Google Ads Bid Adjustments – How to Improve Base Bidding ROI

As a user of Google Ads, you will be familiar with the process of ad bidding. However, there are ways and means of tailoring your bids depending on a variety of different circumstances – which allows you to exert full control over your advertising spend, and ultimately achieve a higher ROI. The process of altering your bids is, in Google parlance, known as “Bid Adjustments”. In the guide below, we have sought to outline the reasons you may want to consider using bid adjustments, as well as providing a few tips as to how to get started. 

After running Google Ads for a while, the performance metrics will reveal which keywords, locations, times, and devices are the best performers – bids can be adjusted to improve ROI. better performers.

At first glance, it’s tempting to see Google Ads bids as set in stone. However, Google Ads allows the ability to tweak your bids by a certain percentage in order to target users who may be most suited to your company.

Google Ads has base bids and modifier bids. A modifier bid further refines bidding at different levels such as device, location, time of day, top content, targeting method, remarketing lists and phone interactions.

A bid adjustment allows you to raise or lower your bids in certain scenarios. With bid adjustments, you can bid higher to increase the visibility of your ads.

As a broad example, let’s say that you are a florist. You’ll use Google Ads throughout the years to promote your business, but there are periods during the year where demand for your business is higher – Valentine’s Day being the most obvious example. With bid adjustments, you can adjust the amount you are willing to bid in order to target more aggressively during a particularly crucial period for your business. When Valentine’s fever passes, your bids then return to normal. 

The original bid is the average of all these factors- before making adjustments. Manual bidding can still be done, automated bidding rules or script bidding. Google’s automatic bidding cannot be done at the same time as bid adjustments. Spending on individual clicks may vary as your bids increase or decrease according to the adjustments that are set. 

A bid adjustment is modifying the set bids by a percentage based on factors such as location, device, time of the day, past website visitors and more. Bid adjustments modify the original bid to increase or decrease based on the relative performance of each factor to get a better ROI. The bid modifier adjustments are determined by performance across devices, locations, time of day and more. The performance metric will typically be decided by conversion metrics such as the cost per conversion of a lead or sale.

Bidding Modifiers Google Ads

Types of Bid Adjustments

Google allows you to adjust ads based on:

  • Device
  • Location
  • Ad schedule
  • Demographics
  • Top content (Display)
  • Targeting methods
  • Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA)
  • Interactions, such as calls

Device bid adjustment

Adjust Mobile, tablets and desktop devices bids based on the relative performance of each. Bid lower for devices that are less profitable by adjusting base on a target metric like CPA, and higher for the best performing devices. It is also possible to just bid lower based on the percentage variation in performance- and not increase bids on the best performing keywords. In this case, standard bidding can be increased instead of the bid adjustment.


Location bid adjustments

Increase or decrease your bids depending on the performance of each location. Locations can be towns, postcodes, cities, IP radius and countries.

Ad scheduling bid adjustments

Increase or decrease your bids for specific hours of the day and days of the week.

Display Network Targeting methods bid adjustments

Set bid adjustments for topics, placements and other targeting methods on the Display Network Set at the individual ad group level.

Remarketing lists for search ads bid adjustments

Set bid adjustments for past website visitors as they search in Google. Segment past website visitors based on their levels engagement or pages viewed. E.g. Increase bids by 25% for past website visitors in the last 30 days, increase bids by 40% for site visitors that stayed on the website for longer than 5 minutes etc.

Demographic Bid Adjustments

Click Gender or Age to select a demographic targeting method. To make changes, click the bid amount in the “Bid adj.” column for that audience

How significant can the adjustments be?

Very significant. Adjustments can be -90% of your bid, which is useful if you are, for example, seeking to reduce your bids based on opening hours at your business’ physical location. Alternatively, your bids can be adjusted by up to +900%, which is useful if you are looking to capture a surge in potential traffic – for example, if you sell last-minute Christmas gifts, increasing your bids significantly on December 23rd may be advantageous.

