6 AdWords Flexible Bid Strategies You Need To Try

Jacob McMillen

Flexible AdWords bidding strategies are comparatively new to the AdWords scene, showing up as a new update in 2013.


To take it straight from Google, “Flexible bid strategies give you automated bidding exactly when, where, and how you want it — across multiple campaigns, or within a single part of a campaign.”

In other words, you don’t have to decide between manual and automatic bidding for the entirety of a campaign.

If you want to manually bid ONLY on top keyword performers or specific timeslots, while using automatic bidding on the rest of your pay per click managed campaigns, flexible bidding strategies allow you to do just that.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the Pros and Cons of the different flexible bid strategies and identifying which should be used to best facilitate your AdWords management goals.


How To Create And Manage The AdWords Flexible Bid Strategies

To enable a flexible bidding strategy, you need to:

1) Sign into your AdWords account.

2) Click the Campaigns tab.

3) Click Shared library in the left sidebar.

4) In the Bid strategies section, click View.

5) Here are the actions you can take:


  • To create a bid strategy, click the + Bid strategy button, and select a type
  • To edit a strategy, click the name of the strategy and go to its settings page.
  • To delete a strategy, select the checkbox next to its name, then click Delete. (Note that you must first remove it from any keywords, ad groups, or campaigns before you can delete it from the Shared library.)
bid strategies

Let’s take a look at these different strategies…


As you can see in the above image, these strategies include:

1) Enhanced CPC
2) Target Search Page Location
3) Target CPA
4) Target Outranking Share
5) Maximize Clicks
6) Target Return On Ad Spend

Each of these strategies can be used in different ways.

Each has strengths, weaknesses, and intended uses.

Want to find out these strengths, weaknesses, and uses?

Well then, let’s get started!


1) Enhanced CPC

Enhanced Cost-per-Click (ECPC) automatically adjusts your manual bid up or down based on each click’s likelihood to result in a conversion.

In other words, ECPC allows you to have Google’s AdWords algorithms specifically target users it predicts will convert for you.

It also gives AdWords power to increase your manually set bid by up to 30% in order to nab placement for high converting searches, while dropping your bid for low-converting placements by up to 100% (aka $0.00).



  • Google is helping you target high-converting click-throughs, which is the entire point of your campaign in the first place.
  • In theory, this strategy should increase your conversion rate.

We’re happy about those increased conversions too, Emma – image source




  • Potentially higher cost can exceed budget.
  • Google’s algorithm might not be successful in providing a meaningful conversion boost.

When Should You Use eCPC?

eCPC is a great bidding strategy to use when your #1 goal is increasing site conversions and you have some wiggle room with your ad budget or profit margins.

For example, a funded startup wanting to build momentum and demonstrate traction might use this strategy to inefficiently build a core group of customers.

Businesses offering high-margin products to more niche clientele might also find this strategy effective.


2) Target Search Page Location

Target Search Page Location, in addition to being a really long name, automatically adjusts bids to help you get your ads to the top of the page or the first page of search results.

In other words, this bid strategy will give you the best chance of being included at the top of page #1 in the SERPS.


target search page location

Doesn’t everybody like being #1?

Why would you want to be included at the top of page #1?
Well, because that’s pretty much the only place people look.

visual scan

As you can see (no pun intended), you definitely want to be at the top.




  • Much higher ad visibility – potentially free exposure if ad unclicked.
  • Potentially higher click-through rate – might be more cost-effective per click than other strategies.



  • If you’re not careful, this could significantly bump your ad expense.
  • No guarantee your click-throughs will be any more targeted than those with lower costs per click.

Who Should Use Target Search Page Location?

Target Search Page Location is a good option for companies wanting brand exposure who are still in position to successfully convert users who click-through the ad.

It’s not the best strategy for just targeting impressions and it’s not the best strategy for solely targeting clicks, but it can be an effective blend of these two goals if used correctly.


3) Target CPA

Target Cost-per-Acquisition (CPA) (not to be confused with your boring uncle who works in accounting) automatically sets bids to help you get as many conversions as possible while reaching your average cost-per-acquisition goal.

In other words, Target CPA allows you to maximize conversions at a target price point per average acquisition.

This average is taken across all channels, and Google may overbid on certain keywords and underbid on others.

You can set additional maximum and minimum bid limits for more control.



  • Target CPA is basically the most automated way to run an AdWords campaign. It requires a lot less in term of manual implementation from the user.
  • Every business has a target cost-per-customer. Target CPA helps you aim your agencies PPC campaigns directly at that number.



  • Potential for costs to skyrocket if you don’t set a maximum bid limit.
  • More automation can be a bad thing if you forget about monitoring campaign results.

