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Bid Adjustments For Each Device Type

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Google has looked into it’s past in order to preserve it’s future. At the Google Performance Summit 2016, they announced that we will now have separate bid adjustments ranging from -100% to 900% for Mobile, Desktop and Tablet. Let that sink in for a second…breathe…calm yourself…ok. Yes, that means more freedom (again) in the management of device level bid modifiers. We will soon (again) be able to bid on Desktop, Tablet and Mobile separately.

So why have Google gone all “Doctor Who” on us and travelled back in time to a place where we had greater control over device bids?

We will be exploring this below, and as always we’ll give you actionable insight for you and your Paid Search strategies.

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What’s changing to bid adjustments? 

Pre-Enhanced Campaigns

Before 2013, we were able to build Paid Search campaigns to target specific devices separately e.g. Desktop, Tablet, Mobile. This therefore allowed us to bid more aggressively on Desktop as opposed to Tablet, as an example. But, this was difficult for Paid Search professionals to manage as it effectively tripled the size of accounts and therefore workload. For Google, this was obviously a problem as it could mean less revenue. They therefore needed to simplify and smarten the way Adwords campaigns worked.

Introducing Enhanced Campaigns

In 2013 Google announced Enhanced Campaigns which was designed to help us manage our campaigns in a multi-device world. Enhanced Campaigns re-wrote the rule book for Paid Search by grouping all devices into the same campaigns with bids adjustments for Desktop & Tablet together, and then a separate one for Mobile. Here’s a video that Google released to introduce Enhanced Campaigns…

Enhanced Campaigns was meant to future-proof Adwords, but advertisers are increasingly frustrated about the fact that Desktop & Tablet performance are not as similar as Google predicted. Today, this is still the case for most advertisers; there has been a decline in Tablet stats, and currently there just isn’t a way to optimise Desktop & Tablet bids separately.

Enhanced campaigns also “forced” advertisers to start testing Mobile Ads more seriously. Google saw that this device was becoming a game changer, and it wanted to ensure that advertisers were capitalizing on this trend.

The growth of Mobile in particular has now exploded, which has changed the game for advertisers and Google. Yes we are still in a multiple device world, but Mobile is now the number one device that we turn to for everything with all other devices being secondary. In no less than 3 years, we find Google future-proofing Adwords again…

“De-Enhanced” Campaigns? Separate Bid Adjustments for each Device

In May 2016, Google announced that they will be allowing us to have effectively 3 device targeting (Desktop, Tablet, Mobile) options rather than the existing 2 (Desktop & Tablet, Mobile)…again.

According to Sridhar Ramaswamy (Senior Vice President, Ads and Commerce at Google), “This lets you anchor your base keyword bid to the device most valuable to your business and then set bid adjustments for each of the other devices. You will also have a wider range to adjust bids, up to +900%” (Source: Google Inside Adwords).

With Enhanced Campaigns we are currently only able to set a base bid for Desktop & Tablet, and then use a bid adjustment for Mobile (-100% or +300%) from this set base bid.

With this latest evolution of Adwords Campaigns, we will now be able to set a base bid and then set bid adjustments for one or all device types between a wide range of -100% to +900%. So, you’ll set a base bid for a particular device (e.g. Mobile) and then you have the option to set bid adjustments for the other 2 devices. It’s important to note that if you don’t set bid adjustments, then the remaining 2 devices will inherit the base bid you have set on your anchored device bid.

Example – I can now anchor Mobile to have my base bid, and then use bid adjustments (either positive or negative) to bid more strategically on these other devices (Desktop and Tablet separately).

Why are Google going back in time to secure it’s future?

Throughout the announcements at this year’s Google Performance Summit, Google reiterated that they have listened to advertisers feedback about their products and have actively ensured that we are being heard through the updates. Updating the way that bid adjustments are carried out in Adwords has certainly proved this. Advertisers have been screaming out for something like this for a while now, and the pleasure was audible at this years summit when it was announced.

Even though Google have looked to their past to ensure their continued successes on Mobile for the future, we believe that this is a step forwards and not a step backwards. It’s an Evolution, not a Devolution.

  • This really does now let advertisers have more control and freedom over their device bidding and therefore performance. In addition to Expanded Text Ads, Cross Device Conversions and other Attribution Models; Google is ensuring that it’s Ad program remains highly attractive across all Devices (but particularly on Mobile).
  • As strategy becomes more complicated, campaign management needs to be simplified to allow for smarter results. I’m sure that this, as well as Expanded Text Ads, will spell the end of the need to have Mobile preferred ads. Google has been looking to sync the appearance of it’s Desktop SERP with it’s Mobile SERP (removing right hand side ads being the start), therefore having mobile preferred ads now seems counterintuitive. By simplifying the Adwords campaign structure and settings for us, Google helps drive better ROI for advertisers and ultimately itself.
  • This de-coupling of Desktop & Tablet now makes Mobile-first strategies even easier to implement. Google has now made it possible for us to target campaigns only for mobile devices. Campaigns can be set to use mobile as the preferred device for base bids and then tablet & desktop clicks can effectively be eliminated by using -100% bid adjustments. Previous to this, Desktop and Tablet traffic just couldn’t be eliminated entirely; with the he only way of achieving a mobile-only campaign was to specify very low base bid for desktop & tablet and then increase the bid adjustments by +300%. By doing this, Google are ensuring that advertisers can really push their Mobile strategies to the next level, giving Google more data to develop new products and upgrades, and therefore more Revenue.

When is this going to happen?

Google say that this change will happen in the next few months, but haven’t as yet given a specific date. Keep your eyes peeled on our Social Media to find out more!

What do you need to do?

As mentioned, you don’t need to action anything just yet. However, we would recommend that you start thinking about optimisations and plans for the near future.

  • Have a look at your data and start thinking about which device types work best for you and your KPI’s. Which device will become your base bid? Which device works best for your Text Ad campaigns and your Shopping Campaigns? Answering all of this now will allow you to sail ahead of the competition when the changes become live.
  • Take a look at your Account structures. Are they ready for this change? Do you really need Mobile preferred Ads? Making your campaigns easier to manage will result to smarter results.
  • Reach out to your 3rd Party Bidding Tools. Keep pushing them to see how well integrated their products will be with this new update.
  • Test, Test, Test. I’m sure some of you will be wondering what bid adjustments you should use. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you…but your data will. Test different base bids and bid adjustments. See which works best for you.
  • Yes, we are going back to being able to bid more strategically across each device type; but this isn’t an excuse to create separate device type campaigns again. We do not recommend doing this unless you really do see a big difference by device type in certain geo-locations; in which by all means feel free to test. Remember, this is an evolution of Enhanced Campaigns and it will most likely be in your favour (at least for your own sanity) to keep all device types under single campaigns from an account management perspective. Unless of course you love the drama and stress that will no doubt come with doing this.


All in all, we are super excited to be able to have this level of granularity back in our campaigns. For some, it could be seen as an admission by Google that their “coupling” of Desktop & Tablet through Enhanced Campaigns was a mistake. We disagree. Let’s remember that there was a time where some advertisers were sceptical of Mobile and were not willing to invest much into the device. For some, this is still the case – but the overall majority is that Mobile needs more investment. As with all of Google’s updates this year, this is yet another win for their Mobile growth strategy. What do you think?

Dan Roberts
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