Smart Bidding or Manual Bidding – A Simple Guide to Paid Advertising

The first thing most people do when they have a problem is search for answers on Google. Be it a product they urgently need, up to date news or pure entertainment, Google has all the answers.

All businesses yearn for that top spot on the search engine results but the internet contains vast amounts of content which makes it notoriously difficult to get to that position through SEO. That’s where Paid Search comes in.

But running a successful digital advertising campaign is not that easy. If you are aiming for the first spot, there are many factors to consider. Successful ad campaigns are not only about the amount you’re willing to spend – you need the right keywords, relevant content, strategic ad placement, exciting ad copy, high quality landing pages, good audience understanding and the right bid strategy.

What is Bidding?

“Google Ads runs an auction every single time it has ad space available — on a search result, or on a blog, news site, or some other page. Each auction decides which ads will show at that moment in that space. Your bid puts you in the auction.” -  Google Blogs 

Where your ad appears plays a huge role in determining the success of your campaign, so businesses compete to get the best possible place for their ads. 

Bidding is essentially an auction where you aim for the top placement of your ads on Google search results. You have to pay just enough to beat the competition and you only have to pay when a user clicks on your ad. But also you need your ads to be relevant and of a sufficient quality score to ensure optimal placement. 

Users want to see relevant ads and advertisers want to attract relevant customers, so Google Ads ensures that both parties benefit through their platform. Other factors that define the success of your ad campaign are as follows (Source: Hal Varian, Senior Economist, Google) 

Expected Click Through Rate

Based on the history of your account, Google Ads monitors how well your older ads have performed. Next, they create an estimated ratio of how many people who saw your ad went to your landing page. This CTR determines how Google thinks your ad will perform. 

Landing Page Quality

Landing pages play a huge role in digital advertising. Your advertising methods are ineffective if you are unable to convert your click throughs into dedicated customers. The quality score of a landing page depends on: relevant and original content, an easy user interface, a clear niche, and transparency about the services your business offers. A poor quality score can result in lower placement even with higher bids so this is critically important. 

Ad Relevance

Ad relevance means how well your ad matches what people search. Therefore, as an advertiser, you need to make sure that your ad campaigns are relevant to people’s needs. Make sure your keywords are segmented into small buckets with highly relevant ads. If I search for red socks I want to see an ad for red socks, not for clothing. 

Ad Formats

Google describes ad format as “visual enhancements to search ads that more prominently display information about your business, such as a phone number, or your website’s domain in the headline.” The most common form is Ad Extensions. It’s important to understand all of these and use them where relevant (and only where relevant). They play as important a role in determining your bid as the amount you set. Make sure your ad is enhanced according to Google’s ad format rules and structure. 

What is Smart Bidding?

Smart bidding provides advertisers with a set of automated bidding strategies that manage your ad campaign settings. After taking a deep look at historical search patterns and other important data, Google determines the probability of a conversion and increases your bid when necessary. 


  • It saves a great deal of time, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business.
  • You can trust there is some science behind the optimisation.
  • Google Ads has more relevant data than one could possibly imagine. 


  • You lose some control over how your ad campaigns take place.
  • Google might not target your audience as accurately as you would yourself.
  • You may have insights that Google doesn’t. 

What is CPC Manual Bidding?

In this bidding strategy, you can set the maximum cost per click for your ads yourself according to your budget and priorities. This ensures much deeper control but does of course come with a need to spend more time in the account. 


  • You are in full charge of your advertising campaigns and don’t risk AI mistakes.
  • You are able to accurately test strategies.
  • You can apply your own learnings from internal data. 


  • It can be challenging to scale without building a large team.
  • There is scope for human error.
  • You won’t benefit from Google’s learnings across it’s vast network. 

Smart Bidding vs. Manual Bidding

There are many smart bidding opportunities out there. Smart bidding also provides automated strategies for aspects such as controlling your costs, having an automated focus on gathering conversions, and delivering leads and traffic. 

Thanks to AI, Google’s accuracy has improved over the years and they offer some great tools. If you know nothing about paid search, you can create a dynamic campaign – Google will pull through the keywords from your website, gather the content for the ad from your website and will optimize it, which is great for a low touch strategy but risky in terms of your control. 

Google looks at the history of what has and hasn’t worked a for your business and uses that knowledge to make important decisions. So, if there’s no account history, it will need to learn in order to be effective. You know your brand inside-out and Google cannot always bring the same insights that you have. So, you need be careful about how you approach the two options. It greatly depends on your business goals, requirements, resources and budget. 

Final Thoughts on Paid Search

Before you focus on digital advertising, make sure your product is ready to be marketed. That message is especially aimed at start-ups. “Done is better than perfect” is a phrase I love but if it’s not good enough then your marketing will not only be wasted spend but may also cause negative brand sentiment rather than growth, and bad first impressions are hard to turn around.