5 Best Bid Modifier Practices to Surpass the Competition

Before Enhanced Campaigns a.k.a. “the Stone Age,” advertisers had to create a new campaign every time for a specific targeted area. Do you remember the pain of having to select which device (desktop, tablet, or mobile) you were targeting? It was time-consuming, and we all know that time equals money. Enhanced Campaigns eases the pain with bid modifiers, allowing you to target all three devices in one campaign.

Bid modifiers enable better geographic-based targeting because you can set bid adjustments for specific locations within each campaign. And they’re used to effectively market to desktop and mobile device users (more on that in a sec). Here are five bid modifier best practices that will get you more bang for your buck.

1. Check the Competition

There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition; it keeps us on our toes. However nothing feels quite as good as winning. And you don’t have to stoop to snooping or hiring a private investigator to find out what the competition is up to. Simply run an AdWords Auction Insights Report.

Auction Insights Report

The report provides data at the keyword level and allows you to see what your competitors are doing in terms of first-page ranking. Once you know what your competitors are up to then you can devise a plan of attack. First course of action, determine your target device.

2. Determine Target Device

How do advertisers choose between desktop and mobile campaigns? Two words: device targeting. Device targeting determines which devices your target audience is using, and when they’re using them. Desktop usage skews highest during the day (working hours) while mobile usage is highest in the evening/night (after work hours).

Naturally, the way advertising reaches mobile users versus desktop users is going to be different. Mobile users will use apps, check email, and interact on social media platforms via touch instead of click. And the smaller mobile screen also means they’re more likely to browse/skim for information like local restaurants.

Here’s where mobile users have the advantage. A mobile user searches car insurance and selects Progressive Car Insurance. By clicking on the mobile call extension, it immediately connects you to the business. The mobile user directly calls to speak to a rep while the desktop user still has to pick up the phone (and shouldn’t see a call extension either).

Mobile Call Extension

Consider a group of New York City bankers who are on their desktops from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the day, they’re searching for investment strategies and other financial related information. They probably encounter on websites well-positioned ads or banners for a variety of financial products. After 5 p.m., they may switch to their smartphone or iPad for the rest of the night searching for entertainment and social related content. Advertisers then retarget the bankers by placing ads where that banker is currently searching, like on social media.

Take that data and adjust your bidding strategies accordingly. Set your bid modifiers to positive from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for desktops. After 5 p.m., switch your bidding to negative for desktops and to positive for mobile devices from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Negative adjustments will keep you from wasting money on poor performing targets while positive adjustments will put money toward high conversion targets. Also keep in mind your platform as the ranges vary.

Bid Modifier Adjustments

If you’re new to game, here’s a great source to help you navigate plugging in modifiers.

3. Adjust Bids

In the pay per click world, be prepared to bend it like Gumby because it’s all about flexibility. Fortunately, depending on your needs, bid adjustments can be positive or negative.

Let’s say you have a Pennsylvania-based food truck business that will be at Firefly, and you want to heavily target mobile devices in Delaware. Three days before Firefly, you set your bid adjustment to increase, say by 8 percent. Once Firefly is over, you inversely adjust your bid to decrease by 8 percent. Why? The increase ups your bid, helping you to capture more peak web traffic. But once the event is over, decreasing your bids puts them back to where they started.

Since a higher bid adjustment helps you push a promo, it’s a great adjustable tool.

4. Use Geotargeting

Geotargeting delivers content based on a person’s geographic location. So what’s that mean for you? Less wasted advertising money spent. Ca-ching!

Say you’re looking to boost a campaign for a trendy bi-coastal bar that has two locations: New York City and San Francisco. Both locations are a hit with the after work crowd. Thanks to geotargeting, you can reach both the Pacific and East crowds with just one campaign. How? Let’s take a look.

  1. Location: Pick your geographic location – New York City and San Francisco.
  2. Time of day: Select an adjustment for 6 to 8 p.m. between +900 and -90.
  3. Day of the week: Select an adjustment for Monday through Friday between +900 and -90.

However, it’s important to note the time zone setting for Google AdWords is used for bid adjustments, not the time zone where the searcher is located. So make sure to adjust it if your campaign if it will be across multiple time zones.

5. Know How Multipliers Stack

At first glance, adjusting bid modifiers seem pretty simple. But, if you don’t know how multipliers stack, they can quickly become complicated. In fact, setting bid adjustments for multiple multipliers can result in an overbid.

Let’s revisit our Firefly example. After analyzing shared keyword data using PPC and SEO, the food truck owner picked his keyword and selected a $2 bid. Then he selected modifiers for device (smartphone searchers 100%, $1), geographic (Dover, DE 100%, $4), and time of day (12-8 p.m. Eastern Time 100%, $3).

At 4:30 p.m. in Dover, DE, a Firefly concert-goer planning out her food itinerary uses her smartphone to click on food truck guy’s ad. Because of the way that the modifiers combine (location + time of day + device), he just bid $8 for that click.

Yikes! An $8 bid for that click! The lesson here is to always be aware of how you’re stacking your multipliers.


Maximizing your bid modifiers will get you more money and less problems. Take these tips and incorporate them into your advertising strategies.