Is Smart Bidding Worth It?


The Pros and Cons of Google’s Smart Bidding

Paid search advertising has reached a maturity level where we no longer need to gamble on what works. With over 40,000 search queries per second, Google knows a thing or two about what you need to do to reach your goals.

Digital advertising is still part art and part science… but the scientific part is growing by leaps and bounds.

When you run Google ads, you have a tool called “Recommendations” (formally Opportunities). A list of suggested changes tailored for your account appear along with an optimization score. Recommendations are rated with the most important ones carrying more weight. As you implement (or dismiss) the recommendations, an increase is reflected in your account score.

Along with the typical best practices (new keywords, ad formats, and budgets) – there is a big push for smart bidding and smart campaigns. Although they are not technically new… they have improved greatly and that is apparent in the high weight of these suggestions.

All this scientific data has made advertising a different animal than it was a few short years ago.

More technical and less creative. Is that a good thing?
In some ways, yes. It gives the needed punch to deliver more clicks to your ads. But do more clicks result in more sales or leads? Not always, but good news is – it is getting better.

The Benefit of Advertising Automation

Time Savings. Google’s solutions use machine learning to analyze millions of signals in real time. As you can imagine, this wouldn’t be possible when managing a campaign manually. This gives you more time researching new keywords, improving your landing pages, and focusing on conversion optimization to move the needle.

Google’s goal is to show the right message to the right customer in the moments that matter, and this is the holy grail for most advertisers.

The Drawbacks to Automation

On the negative side, Google doesn’t know your business like you do. The recommendations they make for new keywords, timing, and/or bids are based on a broad set of data. This may or may not align with your specific audience.

Most of the smart capabilities take time and go through a “learning” phase. This means you must be prepared to wait for 2-4 weeks to see if the suggested change works or flops.

If your driving factor is to increase conversions (leads, sales, signups, phone calls); you should make sure your conversion data identifies what is most (and least) important. How much is each conversion worth? Providing as much information as possible is key to making sure Google’s smart bidding works to your benefit.

It is important to analyze each recommendation before you just dive in all suggestions. Don’t make changes for the sake of improving your optimization score. Some recommendations won’t fit your goals, and many could exponentially drive-up costs.

Putting AI into the hands of every advertiser

Google Ads offers a very sophisticated advertising system to anyone who wants to use it. But, like any automated process – there is no substitute for the human brain.

Machine learning and automation can provide a quick way to experience moderate success if you have a set-it-and-forget-it mindset. That may be just the ticket for a small business without access to dedicated staff or a very large account where automation saves a ton of time.


PPC management is still a lot of work. To get the most from smart bidding and campaigns, you need to continually analyze, test, and implement the suggestions that will best serve your individual goals.

You may find yourself spending more time doing tasks that you didn’t do in the past. Like determining where your sweet spot is when it comes to cost per acquisition or analyzing how long it takes for people to act on your offer.