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Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 1
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

I have been running a campaign on the conversion optimizer for the past year. My CPA has always been within a reasonable distance of my target CPA (many days even below the target), with an average CPC prices in the $0.20 range.

Last Friday (the 15th), I noticed a huge dip in the conversions. Upon further investigation, I realized that for whatever reason, the campaign optimizer decided to skyrocket my CPCs to make my average CPC $0.99! My CPA is not even close to my target now (way over) and the ave CPC prices keep going up! My average position was fine at 4.4, but now it is 1.1 since bid is so high and I am losing money like crazy. This happened completely out of the blue, I adjusted absolutely nothing on my campaign and now i dont know what to do (campaign is currently paused since i was losing so much money). My quality scores are consistent to what they were when the CPA was around my target number.

Being said, I have the following questions:

1.) Has anyone else experienced this recently? Is this a potential bug in the campaign optimizer? Even if the campaign suddenly stopped converting (which I highly doubt), shouldnt the optimizer be LOWERING my bid prices not raising them 5x higher??? I did check and conversions are correctly firing using the google conversion pixel, so that is not the issue.

2.) What is the best way to fix this? I am a afraid to turn off the campaign optimizer because i dont want to lose almost an entire year of campaign history and mess with something that was working so well in the past. I am also afraid to try and ride it out because I would be losing a ton of money if I did so and only see bid prices rising.

 

Please let me know what to do to get the campaign back to normal or reset optimizer data.

1 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
# 2
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
Hey Steve,

This is a very interesting case, in that your CPC has increased by close to 5X what it was running at. There may be a number of reasons for this and in order to understand those you need to understand how conversion optimiser works rather intimately.

Now the fact that you have been running the campaign for a year indicated no lack in data as the optimiser looks at account history (not just last 30 days as indicated by the requirement). The more recent data is more heavily weighted though.

Conversion optimiser chooses your bid based based on the profile (complete or session based) if the user performing the search query. If that user is likely to convert then it will enter you into the auction using your settings to determine optimal ad position.

What is a possibility here is that adwords has identified that the perfect target audience for your campaign has shifted their behaviour and possibly are now clicking more on the higher ad positions and thus to achieve those conversions your ads are required to place higher. Provided adwords is able to get you those conversions the increase in CPC should be justifiable.

Obviously in this case those conversions did not come in at the volume required.

It may also be a case of a changing environment, perhaps there are a number of new competitors driving prices and competition for conversions up.

The fact that you identified the issue within a day and paused straight away may not have been the best plan of action. I do realise that it must have been alarming, but there are days when this will occur, anomalies in statistics are always a possibility. There just may have been no potential converting users matching your history profile that day and so adwords pushed up your bid in the hopes of reaching a slightly different user archetype to generate the leads for you.

I would allow the campaign to continue to run and see if this trend continues, perhaps over a work week period (depending on your business). This will give you a lot more information to work with.

In the interim, you could perhaps switch your conversion optimiser from a target CPA bid model to a Max CPA bid model, this may prevent adwords from chasing after those expensive placements in order to keep your CPA low. So you will be telling adwords that this is the most you are willing to pay as opposed to I am aiming to pay around this much.

Hope this helps.

If you need any information regarding any aspect of conversion optimisation feel free to ask away, or if anything was unclear.

Re: Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 3
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Clynton - thanks a ton for the response. To followup with a few of your points:

1.) I actually didn't pause it the very next day, rather I left it run up until yesterday, with bid prices rising each day. Yesterday, i re-started the campaign during the afternoon intentionally, and i did notice the ave CPC lowered to about $0.60 (first day lowering), but still not even close.

2.) Could this be related to google plural keyword adjustments? I am using broad, phrase and exact match types within my campaign, however I've always had the plural keyword setting on. I was wondering maybe google suddenly changed how broad some of the matched queries are and it is messing up my stats (but that still doesnt explain why they would raise bid price so high).

