Manual Bidding – Case Study

There’s a lot of articles that write about what manual bidding is, but almost zero that actually compare the numbers on auto bidding vs. manual bidding.

This article will be almost all numbers and no fluff, and will assume that you know the basics of auto bidding vs. manual bidding.

One of the companies I work with has a remarketing campaign that’s broken down by funnel depth and recency.

This is imperative for a sound remarketing campaign, as you can change bids and budgets on a granular level.

AD SET 1: Home Page Visitors, P4D – P7D

One of the ad sets targets people who have visited the home page in the past 4-7 days, and excludes those who have reached a higher funnel page.

In this case, it excludes people who, for example, have started the signup flow or have visited pages that give more in-depth information about the service.

Originally, this ad set was set on auto-bid and though had significant scale, was acquiring customers inefficiently.

Nov 2017 – 86 conv on $7,593 spend, $88.29 CPA

Dec 2017 – 61 conv on $3,479 spend, $57.03 CPA

Jan 2018 – 147 conv on $9,686 spend, $65.89 CPA

In this case, the target CPA was $30, so these ad sets were not efficient at all.

On Feb 1, the ad set was switched to manual bidding with a $60 target cost (2x the actual target of $30). Here was the result:

Feb 2018 – 3 conv on $75.11 spend, $25.04 CPA

So while this was efficient, scale was significantly decreased.

On March 1, the ad set was switched to a $100 target cost.

In March, there were 6 conversions on $129.82 spend at a $21.64 CPA. It looks like daily spend went up while efficiency was still under allowable at $21.64. In fact, it’s even lower than the CPA in February.

With such a small sample size though, there aren’t really many conclusions to be made in this particular ad set.


AD SET 2: Home Page Visitors, P8D – P30D

Nov 2017 – 517 conv on $34,959 spend, $67.63 CPA

Dec 2017 – 164 conv on $12,099 spend, $73.78 CPA

Manual bidding:

On Jan 1, the ad set was switched over to manual bidding, with a target cost of $100 (about 3x the actual target of $30).

Jan 2018 – 13 conv on $745 spend, $57.31 CPA

Unfortunately, this was still over allowable, so on Feb 1, the target cost was changed to $60 instead.

Feb 2018 – 0 conv on $50.15 spend, — CPA

This didn’t work. The lower target cost throttled spend, and we ended up with nothing here.

The only logical thing to do on March 1 was to change the target cost to $80, right in between the other two target costs.

Mar 2018 – 12 conv on $518 spend, $43.17 CPA


AD SET 3: “Why We’re Better” Page Visitors, P4D – P7D

This ad set contains all traffic to the “why we’re better” page, where the company compares itself vs their competitors. While we’d expect strong performance for people who have visited this page – and thus gone deeper in the funnel than those who only visited the home page – this audience was inconsistent.

Nov 2017 – 8 conversions, $131.27 spend, $16.41 CPA

This month had sparkling performance, as the CPA was well below allowable.

Dec 2017 – 17 conversions, $558.00, $32.82 CPA
Jan 2018 – 3 conversions, $519.61 spend, $173.20 CPA

Still decent performance in December (hovering around the $30 allowable), but we see January’s performance tanked.

For February, the ad set went manual, with a target cost of $100. Surprisingly, there was almost no spend.

Feb 2018 – 0 conversions, $1.24 spend, — CPA

On March 1, the ad set manual bid was raised from $100 to $120. Stil, there was almost no spend.

Mar 2018 – 0 conversions, $12.15 spend, — CPA


AD SET 4: “Why We’re Better” Page Visitors, P8D – P30D

Dec 2017 – 23 conv, $1,404 spend, $61 CPA

Because of the poor performance in December, the ad set was set to manual with a target cost of $100. Unfortunately, this throttled spend with no conversions.

Jan 2018 – 0 conv, $238 spend, — CPA

This was then turned off in February. In March, it was reactivated with auto bid, at a $10 daily budget.

March 2018 – 3 conv, $309 spend, $103 CPA


AD SET 5: “Why We’re Better” Page Visitors, P31D – P180D

Nov 2017 – 441 conv, $36,286 spend, $82.28 CPA

Dec 2017 – 161 conv, $10,459 spend, $64.96 CPA

November and December had huge amounts of inefficient spend. It was time to put the ad set into manual with a $100 target cost.

Jan 2018 – 52 conv, $1,340 spend, $25.77 CPA

Feb 2018 – 58 conv, $1,747 spend, $30.13 CPA

This was the sweet spot, it seemed.

In March, the ad set continued to run at the $100 target cost. However, it was able to achieve 60 conv in that time frame on only $908 spend ($15.15 CPA).

So a few conclusions we can make from manual bidding:

  • It’ll likely throttle spend. If an ad set’s cost per result is coming in below your allowable, auto bidding is going to be your best option because auto bidding will spend your entire allotted daily or lifetime budget
  • It can lower your cost per desired action. If your ad set’s cost per result is coming in above your allowable, then you can try a manual bid. Just don’t set the target cost as your actual target cost, but instead start with a number that’s 3x your target cost and then tweak the target cost from there.

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