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Manual Bidding Strategies

These days, most advertisers opt to use an automated bid strategy when it comes to AdWords and other PPC search marketing campaigns. And, while it’s true that auto bidding comes with some great benefits (they’re quicker and easier to set up and maintain), it still means handing over the reins – and a lot of control – of your bids over to Google. The alternative? Manual bidding, with which you keep control and make every decision when It comes to your ads.

Manual bidding may be more strenuous, time-consuming and difficult than auto bidding, but it also means that – in the hands of a talented and experienced PPC team – you can tweak and tailor your campaign to perfectly fit your needs. Manual PPC bidding is still the default setting in Google AdWords, and it allows you to set your bid and alter it at any point. You set the cost per click, and you can change this at any time.

But manual bidding requires intuition, insight and experience. Manual PPC means that you’re getting elbow-deep in the minutiae of day-to-day account maintenance. It’s a more difficult method than automated bidding and requires manual analysis of keyword performance and ad position rather than relying upon the machine learning of auto bidding.

That said, there are a lot of great reasons to employ manual bidding strategies. If you want your PPC marketers to have the highest level of control over your bidding settings and the ability to quickly make changes and adapt your campaign on the go, then manual bidding is the right call.

Automated Bidding vs Manual Bidding: What Are The Benefits Of Manual Bidding?

    Your choice of bidding strategy is dependent on a lot of different factors:

  • How much are you willing to spend per click and per conversion?
  • Are you trying to increase sales or reduce your costs?
  • Where do you want your ads to appear?
  • What type of campaign do you want to run?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Are you launching a new campaign or updating an old one?

All of these questions and more will decide what bidding method suits you best. PPC marketing and Google Ads can become incredibly detailed and granular – which is one of the reasons that manual bidding is often a great choice. That is, as long as you have the time and resources to invest in it.

Simply put, while automated bidding is convenient, it just doesn’t give you the same level of control over your bids. Manual bidding, on the other hand, keeps bid control in the hands of the marketer.

Manual Bidding Is More Nimble

Manual bidding allows you to make quick reactions. The market is fast-moving, and if there’s an opportunity to take advantage in a market or industry trend, then you’re going to want to be able to quickly adjust bids and alter your ad campaigns. With manual bidding, you’re going to be much more prepared and able to make the most of trends by manually bidding higher for specific keywords at the time that they are converting well. Manual bidding allows you to keep ahead of your competitors by being the early bird and getting that worm.

On the other hand, what if you are monitoring an account and notice a sudden and significant drop in performance? Perhaps a change in the market or the arrival of new competitors has suddenly pushed your targeted cost per click and cost per acquisition higher. Using automated bidding would make it difficult to react to this, but manual bidding means that you’ve still got all the necessary tools at your disposal to make a quick and immediate change to find the right bid strategy in order to maximize clicks and maximize conversion rate.

Manual bidding affects all ad groups and keywords across the campaign, but you’re able to change these individually to the appropriate bids as you see fit. The online world is constantly changing – and changing fast. The ability to quickly react to this gives you a massive advantage.

Manual Bidding Gives You More Control

If you want to set up a lot of different ads and campaigns quickly and then just leave it to run wild and generate acceptable results, there’s no question that automated smart bidding strategies are the best option. But that approach certainly doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes, you need to become incredibly granular and specific with your ad optimization.

In these cases, manual bidding almost always wins out. That’s because this is the bidding type that allows you to bid at the individual keyword level and to be incredibly specific in order to best meet your target conversion value and cost per click. There’s no better bidding option than manual when it comes to earning bigger results for more specific criteria.

The market can be fast-moving in the online world. Staying ahead of your competition – especially in particularly competitive industries – sometimes means that you need that extra level of control. Manual bidding allows you to chase your campaign objectives and determine exactly how aggressive you want to be when bidding on specific target keywords and phrases. If you want a granularly optimized PPC campaign that keeps its finger on the pulse, manual bidding is the way to go.

There’s No Delay When Making Changes

One of the great benefits of automatic bidding is that you set up your campaign and then can essentially let it run free with very little maintenance needed. Google’s machine learning algorithm will adjust bids and make alterations when it’s needed. But a problem arises when you do want to make a change.

If something occurs and you suddenly need to make a quick change to your account, these changes can end up taking a long time to implement when using automatic bidding. One of the key benefits of manual bidding is that there is absolutely no delay in changes. When you need to make a change that takes effect immediately, manual bidding allows you to do so.


There’s absolutely nothing wrong with employing a targeted automatic bidding strategy – we do it all the time here at Embryo. But sometimes, a more refined and granular approach is best. When it comes to being reactive, responsive and aggressive with your Google AdWords and PPC campaigns, manual bidding still can’t be beaten.

When Is Manual Bidding The Right Strategy?

Unlike automatic bidding, manual bidding means an advertiser has to manage keyword bids through the Google Ads platform without the assistance of machine learning and smart solutions. Manual bidding means that you need to proactively maintain your account, make decisions and make changes throughout the campaign. It takes more time, effort and, arguably, talent. So with a lot of businesses turning to auto-bidding strategies and seeing success, this begs the question: when should I choose to implement a manual bidding strategy?

Manual bidding is best when:

You are working on a limited budget

Not all businesses have the resources and budget to set up a large-scale PPC campaign. But that doesn’t mean that businesses with small budgets need to miss out on great results. For lower-budget campaigns where you really need to control your bids and ensure the absolute best value and accuracy for your campaign, it can often be better to use a manual bidding strategy. Provided you have a talented PPC advertiser, manual bidding can be the best way to make the most of a small budget.

