How to Use Portfolio Bid Strategies in Google Ads (And Why You Should)

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is super lucrative. There are literally billions of (admittedly US) dollars poured into the various ad campaigns across a number of popular networks. One of the premiere solutions in this field is Google Ads. However, using it in a scattershot way isn’t going to land you the revenue you desire.

A better approach is to use built in functionality to create a ‘portfolio bid strategy’. This collates various features and functionality within Google Ads to create a homogenised, account-level strategy, usable by all of the campaigns you run.

In this post, I’ll look at what portfolio bid strategies are, and discuss some aspects of why they’re so important. Then, I’ll get into creating and implementing effective portfolio bid strategies, and give you the skills to do the same for your campaigns. Let’s get started!

What a Portfolio Bid Strategy Is

Okay, so let’s start at the very beginning. Along with many other platforms, Google Ads works just like an auction, but for available ad space. Of course, spaces can be found all over the web with varying degrees of coverage:

It stands to reason that websites with more prominent space and higher traffic will have greater value than other sites. What’s more, auctions are well-known for their not-so-conservative approach to the purchasing process. As you’ll already understand if you’ve tried to use Google Ads, this creates a competitive bidding war between companies vying for the available (and prime) ad space.

At this point, you have to get tactical. Fortunately, Google Ads includes portfolio bid strategies as a way to help manage the whole process, and hopefully come out on top.

In a nutshell, a portfolio bid strategy can be characterised by the following traits:

  • It’s automated.
  • It’s goal-driven.
  • There are multiple ad groups, keywords, and campaigns included.
  • All of your strategies are shared between your other campaigns.

In practice, portfolio bid strategies automatically set bids for ad space based on your unique requirements and performance goals. They can be used across multiple campaigns, and have many moving parts.

In the next section, I’ll outline just why a portfolio bid strategy can be ideal for your next campaign.

Why Portofolio Bid Strategies Are So Effective

Given the way that portfolio bid strategies work, you’ll likely see a few benefits right off the bat. Because they’re an account-level feature – and as such include multiple campaigns and keywords – there are simple automated tasks you could achieve.

For example, you might consider changing how much you bid on a global level, and a portfolio bid strategy might be the answer. However, once you get past the initial wonder at the tool, you’ll notice there are a number of tangible benefits that would supercharge your day-to-day ad strategy:

  • Campaigns can share data. Pooling resources hasn’t done companies such as Google itself any harm. Those same benefits can also be yours.
  • All of your campaigns can work towards a common goal. This is a clear plus point not found in other ad strategies. Much like a well-oiled team, an optimized set of campaigns can lead you to success.
  • You can let Google allocate a shared budget in an optimal way. The logic here is that, who knows better than Google Ads how to allocate your budget? It’s like having a highly-experienced ad exec on your team.
  • There are advanced combinations of strategies you can employ. For example, Max Cost Per Click, which is an automated strategy that limits minimum and maximum clicks to produce better results.

Of course, there are drawbacks to any smart or automated bidding, not least that you’re effectively handing over a crucial part of your ad strategy to the owner of the ad space. This could result in some funky decisions being made on your behalf, such as Google overlooking one campaign over the others in order to better serve your portfolio’s target.

What’s more, portfolio big strategies aren’t a silver bullet for all types of campaigns and goals. I’ll have more to say about this later, but for now consider that this approach is worth your time to pursue, given some caveats.

The Types of Portfolio Bid Strategies You’ll Find In Google Ads

There are six different types of portfolio bid strategies within Google Ads, and while I’ll discuss which ones are right for you further on down, here’s a summary of each one:

  • Maximise Conversions. Arguably the simplest bidding strategy, this looks to get you the most conversions based on a set daily monetary value.
  • Maximise Clicks. This is almost a brute-force option, designed to get you the most clicks for your daily spend, without considering quality or relevance of the traffic.
  • Target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). In a nutshell, your Target CPA defines how much money you want to spend on converting one customer. It can be complicated, but the theory of the strategy is simple.
  • Target Impression Share. This strategy helps you reach as many people, based on your desired percentage of target impression share. It’s used in specific cases, and has a low ‘hit rate’.
  • Target Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). This is a percentage that relates to how conversion value is maximized based on your desired ad spend return.
  • Maximise Conversion Value. This is similar to Target ROAS, albeit without having to specify a target return value. As such, Google Ads will simply look to maximize your return in the best way possible.

There are of course pros and cons to each strategy, and some are going to be either suited or unsuited to your own requirements. However, each has a place, and I’ll talk about which ones are right for you later.

How to Decide Whether You Should Use Portfolio Bid Strategies (And Which Ones Suit Your Campaign)

While this article may have piqued your interest when it comes to using portfolio bid strategies, they’re not going to be suitable for all ad campaigns.

For starters, Google recommends including campaigns in the same portfolio if they share a budget and use any of the three ‘Maximize’ strategies – Clicks, Conversions, or Conversion Value. Of course, you’re able to use other strategies too, but if you’re running a minimum of campaigns and they aren’t sharing a budget, there’s less value in the tactic.

