Automatic Bidding vs. Manual Bidding: What’s Best for Your Business?

“What’s best for my account, automatic bidding or manual bidding?”

I’m Michael Shore, the SEM manager at Bruce Clay, Inc., and it’s a question our PPC team hears all the time. The answer? It depends!

Automatic Bidding Michael Shore

Most people do not like hearing that answer. Trust me, I wish I had a more definitive answer, but it really does depend on many factors. Before I continue, we all must accept one of the universal truths of PPC management — every client is unique. What works for one client may not work for another. This applies to almost every aspect of a PPC campaign, especially bid and budget management.

What I can provide is a detailed explanation of automatic bidding and manual bidding, and a detailed look at the pros and cons of each. This guide can help you make a more informed decision when it comes to deciding which is the right option for your business.

What is Automatic Bidding?

Automatic bidding is the process of allowing a rule or algorithm to control ad group and/or keyword-level bids based on performance and goals.

Automatic Bidding Pros

  • Automatic bidding can save you a lot of time by taking over the bulk of bid and budget control.
  • It’s usually ideal for large, complex accounts.
  • If utilized correctly, it can be very effective in managing campaign budgets in addition to bids.
  • It can adjust for the ad marketplace’s high frequency of change. For example, BCI’s CPA Optimizer bid and budget management tool makes adjustments every 30 minutes throughout the day, 24/7 — something a human cannot easily do.
  • The more data, the better. Automated tools love data, as they are able to make more absolute and efficient changes.

Automatic Bidding Cons

  • Automatic bidding is not truly “automatic.” It still requires an experienced human to oversee everything and make sure nothing goes haywire. A tool is only as good as the person controlling it.
  • There’s a lack of flexibility at times. Depending on the tool you’re using, it could take some time and effort to onboard new campaigns, change budget allocations or goals.
  • The more data, the better. Wait, isn’t this also listed under “Pros”? If you are managing a small account with very low volume (say, less than one conversion per day on average), automatic bidding may not be the best option for you. (See manual bidding.)

Keep in mind that not all automatic bidding tools are created equal. Each have their own intricacies. For example, some tools make rule-based decisions, while others utilize algorithms. Some automated tools update bids and budgets once per day, others (like our CPA Optimizer) do it 48 times per day.

What is Manual Bidding?

Are you starting to see a pattern here? As the name suggests, manual bidding is the process of adjusting bids and budgets the good ole’ fashioned way – by hand!

Manual Bidding Pros

  • You maintain complete control over bids and budgets.
  • Changes can be made on the fly.
  • It’s typically sufficient for smaller accounts (smaller keyword sets, budgets, etc.).
  • There’s no extra investment needed for a third-party tool.

Manual Bidding Cons

  • It may not be the best option for larger, complex accounts with large keyword lists and budgets.
  • It takes time away from other important account management tasks.

What’s Best for Your Business?

So what’s the best choice for your business? It depends. You must take into account client goals, resources available, account size, competition and other factors in order to determine the right bidding strategy. Regardless of whether you choose automatic or manual bidding, you must have a process in place that is tailored to either one, ensuring you are in the best position to achieve your campaign goals.

Have a question about automatic bidding and manual bidding? Talk about it with our PPC specialists in the comments.

Michael Shore was Bruce Clay Inc.'s SEM Manager. He has managed PPC programs for dozens of clients ranging from small business to national retailers. He specializes in Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, Google Analytics, Kenshoo, Acquisio, comparison shopping engine management and Google shopping. When he's not geeking out on everything SEM, he's usually hiking, at the beach or playing guitar.

See Michael's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (10)
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10 Replies to “Automatic Bidding vs. Manual Bidding: What’s Best for Your Business?”

IMHO automatic bidding will help you save a lot of time if you manage a lot of account, campaign and ad group. In my experience i get better result with automatic bidding.

Hi Hemanth – Thank you for your comment! You are right, having manual control of your bids and budgets can give you maximum control over everything. But when you’re trying to manually manage hundreds of thousands of keywords and larger budgets, that can become quite tedious, to say the least! That’s why generally, we like using automation for larger accounts. And with our CPA Optimizer tool, we still come incredibly close to our clients’ monthly budgets!

I would opt for manual bidding instead of auto bidding we can make up our mind whats the exact cost its running over there it would be better if we go for manual bidding.

Sam – Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely correct, it depends on a number of important factors. We follow the same logic with our clients. Sometimes it makes more sense to manually control our bids and spend versus automating it all!

Colin – Spot on! Account size a primary signal of whether or not we’ll use automated vs. manual bidding. Sometimes we’ll even use a hybrid model, where we’ll automate one group of campaigns and manually control another. It all depends!

I think the major factor in this choice is account size – number of keywords. No matter how good the tool is, an experienced eye can control and assess things better. But if there are 10,000 keywords then it becomes impractical!

It actually depends on the volume, budget and goal. And according to my experience you go with any of these two but ultimately you have to monitor and analyze data consistently and take further measures. Personally I prefer manual bidding because at certain times it gives more grip & control on your money-flowing. But for big accounts I think manual bidding is impossible to handle and optimize.

Great Ways, but personally i think we should have to maintain it manually because we’ve all control on our ROI.

@Wade – If you are using an automated bid management tool like the Bruce Clay CPA optimizer then you are not allowing Google to control the bid market. Based on an intelligence algorithm and the auction market data provided through Google apis the CPA optimizer will constantly evaluate supply and demand for each keyword and thereby reduce costs.
If you were manually bidding then there is no way you could keep on top of bidding for each keyword.
We have been using the CPA optimizer on our accounts and have managed to significantly drop the overall cost for our clients. But like Michael mentioned your accounts should have a decent amount of data for the CPA optimizer to work.

@Kamalesh – you can set budgets for important campaigns and separate them out into their own budget groups thereby ensuring you spend more on core business keywords and less on non core business keywords

I hope manual bidding is good in order to focus the the high potential and conversion keywords. Manual bidding comes in handy especially to set higher budgets for the core business keywords and lower down the budget for the less traffic keywords. It also helps us to efficiently spend the budget throughout the day.

I find you pay more for the clicks with automated bidding as you are basically allowing google to control the bid market. It can be great to setup a automatic campaign at first to get quick results but after you have good data switch to manual and take control of the account.


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