You have more time for campaign monitoring

A lot of PPC campaigns use auto bidding for one simple reason – time. Setting up an account and then allowing Google’s machine learning to adjust bids, analyse information and take care of the rest saves a lot of time and is hugely appealing. But, this also means that – as we’ve touched upon – you lose a certain level of control, reactiveness and accuracy. If time is available, most PPC talents will always recommend manual bidding to ensure the best results possible.

You don’t yet have a lot of data

For new businesses (or businesses entirely new to the world of pay-per-click marketing), there’s often a lack of consumer and customer data. This can make PPC a little difficult. After all, you want to run a pinpoint campaign that cuts out all the fat and produces the best results it can. If you’re lacking this data, setting up an effective auto-bidding strategy can be difficult. A manual bidding strategy can be great in these instances because it allows you to closely monitor and adapt the campaign as you learn more about your consumers and the market.

You want more control

This is probably the biggest reason that businesses and PPC marketers choose to go for a manual bidding campaign rather than setting up an automatic strategy. If you have complete manual control of your PPC account, you’re in a better position to quickly adapt your campaign and adjust bids when and where necessary. For businesses in highly competitive industries and for those with brand new competitors where you really need to stay on your toes to keep ahead, manual bidding can’t be beaten. It allows you to quickly assess the landscape and market, pull out quick changes, and have those changes implemented incredibly quickly.

A lot of people who are new to Google Ads and PPC marketing will choose to learn manual bidding before moving on to advanced solutions. This is a smart move, as manual bidding is absolutely crucial to learn for PPC marketers. But the fact remains that to get the absolute most out of manual bidding strategies, a lot of talent is required. Here at Embryo, our PPC team relies on its great experience, analytical skill and intuition to deliver our clients great results through their manual bidding PPC campaigns. Manual bidding is very meticulous and in depth, and it takes a lot of time, patience, and PPC talent to secure the very best results.

Common Problems Manual Bidding Can Solve

  • 1. Over-bidding

    A common issue with automated bidding is that of Google over-bidding on your behalf. While there’s much you can do to try and prevent exceeding the recommended value by setting a target cost and maximum bid setting, Google will almost always by bid both above and below your target. Google will aim to balance these out over time, but this isn’t always as reliable as a lot of marketers would like.

    Manual bidding simply gives you more control over your individual bids, guaranteeing that you can choose when it’s appropriate to over or underbid and average costs out as you see fit. With auto bidding strategies, Google will use its own judgement to determine your bids, which could mean it uses your full budget too quickly in some instances, and fails to reach your daily budget in others. Manual bidding allows PPC marketers to use their intuition and discretion when choosing how to reach your target cost bid.

  • 2. Impression share

    Even those new to PPC and digital marketing know that bidding on a particular keyword doesn’t exactly guarantee great impression share. One of the first things to learn when establishing a PPC campaign is that – even if you’re bidding on a particular target keyword – you’re not necessarily appearing in the search results every time your keyword is searched for. The last thing you want is to be building a campaign to increase brand awareness, only to learn that you’re only appearing in 15 per cent of search results.

    This will usually be because you’ve got a low Ad Rank. This might be for a number of reasons, but one of the best ways that PPC marketers will quickly solve this is to adapt and increase your bid. Whereas with automatic bidding where you can’t choose to increase specific bids, with manual bidding you can influence impression share by targeting specific terms and keywords for which to raise your bid.

  • 3. Page position

    When building brand awareness and increasing conversions with digital marketing, search can be an incredibly powerful tool. Whether you’re building a business from scratch, launching a brand new campaign or pushing a new product, search ads get your content in front of the eyes of your customers. But, of course, people need to actually see your ad for this to have an effect.

    If you’re launching a new PPC campaign and you find that your ads are buried far down the page in the search results, then you’re not going to be getting the traffic that you want. [Everyone knows how important SERP position is](https://www.impactplus.com/blog/important-top-listing-google). But automated bidding can make it a little difficult to control this for specific keywords and search terms.

    Every campaign has keywords of particularly critical importance. Auto bidding doesn’t enable you to specifically choose the individual bids on these high-priority keywords, potentially leaving your ads buried and ineffective. Manual bidding gives you the option to individually adjust bids higher in order to place your ads at the top positions for your most important keywords, however.

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Both Manual Bidding And Auto Bidding Have Their Place

One thing to always remember is that the question of ‘automatic bidding or manual bidding’ doesn’t really have one right answer. The strategy that is best for any one campaign comes down to the budget, resources and goals. An experienced PPC team will consider all of these when deciding what kind of strategy to run for your campaign.

Most PPC talents will want to run some tests when taking on a new campaign. It takes time and patience to figure out which approach is optimal, but most of the time manual bidding will be performed first. It’s important to allow your PPC marketers some time to get their hands dirty in your account to best grasp how to deliver on your needs.

Automated bidding requires a lot of data to be effective, but it can deliver great results, optimizing campaigns for specific goals while saving a lot of time. On the other hand, manual bidding allows your campaign to be quick, reactive and decisive in order to stay one step ahead of the competition at each juncture. It all comes down to your goals – both auto-bidding and manual bidding have their advantages.

Get In Touch

Here at Embryo Digital, our talented PPC marketers draw from a wealth of experience in both manual and auto-bidding strategies to deliver campaigns that earn our clients the kind of results they dream of. Want to find out more about how we do what we do? Just get in touch with us today. Our team is always on hand to discuss how we can help grow your business online.

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We started working with Embryo on a temporary basis due to a knowledge gap in our team in PPC. The experts at Embryo share ideas across the board where they feel they might benefit our brand - this type of relationship is invaluable - Thank you team Embryo!

Rosie Middleton, Dancing Leopard