goals. Then, with these goals in mind, you’ll know what the priorities and expectations are so you can meet (and hopefully exceed) them.

Here are a few common goals we see at 3Q:

-Quickly scale the account to increase revenue through increased spend

-Grow revenue or conversions while maintaining a static budget

-Decrease spend while losing as little revenue or conversions as possible

2. Evaluate Data Density

The changes and strategies that make the most sense for a given account depend on how much data is available at the keyword level in the account (i.e. how spend is distributed across your keyword set). Here are the primary considerations – and what actions you should take for each case:

-High data density (the majority of spend & conversions are clustered on a manageable number of keywords)

-Preferred bidding technique: make diligent keyword-by keyword changes

-Additional bidding option: tier bid changes based on time period (i.e. sufficient data)

-Low data density (little data for any given keyword; performance and spend is spread across the account)

-You’ll first want to consider if there’s a good reason for low data density.

-If so, filter-based bidding is recommended for the short term. An engine or platform bidding algorithm should be used as soon as there’s enough data to inform the algorithm

-While using filter bidding, you should bid less frequently and use a longer look-back period

-You can also consider applying bid adjustments at the campaign level or from another aggregation

-If not, consider a restructure or keyword consolidation to increase data density before moving forward (reduce geo-segmentation, remove low volume variations, etc.)

3. Review Conversion & Revenue Latency

Check the Time Lag report in Google Analytics or AdWords (found under Attribution > Time Lag). This report will help you understand how recently you can accurately review performance. If the account is highly latent, a long lookback or an exclusion of recent time period is essential to having the desired impact on the account.

Latency also impacts keyword sets differently. Longer latency is typically associated with higher order values, so understanding this is key to not cutting off keywords for long-decision, expensive products.


Now that you’ve made your primary considerations, you can build out your strategy. This will of course change over time as you get to know the account but check out 3Q’s Complete Guide to Manual Bidding in SEM for some more detailed recommendations.

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Caitlin Halpert
Caitlin Halpert is the Growth Engineer at 3Q Digital. She’s responsible for driving growth, efficiency, and new ideas to enable 3Q to best serve current and future clients. She has worked in digital marketing since 2011 and held positions at and iSearchMedia before joining the 3Q team in March 2014. Caitlin graduated from Dartmouth College and is a native of Vermont. Her experience includes management of paid search, paid social, comparison shopping, Amazon Marketing Services, YouTube, and Display. She's worked with a variety of clients from eCommerce to subscription services to B2B lead generation. Caitlin specializes in data-focused digital marketing experimentation to push past "best practices" to drive the performance for agency clients. As an industry thought leader, she has spoken at HeroConf, SEMpdx, and SMX East, West, and Advanced. Caitlin specializes in data-focused digital marketing experimentation to push past "best practices" to drive the performance for agency clients. As an industry thought leader, she has spoken at HeroConf. SEMpdx, and SMX East, West, and Advanced.