Brad Geddes / PPC Geek
Official AdWords Seminar Leader.
Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
Co-Founder, Adalysis.
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Brad Geddes's Theories on Marketing Clearing the Air: Google Does Not Turn on Auto Bidding

Clearing the Air: Google Does Not Turn on Auto Bidding

There was a blog post that circulated around this week about the default bids for the content network changing and Google not letting anyone know about it.

It’s not true. Nothing has changed.

While I don’t think the author meant to imply that Google turned on auto-bidding, that was the interpretation of the 40+ requests for clarification I received about the post.

If you use conversion optimizer or auto-bidding as your campaign bidding strategies, then Google sets bids based around those targets.

If you use enhanced CPC or default bidding then Google uses a hierarchy for choosing the starting bid (and then bid modifiers such as enhanced CPC, demographic, ad scheduling, etc are applied after the default is chosen).

Google looks for the most specific bid, and uses that one if possible, if it doesn’t exist – then they move down the chain:

  1. Placements
  2. Audience
  3. Ad group placement bid (only older accts might see this)
  4. Campaign placement bid (only older accts might see this)
  5. Ad group display network bid
  6. Campaign content bid (only older accts might see this)
  7. Auto
  8. Default bid

The ‘Auto’ that’s used is not auto-bidding. Google does an average of all the keyword CPCs in that ad group.

If you don’t have keyword level bids, then they use the default bid for the ad group.

So the ‘auto’ is an old naming convention that Google used for this scenario well before auto-bidding was even a feature.

Just to make sure this wasn’t new; I looked at my first AdWords Seminar for Success presentation from October of 2006, and the notes from the presentation are the same as today (except audiences didn’t exist then).

You cannot have keyword level bids on the content network. As the content network is based around themes – not keywords – there’s no bid at that level.

The real takeaway: Set bids at the most granular level. Placements or audiences if you have them; and then always place a display network bid at the ad group level.

As a side note: I reinstalled some software yesterday, and the software published a ‘thank you page’ as a blog post so it went out in the RSS feed. Don’t worry – you will not receive any notifications about the seminars unless you opt-in to receiving them.

No Comments

  1. Geordie
    September 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm · Reply

    Hi Brad,

    Thanks for the background info, the only bid chain descriptions in Google’s help docs that I can find leave out number 7, except for number four in this article:

    Which, even though it says “Display Network Bids are set to “auto”” seems to be talking about scenarios specific to search campaigns.

    • Brad Geddes aka eWhisper
      September 24, 2010 at 2:34 pm · Reply

      It’s very possible that this hierarchy isn’t in Google’s help files. Sometimes my info comes from chatting directly with product managers or other employees who are ‘in the know’ about how certain items work.

      This might be the best page from the official help files:
      but it still doesn’t address all the scenarios.

  2. mhodges33
    March 14, 2011 at 10:57 am · Reply

    We are currently using automatic bidding and it seems to be working ok. The problem is there are a few adgroups we want to limit the budget on. Is it possible to limit budget for an individual adgroup without turning automatic bidding off?

  3. brad
    March 14, 2011 at 11:13 am · Reply

    All bids and budgets are set at the campaign level. AdWords doesn’t have any way to limit spend or bid type by ad group.
    The only way to do that is to put an ad group in its own campaign with its own budget (which can get to be an organizational mess if you’re not careful).

  4. mhodges33
    March 15, 2011 at 10:01 am · Reply


    I ran a Godaddy analysis of inbound links for our site. It showed 116 inbound links for Yahoo and only 1 for Google. Is this affected by adwords? Just wondering why the huge difference.

    Also thank you for your insight on budgeting for Ad Groups on 3/14

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