Manual and automated bidding were the only options when AdWords first launched in 2000. To be successful in paid search, you had to know how to bid. You would either manually set keyword bids and apply performance filters to each (manual bidding) or run scripts that defined specific criteria and automatically adjusted bids based on those criteria (automatic bidding) (automated bidding).

3 Reasons to choose Smart Bidding over automated or manual bidding

1. Capture unique user context

Imagine a shopper searching on Google for new shoes. Which ad would she click, if any? Here’re a few things we want to know first.

  • Is she looking for shoes on her desktop computer at home or on her smartphone while on the go?
  • Where does she live? Which part of the San Francisco Bay Area is she based in? (For example, if the store has a physical location in Oakland or San Mateo, Alice may find it easier to return the shoes if they don’t fit).
  • What time is it right now? Is she looking during the week or on the weekend? Morning or evening?
  • Has she previously looked at any specific shoes on your store’s website? (For example, is Alice on your RLSA (remarketing list for search ads)?
  • Is she looking for Kate Spade shoes, leather shoes, or party shoes?
  • Which language is her Google account’s default language?
  • Which browser should I use: Safari, Firefox, or Chrome? What is the source of the question?
  • What kind of website will she see your ad on if she sees it at random on a search network partner’s website (rather than in search results)? Is it an e-commerce site (highly relevant) or a news site (impulse purchase?)

2. Simplify workflow

Every year, Google AdWords adds new features and tweaks to the existing ones. Google has added separate bidding for its content network, quality score, tablet retargeting, sitelinks, clicks-to-call and clicks-to-message, shopping campaigns, ad customizers, customer match, extensions, Gmail ads, PLAs, RLSA, DFSA, ETAs, and other features since the launch of AdWords.

“Yes, you may be able to squeeze out a couple extra conversions by being more in control and constantly doing manual bidding,” Natalie Barreda, Director of Paid Search at Point It, a digital marketing agency, said. “However, that is not the best use of your time.”

3. Focus on adding more value

Bidding was once central to AdWords advertising, making the PPC advertiser a slave to the algorithm’s ever-changing tweaks and add-ons. If Smart Bidding does evolve to automate itself to make the best bets, a la Deep Blue vs. Kasparov, that will open up opportunities for a whole new game, in which advertising will be more about empathy (with strategic targeting) and creativity (with thoughtful copy and design).

In a nutshell, if you bid on an ad for online shoe-shopper Alice using manual bidding or automation rather than Smart Bidding, you’d miss out on capturing granular contextual signals and would likely waste too much time determining which filters to apply to your campaign.