Clearly defining your goal is also immensely important, as this will help you figure out the best strategy to use. I’d consider the following to also be vital:

  • Conduct split tests using different strategies over a few weeks before diving in head first. This will give you some real world insight into how the various strategies perform.
  • Measure different metrics such as your conversation rate, cost per conversion, and whatever else is suitable for you.
  • Commit with confidence to a particular strategy, rather than flitting between them hoping for success.

From here, your overall goal will guide your choice. For example:

  • If you’re focused on conversions or otherwise looking to make sales, Maximise Conversions, Target CPA, and Target ROAS are going to be ideal.
  • For brand awareness, Target Impression Share is clearly going to be a winner for you.
  • If your overall goal is simply to obtain traffic with no desire to convert users, Maximize Clicks is your first port of call.

Your split tests will likely push you in the right direction too, and it could be that you’ve stumbled across the ideal strategy already. My advice is to run with it if the numbers back up your hunch!

A Quick Primer On Creating a Portfolio Bid Strategy in Google Ads

If you’re interested in creating portfolio bid strategies, but haven’t done so before, the process is straightforward.

For those creating a strategy within a new campaign, the screen you’ll want to visit is Campaigns within Google Ads. From here, click the blue Plus icon and select New Campaign:

Next, choose your goal and select a campaign type. Note that video or app campaigns aren’t compatible with portfolio bid strategies:

At this point you’ll need to make sure your Merchant Center account is connected. There are further steps to take, and Google’s own documentation is excellent in this regard. Just note that there are three ways to create portfolio bid strategies – through a new campaign, through your campaign settings, or through the Shared library.

3 Key Tips For Implementing an Effective Portfolio Bid Strategy

Creating a portfolio bid strategy is relatively easy. The real work comes when you look to maximize its effectiveness. While this article could run and run, here are three key tips you’ll want to consider when first dipping your feet into the water.

1. Leverage Portfolio Bid Strategies to Set a Maximum Cost Per Click

This first tip is great for budget-conscious advertisers running a Target CPA strategy for search and display campaigns.

For example, if you’ve set a CPA at around $40, a portfolio bid strategy is the only way you can also set a related CPC. Due to the way Google Ads’ algorithm works, you may see per-click costs much higher than you’d usually like. As such, explicitly setting a low CPC can protect you when smart bidding gets a little dumb.

What’s more, implementing a maximum CPC is a breeze. I’d go as far to say that it’s one of the top reasons for implementing a portfolio bid strategy, as it can maximize your budget while also leveraging Google’s automation.

2. Set Bid Automation to Alleviate Routine Tasks

I think we’ve all dreamed of handing control of our lives to something autonomous at some point, especially if you’re an advertiser struggling to stay afloat with manual bidding strategies. The thought of monitoring your various campaigns is just cause to pull out an obligatory Alan from The Hangover GIF:

Okay, while nothing can ever be a completely ‘set and forget’ task, there are plenty of ways to automate key happenings and behaviour within Google Ads.

For example, you could receive notifications when the cost per acquisition is low, so you can swoop in and up your bids. Alternatively (or even as well as this), you could set an automated budget increase when conversion value is good.

The best news here is that if you’re used to setting spreadsheet filters or rules within email clients, you can also do the same within Google Ads. Given the flexibility of the whole system, the ad world is your potential oyster (although I take no responsibility if your campaigns become sentient beings).

3. Look to Adjust Your Bids Based on the Success Within Your Demographic

What would an ad campaign be without trusty old demographics? It’s arguably the most well-known buzzword in any form of advertising medium. This is because practically everything you do involves monitoring demographics and tailoring your campaigns to suit.

For most advertisers, targeting multiple demographics is the order of the day. However, just because you’re targeting them doesn’t mean they’re nailed on conversions. Much like every product and service, some groups are going to be more accepting of your ads than others. Fortunately, Google Ads lets you adjust bids based on the demographic.

You’ll find the breakdown under the Demographics screen within Google Ads. Once you’ve found a high-performing ‘demo’, you can individually adjust its various bid components, such as the maximum CPC. Note that you can also exclude certain demographics from here too, so your budget won’t be wasted on wholly unsuitable groups.

Conclusion

There’s a symbiotic relationship between the people requiring ad space, and those (i.e. Google) with the ad space. At times it’s harmonious. However, it can also be a toxic environment, especially when you’re deciding to bid without a plan.

Portfolio bid strategies have been the focus in this piece, and they’re a solid way to automate your bids for ad space relating to your overall goals. However, you’ll want to consider whether your objectives for your various campaigns are aligned, or whether your objectives are visibility-based. If so, it may be that a different approach would suit you better.

Have I convinced you that portfolio bid strategies are a winning proposition? Let me know in the comments section below!

Image credit: Nietjuh.

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