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Google Ads have now announced that you can use the power of Google Ads Auction-time Bidding in your Search Ads 360 bidding strategy using Floodlight conversions. From initial testing, Google have said that advertisers have seen an average lift of 15-30% in conversions at the same/better ROI in Search Ads 360. What is Auction-time bidding in Search Ads 360 and what does this mean for you?


What is Google Ads Auction-time bidding?

Google Ads uses machine learning in Smart Bidding to set bids at the time of auction by using a wide range of signals that help it to predict performance.

Google understands user context & intent and combines signals to help drive more value for advertisers. It anticipates when a conversion is likely to happen by analysing your account history, floodlight conversions and other signal combinations.

By combining signals such as device, browser, language, location, time of day & more, Google can use this information to adjust your bids for every single search query.


So what’s new with Auction-time bidding in Search Ads 360?

Auction-time bidding isn’t anything brand new to Google Ads. Previous to this update, it wasn’t recommended to use both SA360 and Google Ads bidding strategies at the same time because of the fact that they are optimising at different times and to different conversion goals. Historically, Google Ads has had the capabilities for Auction-time bidding through strategies such as eCPC. Search Ads 360 however has not and only really made bidding decisions between 4-6 times a day or roughly every 6 hours.

This change now means that you can “push” your Floodlight conversions from SA360 into your Google Ads account for use in Auction-time bidding. Essentially it’s the same as what has already been available in Google Ads, the only difference is that you can use your Search Ads 360 conversions (which, if you are using SA360, you are probably using these conversions for optimisations, reporting and cross-channel attribution so are therefore these are more valuable) for these Auction-time bidding strategies.

From here, your Search Ads 360 bidding strategies now not only look at your Floodlight conversion goals, but it will also take into account the different contextual signals from Google Ads in real time to set keyword bids to maximise performance.

Auction-time Search Ads 360

Credit: The Keyword, Google 2019


What does this mean for you?

The power of Auction-time bidding strategies is what scares most advertisers, but also excites them!

The potential is huge. By being able to analyse contextual & intent signals and use machine learning to predict the future using Search Ads 360 conversions, advertisers can now use this to surface their ads to people before they even know they want it. Adoption for Auction-time bidding for those using Search Ads 360 has been low due to the fact that they look at different conversion types. Now thanks to the merging of Google’s products through the Google Marketing Platform, it’s become easier to take the best of both worlds in Google Ads and Search Ads 360. This has created a powerful product, and one that should blow competitors out of the water.

There is a fear though that Auction-time bidding almost completely replaces the need to optimise your accounts. In this new world, what role will analysts and paid search practitioners play? I can definitely see how this paranoia occurs, but we’ve written in depth around the reasons why you need to be brave and embrace it.

There is still a lack of transparency over what signals Auction-time bidding is using

A wide range of contextual signals are being used, but nowhere can we see which signals Google are using to make these decisions. Yes, we can of course gather our own models and look at analytics to understand which contextual signals Google is most likely t0 be using, however there is currently no report which demonstrates exactly which signals are being used the most, and how frequent. Wouldn’t this be useful! Personally, I think this will only help increase the adoption of Auction-time bidding. It’s this lack of transparency that feeds the scepticism towards automation because we don’t understand it. Come on Google, if you give a little, it would mean a lot!


How do you setup Auction-time bidding in Search Ads 360?

Read our in-depth guide

There are so many elements to discuss with Auction-time bidding. It may sound like an easy solution to implement, but if you are looking to properly test this as a long term option you need to make sure that you take your time with the setup, take your time with the duration of the test, and take your time with the analysis. You can read our definitive guide here.

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Dan Roberts

Founder & Author at PPC hubbub
Dan has worked across different agencies in the UK for over 6 years. He was awarded Rising Star at The Drum Search Awards in 2015. Google voted him as one of the Top 20 Search Specialists in the UK. He founded PPC hubbub after becoming frustrated with the lack of actionable insight from blogs.

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Dan Roberts
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