How To Recover From The Conversion Optimizer Hangover


Conversion optimizer and I have had a love hate relationship since it was released back in 2008. At first the tool was really great. Google claimed that on average, campaigns that utilized conversion optimizer achieved a 21% increase in conversions while at the same time decreasing their CPA by 14%. Pretty hefty claim, but I found it to be accurate and for a long time, conversion optimizer was one of the major tools in my PPC toolbox.

Conversion optimizer’s algorithms and predictive models have become smarter and smarter since the release of this tool and as long as there is enough conversion data (well over the usage requirement of 30 conversions in the past 30 days), it’s done well for me.

Now, having said all of this, we’re now facing a very different AdWords landscape then we were in 2009 or even last year. Enhanced campaigns have definitely affected all facets of the ad platform including automated bidding tools like conversion optimizer. The biggest effect is actually a lack of use with all the fancy new bid modifiers available. Because the bid modifiers are incompatible with both conversion optimizer and flexible CPA, advertisers are disabling the tools in order to test out these more granular levers.

Weird things can happen when you turn off conversion optimizer so at the very least you should be aware of what may happen and how to clean it up. Here are a few things you want to look out for when you de-activate this bidding tool.

Missing Keyword Level Bids

One of the unusual symptoms of a conversion optimizer hangover is the missing keyword level bid. Yup, just totally missing all together, instead you see two dashes (–) where the max CPC should be. This is definitely in the realm of the weirdest AdWords behaviors ever. I have no idea why this happens but it’s important to go through the keywords and raise these bids.

$0.01 Default Bids (Ad Group Level)

Another hangover symptom is the $0.01 default bid at the ad group level. Often the ad groups that house the missing bid keywords end up with a default bid of one cent and they are grayed out. You’ll need to comb through the account and find these buggers or risk a near complete loss in volume.

Really High Bids

The remainder of the bids that don’t get stuck at zero or go missing all together will revert back to what they were before the tool was enabled. This usually means they’re way higher than you would like and will need to be reduced.

Correction Strategy

The way I approach these bid changes is to go by the 30-day average CPC. I set the bids at or near what they have been for the last 30-days to start. Basically I’m resetting them to the baseline bid and from there I can manually adjust bids to achieve the desired effect, whether that be increased volumes or decreased CPA’s.

One thing to keep in mind is the tiered bidding strategy. Because conversion optimizer has access to more information than we do it often makes very different decisions in bid management than we would and the data may not make sense once the tool is de-activated. This means that in some instances the data may tell a story that suggests you should bid broad match higher than exact match, however the standard bidding hierarchy says the opposite. Yet another reason to set near the average CPC for the last 30-days and then evaluate with small, slow changes to get where you want to be.

Slow and steady is the way to go here, it may be painful, but it also may save you much worse pain in the long run.

Do you have any additional advice for using or coming off of conversion optimizer? Share your tips and experiences!