While bids can primarily only be decreased by -90%, there is one exception: you can use -100% if you wish to filter out searches on a mobile device.

Can you make multiple adjustments to one bid?

Yes, you can apply multiple adjustments to a bid – including additions and subtractions to the same bid – in order to better target your customers. To demonstrate this, let’s say that you run a brick and mortar store in New York which is open Monday through to Saturday, but closes on Sunday:

  • Your core bid is set at $1.00
  • As you run a brick and mortar store, users who are based in New York are more valuable to you. To reflect this, you apply a +100% bid adjustment for users based in New York.
  • Your total bid is now $2; $1.00 original bid, $2.00 for users based in New York.
  • You now want to adjust bids that are conducted on Sundays, as your store is closed that day. You don’t want to totally erase Sunday searches, because there is always the chance that your customers will search on a Sunday with the intention of visiting during the week, but you do want to substantially reduce the cost of clicks performed on that day.
  • As a result, you apply a -40% bid adjustment for Sunday searches.
  • Your total cost for a search that occurs on a Sunday, by a user registered in New York, will now be $1.20.

Google has helped to simplify the process by providing a calculator. To access the calculator, select:

  • All Campaigns
  • Settings
  • Under the “All settings” subtab, look to the “Active bid adjustments” column.
  • You should be able to see a calculator icon which, when selected, opens the calculator and allows you to tailor your bids from there.

What are the benefits of bid adjustments?

Bid adjustments take the core benefit of CPC – the ability to target your ads effectively – and make it even more dynamic. You can catch trends and ensure your ads appear more prominently to those most likely to use them, while paying far less for ads served during less opportune times.

In addition, it is also worth noting that bid adjustments can help you to experiment with different types of campaigns with ease. For example, if you were to apply a 500% bid adjustment to searches performed on a mobile device, you can experiment with a de facto “mobile only” campaign with relatively little effort. If you have previously wanted to try out different ideas but have been cautious due to the time and resources required to do so, bid adjustments are a great way to test the waters. If things go well, you can look to create more dedicated campaigns in the future; if things don’t go so well, you can chalk it up to experience, safe in the knowledge that the overall impact of the experiment is relatively small.

Can everyone use bid adjustments?

Yes, technically, though using Adwords Conversion Optimizer does limit the scope of your ability to adjust bids; you can only use the -100% mobile adjustment. Time of day and location adjustments are not available.

How can you get started using bid adjustments?

As with almost any CPC strategy, the best way to get started with bid adjustments is to put it into action. You can analyse your previous CPC performance for insights into areas of strength; for example, if performance is positive from users searching from a certain location, then increasing bids for users from that location is an excellent place to start. Similarly, adjusting your bids to reflect office hours – if relevant – can also be beneficial. 

However, the proof is really found in the testing. Experiment and change the criteria of your campaigns, monitor the results, and then implement any discoveries you make.

Limitations of bid adjustments

Bid adjustments have more support in manual bid adjustment strategies than automatic bid adjustments strategies. Automatic bidding, well “automated bid adjustments” along with the base bid. 

In conclusion

Adwords bid adjustments are crucial for anyone seeking to get the most from their advertising campaigns. Hopefully, the guide above will help you to get started with bid adjustments, so you can enjoy greater overall control of your marketing budget in future.

Bid adjustments are a way to improve your ROI by allocating spend more effectively. Bid adjustments are not available for all bidding strategies such as the smart bidding, but they work very well with manual bidding giving lots of control. 


2 thoughts on “Google Ads Bid Adjustments – How to Improve Base Bidding ROI”

  1. I’m trying to combine these – for example – Is it possible to reduce bids on tablets on Sundays by 25%? Just learning about scripts, but apparently, you can do this just in the online interface?


    1. Hi Drew,

      You can use the bid modifier adjustments in AdWords for devices.
      This script changes the base bids – then the adjustments can happen independently. We are working on a separate script that will do the bid adjustments automatically.

      Best Regards

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