Carey Boyes

Carey Boyes

8th July 2022

Should You Use Smart Bidding or Manual Bidding in Your Google Ads Campaign?

In recent years, pay-per-click has become more focused on automation, with Google Ads, in particular, providing an AI that is adept at learning and predicting the best strategies for campaigns.  

Is it worth letting them lead with automated bidding or should you remain manual for the best results? We investigate the options and provide all the information you need to make an informed decision. 

What is Smart Bidding? 

According to Google, smart bidding is: “A subset of automated bid strategies that optimise for conversions or conversion value.” 

Essentially, smart bidding uses AI to determine the best way to bid on your campaigns.  

Advantages of Smart Bidding 

There are some obvious benefits to smart bidding aside from the ease of letting Google take the lead.  

Machine Learning 

Google’s algorithms use vast amounts of data to accurately predict how various bid amounts will affect conversions.  

Improved Signals 

With auction-time bidding, you can optimise bids based on a variety of indications. Signals are observed characteristics about a person at the time of an auction. This includes manual bid modifications such as device and location, plus signal combinations available only through Smart Bidding. 

Adaptable Controls 

Smart Bidding enables you to set performance goals and tailor settings to your own business objectives. 

Performance Reporting 

Reporting tools are provided to assist you in gaining a better understanding of your bidding performance and troubleshooting any difficulties. 

Pros and Cons of Smart Bidding 

There are no perfect techniques but knowing how to best use smart bidding is the biggest part of the battle.  


  • Saves time 

  • Allows you to set campaigns without worrying about checking them constantly 

  • Google has access to more data for analysis 


  • Google doesn’t know your business personally 

  • You don’t have access to the data being used 

  • Google uses broad data which may not reflect your target market 

  • Google can take some time to ‘learn’ your campaigns 

  • Objectives can be limited 

  • You have less control of your budgets 

For larger businesses, having some manual control can be essential to achieving peak performance, but for smaller businesses smart bidding can be an ideal solution to saving time and money, particularly if you have limited marketing knowledge.  

When Should You Use Smart Bidding? 

There are some situations where smart bidding can be particularly useful, and we have listed these below: 

If you know your customer acquisition costs 

Automated bidding works better if you have at least 30 days’ worth of data with a good number of conversions. This ensures that there is sufficient learning on the account. Without this existing information, smart bidding will result in guesswork which can lead to higher cost per click and cost per acquisition.  

Save time and resources 

If you have a small team who knows the Customer Acquisition Costs and has conversion data running bottom-of-funnel campaigns, then smart bidding can save a lot of time that would be used strategizing the next steps.  

This may not work as well for upper or mid-funnel strategies such as maximizing clicks. 

Filling in gaps in skills 

If you have a small marketing team your skills may be focused on brand marketing rather than performance. Smart bidding allows you to continue doing what you are best at and takes care of the rest.  

New opportunities 

Google can find keywords that you may have missed during your research. The algorithm will occasionally find keywords that have a low cost per click with high conversions and low competition. This can provide essential opportunities for new campaigns.  

A solid negative keyword list 

If you have been using manual campaigns for a while and have built up a list of negative keywords, it can be a time saver to switch to smart bidding. 

What is Manual Bidding? 

Manual bidding relies on you and your team using your own insights to control your bids through Google Ads directly. The people responsible will have to consider various factors and key performance indicators to determine whether to increase or decrease bids. 

Pros and Cons of Manual Bidding 

Manual bidding requires more time and expertise than smart bidding but investing the time can provide a positive return on investment.  


  • If something changes you can change your bidding strategy immediately 

  • You can choose your own keywords as well as specify how aggressive you want to be with your bidding strategy 

  • Manual bidding means that your adjustments are made without delay 


  • Larger accounts with hundreds of keywords can be difficult to manage 

  • With a manual bidding strategy there is more chance of human error, or simply missing something important 

  • Adjusting campaigns can be a full-time job without the use of bid management software 

So, Which One is Right for Your Account? 

The benefit is that you don’t have to choose between smart bidding or manual bidding - you can use smart bidding for bidding at the ad group, campaign, or portfolio level so you can pick and choose the strategies that work best for your account.  

Consider if you have enough data for a smart bidding strategy on bottom-funnel campaigns where Google can use its data to determine the best moves for you. For mid or upper-funnel campaigns it may be worth a manual approach.  

If you start with manual bidding, you can always try smart bidding when you have more data for analysis. As with many marketing tools, there is no solid answer that fits all businesses. The positive to this is that Google has a highly adaptable tool which allows you to adjust frequently and trial new strategies.  

If you would like any help with PPC, view more of our advice online or contact SilverDisc directly for our services. 

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