Rolled out for Search Ads 360 (SA360) last year, auction-time bidding (ATB) combines Google Ads powerful machine-learning Smart Bidding feature with advanced SA360 conversion data, unlocking the possibility to optimise for a multitude of signals and to set a distinct bid for every auction.
What’s the difference between standard intra-day and auction time bidding?
Standard SA360 bid strategies analyse performance from a portfolio of campaigns, updating max CPC bids approximately every 6 hours, based on a combination of the historical and predicted conversion rate of all biddable items in the portfolio (including keywords, product groups, device, geo, and audience modifiers), usually referred to as intra-day bidding.
In contrast, SA360 ATB does not rely on historical data as heavily and leverages a wide range of contextual signals - identifiable attributes about a person or their context at the time of auction - to determine the appropriate bid for each unique auction. This includes device, physical location, location intent, weekday & time of day, interface language, browser, operating system, actual search query, and others (most of which we do not have visibility of). SA360's Floodlight data is then used to control the ROI/CPA targets set in Google Ads, where the bidding is taking place.
Why should you enable ATB?
ATB introduces an increased level of automation in account management, and real-time optimisation, taking advantage of Google’s machine-learning, and particularly helpful in managing very large portfolios. In addition, it has proven to generate uplifts in performance of +15-30%, at the same or better ROI on a typical advertiser.
How to enable ATB?
- Navigate to an advertiser and select Bid Strategies on the left panel.
- Create a conversions or revenue bid strategy or edit an existing one.
- In the “Engines features” select the Auction-time bidding checkbox
- Click “Yes, I understand” in the “Turn in Auction-time bidding and share Floodlight conversions box”.
- The optimisation options below will be selected by default and settings cannot be changed from this point on.
- Click next and on the “Target” page enter a CPA or ROAS target.
- Select your conversion source. Floodlight (including custom Floodlight variables), Google Ads conversion tracking (including website actions, phone calls, app installs and in-app actions, local actions), offline conversions (with <14 day upload delay (i.e. time between conversion and upload) and formula columns (except Google Ads weighted conversions) are supported by auction-time bidding. However, Google Analytics and formula columns that set device targets are not supported. It is recommended that the conversion source matches the advertiser’s Default Conversion Goal (DFC) to maximise performance across all activity.
- The last-click attribution model is selected by default, but auction-time bidding can be enabled with all SA360 attribution models.
- Specify bid strategy constraints. About 7 days after auction-time bidding is enabled constraints such as minimum, maximum bid and position targets won’t apply to Google Ads campaigns, but will, however, apply to any non-Google Ads campaigns in the bid strategy. Once ATB is enabled, ATB specific "Minimum bid" and "Maximum bid" constraint fields will appear on the "Target and Constraints" page, below the default constraints. These constraints are only applicable to auction-time Search campaigns (Target CPA and Target ROAS), though. Min/max bid constraints don’t apply to Shopping and Smart Shopping.
- Save the bid strategy.
- Since auction-time bidding is only available in Google Ads, the bid strategy’s Floodlight conversions will need be shared with Google Ads. SA360 will send an MCC Link Request to Google Ads which needs to be accepted. When you agree to share Floodlight conversions all Google Ads campaigns in the advertiser will receive the conversions by default. Keep in mind auto-tagging must be activated in Google Ads to share the Floodlight conversions. From this point onwards everything will be automated, and you don't need to set anything else up/edit anything in Google Ads. The bid strategy can be managed like any other inside of SA360 once up & running.
- At this point, the advertiser will enter a warm-up phase, where Floodlight conversions are exported to Google Ads prior to auction time bidding being enabled. It starts when you enable ATB in SA360 and lasts for 7 days plus the length of the portfolio’s conversion delay. During this initial period, SA360 will use intra-day bidding. A message will appear in the Bid Strategy area indicating how many days remain until the bid strategy is warmed up for auction-time bidding. Once the initial warm-up phase is successfully completed no further warm-up periods will be required. Meaning that when you enable auction-time bidding for another bid strategy in the same advertiser, or you add a new campaign to an existing bid strategy with ATB, auction-time bidding will be enabled immediately, without a warm-up period. Add the Auction-time status column to the report at campaign level in SA360 to check on auction-time status.
- Seven or more days after turning ATB on, a standard Target CPA or Target ROAS Smart Bidding portfolio strategy is created in Google Ads and the portfolio strategy is applied to each campaign managed by the SA360 bid strategy. For Shopping and Smart Shopping campaigns, a Google Ads campaign-level strategy will be created and applied to each campaign managed by the Search Ads 360 bid strategy.
- The 'Conversions' and ‘All conversions’ columns will be updated in all Google Ads campaigns managed by a SA360 advertiser to include your Floodlight conversion data (see here). Once the account accepts the link to Search Ads 360 Floodlight data will be passed automatically to Google Ads. A Floodlight conversion action set will show on the Conversion actions area in Google Ads. This might inflate the numbers - users are recommended to segment out their reports by 'conversion action' to retain a 'truer' view of performance in Google Ads.
- Auction-time bidding only applies to the Google Ads campaigns (Search and Shopping, including DSAs and Smart Shopping) but portfolios can include incompatible campaign types (e.g. Microsoft Ads), which will continue running on intra-day bidding.
- It’s possible to enable ATB when using Budget Bid Strategies.
- It’s recommended that Google Shopping and Smart Shopping campaigns in an ATB bid strategy have a goal of Target ROAS (see here). Shopping and Smart Shopping campaigns in budget bid strategies and Shopping campaigns in Target CPA bid strategies are not compatible with ATB and will continue to run on intraday bidding.
- Shopping campaigns in auction-time bid strategies that are not aligned to the default conversion goal will continue to run on intraday bidding if placed in an auction-time enabled bid strategy. Optionally, these can be placed in ATB bid strategies that use the DCG plus either a Google Ads ‘Store Visit’ goal or a Google Ads ‘Store Visit Value’ goal.
- All Shopping campaigns in an advertiser are required to use the Search Ads 360 default conversion goal which can be controlled with the Advertiser setting "Conversion mapping for Shopping campaigns". This setting is turned off by default and if not turned on Shopping campaigns will not be eligible for ATB. It’s recommended waiting 1 week before adding Shopping campaigns to auction-time bid strategies after enabling ‘conversion mapping’.
- To be considered for use in auction-time bidding, offline conversions must be uploaded to Search Ads 360 within 14 days of the conversion timestamp.
- Campaigns using a conversion action set generated by Search Ads 360 can't be added to Google Ads Smart Bidding strategies.
- If you want to stop sharing conversions with Google Ads, you must disable auction-time bidding in all your Search Ads 360 bid strategies.
- ATB can be deactivated by simply unchecking the “auction-time bidding” tick box in the bid strategies settings in SA360 and campaigns will return to intra-day bidding.
- The legacy and auction-time constraints are independent of one another, they don't automatically populate one another, nor do they impact one another. Google recommends not setting constraints when using auction-time bidding.
- Google recommends limiting auction-time bid strategy's targets changes to ±30% at a time to avoid a potentially significant increase or decrease in your ad spend. The bid strategy will align itself to the new target within 6 hours of the change.
- Enabling ATB will take away a part of control over keyword, product group and bid adjustments, and any attempt to manage/edit your bids directly in either the engine or SA360 interface will be ignored by the system. Despite this, it is still possible to adjust the bid strategy targets and set target ROIs for ad groups. Auction–time bid strategies will continue to evolve and improve over time, and Search Ads will continue to update targets as necessary to ensure the overall portfolio goal is achieved.
If you have any questions on ATB or would like further information, don't hesitate to get in touch today