Google Ads Target CPA vs Manual CPC Which is Better GT blog title graphic

Running PPC campaigns on Google Ads allows you to choose between a few different bidding strategies. And chances are, you may have hesitated before picking between Target CPA and Manual CPC.

Target CPA and Manual CPC are quite different methods so it’s important to know how they work before making a choice.

So in this article, we’re going to talk about these bidding methods, how they work, and the situations wherein each performs better.

What is Target CPA and Manual CPC?

As you may have already guessed by their names, one method is automated while the other is manual.

Target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) is a flexible bidding method where your bids are managed automatically. When a conversion for a particular keyword is more likely to happen, your bid is raised.

Manual Cost Per Click (CPC) allows the user to set manual bids for each keyword, campaign, or ad group. This method is the best option for when you want to specifically control everything, selecting each ad campaign and keyword you want to set a bid for.

The general idea behind each is that manual bidding offers an increased amount of control for the user whereas targeted bidding makes sure they save time and effort. So in theory, target CPA is ideal for businessowners who, perhaps, can’t spare enough time for marketing strategies. Especially when you consider that manual marketing strategies usually need monitoring often.

How Target CPA Works

Target CPA bidding finds the most optimal bids for your ad(s) each it’s eligible to appear automatically.

It uses historical information about the campaign you’re running and evaluates the contextual signals present during auction time. These signals are identifiable attributes at a particular time such as location and device.

Some conversions cost more than the target you set and others cost less but Google Ads tries to keep the cost equal to the target CPA you’ve set. But changes may be inevitable because the actual CPA depends on factors that are outside of Google’s control. Think about changes to your website or your ads, or there’s an increase in competition in ad auctions. These sort of things are out of Google’s hands, so to speak.

How Manual CPC Works

Manual CPC bidding gives the user full control to set their maximum amounts. These are the highest amounts they’re willing to pay for each click on their advertisements.

A maximum CPC bid is set for the entire ad group, which is the default bid, and then separate bids can also be set for individual keywords or placements. Let’s say you set your default bid but then you notice that a specific keyword is more profitable. Using manual bidding, you can allocate more of your budget to those keywords.

When Do These Methods Work Best?

Each bidding method trumps another in certain scenarios. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, otherwise Google Ads wouldn’t still propose it as a formidable strategy.

Automatic Bidding

When you have particular targets you want to reach then automatic bidding is quite useful. Especially when you’re managing quite a number of different ads. Even the most effective marketers would have a hard time micromanaging every manual CPC bid so target CPA bidding is more effective from a time investment view.

That’s because all the ads you choose will be managed automatically and you could handle the prioritised ads manually. Also, this means that you can easily monitor the ads – if they’re not performing well then take them off automatic and manage them manually. Oppositely, if they’re performing quite good then keep them on automatic (or switch to it if they’re on manual).

However, it’s important to note that because automatic bidding uses historical information on your campaign, running a brand new ad won’t be as effective as you may want. Having no historic data on your campaign means that Google has to estimate yours based on other ads from the past that are similar.

So the bid will be less effective for brand new ads but more effective on ad campaigns with historical data.

Manual Bidding

For marketers that like to micromanage every part of their campaign and make changes to optimise it, manual bidding is the most suited option.

Because manual CPC bidding lets the marketer set their own budget, that means they can also cap it at a certain level in order to prevent the less valuable (but still expensive) clicks. Now, high volumes of clicks isn’t always the best for optimisation but it can harvest a lot of data. Data which can then be used for future optimisation.

As target CPA bidding often passes the set budget due to outside changes and conversion rates, that makes manual CPC a better option if you want full control over your bidding budgets. And also if you have a more restricted or smaller budget.

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