Who Should Use Target CPA?

Target CPA is a great option for anyone with a clear cost target and less inclination for manual tweaking.

If you are wanting to test out a few campaigns with Google in the primary driver seat, Target CPA is a good bid strategy for you.


4) Target Outranking Share

Target Outranking Share automatically sets bids to help you outrank another domain’s ads in search results.

This one is pretty straightforward.

If you have a competing domain going after the same keywords, you can pay to outrank them for a specific percentage of auctions.

This isn’t a general strategy in the sense that it won’t improve your overall ad rank.

You can only use this strategy to achieve higher placement than another specified domain.



  • Highly targeted way to increase search visibility over that of a direct competitor.
  • If you have a specific competitor you are looking to take market share from, this strategy lets you target them specifically.

Again Emma, we feel you – image source



  • Significantly more expensive than other bid strategies, particularly if you are targeting competitors whose ads have better qualit
    y scores than yours.
  • Inefficient strategy for obtaining conversions for your business.

Who Should Use Target Outranking Share?

This strategy is ONLY for businesses looking to gain a temporary edge on one or two specific competitors.

If for some reason you need to be outranking a specific set of competitors, this is targeted method for accomplishing just that.

It’s important to understand that this strategy will NOT put you top of page for a set of keywords.

If you need to rank #1 for a given keyword list, use Target Search Page Location.

Target Outranking Share will simply ensure that your business outranks Business X on a set percentage of bids for your ad group.


5) Maximize Clicks

Maximize Clicks automatically sets bids to help you get the most clicks within a target spend amount that you choose.

Want clicks?

On a budget?

Use this strategy to maximize your clicks within a set budget.



  • Straightforward – this is basic automated bidding.
  • Most efficient strategy for traffic generation.



  • Clicks might not be high quality.
  • Less targeting could result in less meaningful results.

Who Should Use Maximize Clicks?

If your two primary goals are traffic and low-maintenance bidding, Maximize Clicks is a good bid strategy for you.

It’s very straightforward, and you won’t risk going over budget.

If you think you’ve found a way to monetize a set of low-profile keywords, this is a good all-things-equal strategy to test it out with.


6) Target Return On Ad Spend

Target Return On Ad Spend automatically sets your bids to maximize your conversion value, while trying to reach an average return on ad spend.

In other words, for websites that sell multiple, variably priced products or services, AdWords will target bids that result in the most profitable conversions, rather than treating all conversion equally.

The primary goal is maximum return on investment, even if the overall conversion numbers are lower.

So if you have 10 different products, with each one priced differently, AdWords will attempt to send clicks that purchase the higher priced items and give you the highest possible ROI for your SEM campaign dollars.



  • One step beyond conversions – every business ultimately wants to maximize total ROI.
  • Geared towards eCommerce platforms with multiple products – can take the headache out of identifying the right balance between volume sellers and high-margin winners.



  • This requires a much more sophisticated algorithm to get right, and the results might not be there for your business.
  • Not useful for all websites.

Who Should Target Return On Ad Spend?

This bidding strategy is theoretically ideal for any eCommerce platform trying to maximize AdWords ROI.

The more products you have, the more challenging it is to find the right pitch package for your ad groups.

Target Return On Ad Spend can potentially do the legwork for you.

If it really worked for every business, however, I don’t see why anyone would ever use any other strategy.

It’s worth testing, however, as accurate results would mean maximizing your AdWords ROI, and that’s ALWAYS a good thing.

So, before beginning any AdWords campaign or selecting a specific bid strategy, you absolutely MUST know what your end goal.

“More sales” or “more traffic” isn’t really good enough.

The better you understand EXACTLY what you’re trying to accomplish, the better you’ll be able to match the right keywords to the right bid strategy to the right results.

Remember, the key to any marketing strategy is testing, testing, testing.

What worked? What didn’t work? Why didn’t it work?

What else might work instead?

How did this adjustment change the results?

The cycle doesn’t end, so be prepared to correct your course regardless of which strategy you select and how much you prepare.

In review, AdWords’ flexible bid strategies include:

1) Enhanced CPC – target high-converting clicks.
2) Target Search Page Location – get your ads at top of the SERPS.
3) Target CPA – target conversions by cost.
4) Target Outranking Share – outrank direct competitors.
5) Maximize Clicks – target maximum clicks.
6) Target Return On Ad Spend – target overall campaign ROI.

Match your goal to the appropriate bid strategy and then test it out.

Start with lower dollar amounts and then scale slowly when you find something that works for your campaigns.

P.S. Learned something new about bid strategies? Then share this with your crew!