The world of paid advertising for medical practices continues to evolve. If you want to get immediate results with your PPC campaign, you need to keep up with trends and ensure that your keywords, content, and bidding all follow current best practices.
Bidding strategies are a perfect example of that need. As it turns out, the days of manually adjusting your Google Ads to maximize clicks to your website are long gone. Instead, this labor-intensive process of manually bidding for individual keywords has been replaced with smarter automated bidding rules.
Of course, switching your ads to smart bidding is not an automatic success guarantee. You need to understand your options and the background process in order to increase and optimize your return on ad spend (ROAS). The wrong approach to smart bidding wastes money; the right approach, however, can go a long way toward driving new leads and patients to your medical practice.
What is Smart Bidding?
Google defines smart bidding as “bid strategies that use machine learning to optimize for conversions or conversion value in every auction.” In other words, Google takes a few basic inputs from the advertisers, like how much they want to pay per conversion, and then optimizes the bid to get as many conversions at that price as possible.
Smart bidding is a type of automated bid, but not all automated bidding strategies within Google’s system are also smart bids. Instead, what sets this subset apart is the fact that Google will optimize the bid or conversions in every automated auction. This ensures continuous optimization to ensure the advertiser gets the lowest possible bids for the most possible conversions.
The 5 Core Smart Bidding Strategies
Google’s platform allows medical advertisers to choose one of five distinct smart bidding strategies to optimize the budget aspect of their campaign: Enhanced CPC, Maximize Conversions, Maximize Conversion Value, Target CPA, and Target ROAS.
1. Enhanced CPC
Designed as a bridge between manual bidding and smart bidding, enhanced bidding allows the advertiser to set a limit to how much each click should cost but then uses an algorithm to adjust that target cost per click depending on the individual situation. As Google describes it, manual bids may be raised when the click is more likely to lead to a conversion or lowered when that likelihood becomes less.
While not truly a smart bidding strategy, this automated capability does provide medical practices with the ability to test out bidding optimized beyond their own inputs. It can also combine with the Maximize Conversion and Maximize Conversion Value strategies to adjust the bid each time based on either the value or likelihood of a conversion.
2. Maximize Conversions
For advertisers, the Maximize Conversions bidding option is simple. Given a specific budget and keywords, Google automatically places bids during each placement auction that are most likely to lead to a conversion on your website. Rather than focusing on high-level metrics like website traffic, this smart bidding strategy is best if you just want to maximize the number of potential patients in your database.
There are some potential drawbacks, of course. Cost per click can rise quickly as Google focuses all its efforts on getting conversions (even if the traffic leading to those conversions costs more to reach and convert). In addition, this strategy is only possible when you have conversion tracking set up on your website. Finally, the Maximize Conversion strategy requires daily management of individual budgets for each campaign you’re running to avoid spending more than anticipated.
3. Maximize Conversion Value
Conversion Value is a more complex version of Maximize Conversions in that Google optimizes its bidding not based on the likelihood of a click leading to a conversion, but based on how much value that conversion brings in return. As a result, you might pay more for a click that leads to an immediate new patient than you would for a click that only leads to a new contact in your database.
This quality over quantity approach does come with some nuances and potential challenges. To start, tracking needs to be set up on the website to not just tally conversions, but estimate the value of different conversion types as well. In addition, it might require quite a bit of historical data to truly optimize for the right value.
4. Target CPA (tCPA)
Target cost per action (tCPA) used to be a separate bidding strategy but has been integrated into the Maximize Conversion option for a smoother advertiser experience. The advertiser sets the amount of how much they want to spend for every specific action, like a conversion, their users take. Google then creates bids to gain as many actions as possible without overreaching the intended cost.
To succeed in this strategy, medical practices need to have a good idea of what cost per action actually helps their campaign be successful. At the same time, the target also needs to be realistic enough for Google to actually reach the goal, and Google recommends a minimum of 15 conversions or more per 30 days for this strategy to truly optimize itself.
5. Target ROAS (tROAS)
Target return on ad spend (tROAS) is almost like tCPA, with the nuance that the focus is on how much you want to get out of each conversion. As a result, Google has organized this bidding strategy under the Maximize Conversion Value smart bidding option.
Adding tCPA or tROAS to your smart bidding strategy can limit the cost of conversions and increase control over your budget. However, it may also limit the number of conversions you receive by putting an arbitrary cap on the self-optimization Google could otherwise pursue.
How to Build Your Medical Ad Campaign With Smart Bidding
Google’s new smart bidding strategies have the potential to significantly optimize the way your budget fuels your campaigns. But they do need the right setup in order to function correctly.
To start, conversion tracking is absolutely essential for Google’s algorithms to work correctly. Without it, no machine learning will be able to determine how to optimize the bids for results. In addition, the above-mentioned minimum amount of conversions (at least 15 per month) is necessary to provide enough data for smart bidding strategies like Maximize Conversions.
Finally, keep in mind that it may take several weeks for Google’s machine learning to kick into high gear and provide high-value results. As a result, smart bidding tends to be better for long-term campaigns promoting your practice than a quick push to get new patients.
Generally speaking, the best approach to truly optimize for smart bidding is to begin with an effort that focuses on clicks in order to collect conversion data and determine a realistic cost per acquisition. Once that data has been acquired, it’s safer to switch to more advanced methods like Maximize Conversions or Maximize Conversion Value.