3.) How bad is it for the campaign if i take off the optimizer, go back to manual CPC for a few days, then reactivate target CPA? Is there any benefit to doing that, or would that just confuse the stats even more? I know it sometimes takes a few days for it to really get close to the target cpa on new campaigns, not sure how fast it will adjust for old campaigns with lots of data that is being reactivated though.

Let me know what you think and I appreciate the help!

Re: Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

[ Edited ]
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 4
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

And one last point, leaving it run for the entire day (like i normally would), easily spends $1k+ with bids as high as the optimizer is making it. So leaving it on for an entire day is pretty costly. I dont mind doing it, but i just need the confidence that the optimizer will actually work, otherwise my options are to only activate for certain times of day or set it up with a limited budget which will be met in the early morning each day. Both scenarios would prob be bad for the optimizer as there isnt traffic sent throughout entire day. Let me know what you think I should do.

Re: Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
# 5
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
Hey Steve,

With regards to the price lowering once restarting, it may have just been a (for lack of a better word) weird period, in that the profiles of search users were not what had been seen before, if it starts to settle down again but at a higher price than before it would suggest new competitors on the scene. Perhaps do some research into this in the interim.

How often do you run ad testing and update your ads? You may want to look into this as your ads may be 'stale' or out of date in comparison to what is currently happening on your vertical. Perhaps competitors have caught on to some perk that the users are interested in and you have not adopted this yet, forcing adwords to look at other ways to get those conversions (such as changing your ad position).

With regards to close variant changes, if you have them on there will be now difference. The only thing changing is the option to opt out of them, nothing about how they match up. That effect is also only coming into play in September, so no change there yet.

With regard to changing to CPC for a few days and then going back to CPA, I would not advise doing this. Firstly, as you pointed out CPA optimisation does take time to settle down. I do not think it would be too extreme in your case but that is a factor to consider. The more important factor to consider is that by changing to CPC you are doing so blindly, in that you have an average CPC, that your campaign is performing at, but is this the CPC you aim for? It could be that adwords found a combination of high and low CPC's that balanced out to that average CPC in order to get you your current CPA. It is hard to see exactly what adwords was doing with your account to get those conversions for you. You could perform a thorough analysis and look at each and every click to get an idea, but that would take a lot of time and effort. In essence, by switching to CPC you may be approaching the situation blind and end up costing yourself more than the CPA spike is costing you.

That being said, I would watch it carefully over the next few days, remember information is king. The more you information you are able to acquire, the more you will be able to identify what exactly is happening. You may have to switch to a CPC model, but I would not suggest doing this only for a few days, but rather as a long term strategy to stabilise your account again and maybe in a few months go back to CPA when you know what the vertical is doing again and are confident your account has dealt with it.

Good luck, and keep us posted!

Re: Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
# 6
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
Hey Steve,

With regards to day parting. I would definitely suggest taking part of this practice. There are some times during the day when it is just not profitable at all to run, but the optimiser will still try and get you conversions during that time. I would highly suggest looking into putting in ad schedules, even if your campaign was still running as strongly as before.

Let me know if you would like help on this front.

Re: Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 7
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Thanks again Clynton - just 2 more questions for you:

1.) How does the Optimizer work if i add in new creatives? Will it unfairly not give the ads a chance since the ads dont have enough stats to be a "winner" since it is coming in later within the campaign?

2.) I thought time parting wasnt possible when using the conversion optimizer? The optimizer does the parting for you automatically. if there is something I am missing, let me know because I have been trying to do that with some other campaigns as well using the optimizer.


Re: Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

Top Contributor
# 8
Top Contributor

Hi Steve, you've had some great support from Clynton, can I ask a couple of questions?

 

#1 - How many conversions do you have per Keyword.  The conversion optimiser only asks for 15 conversions in a Campaign across the past 30 days and there's a big difference between those 15 being spread over 20 Keywords and 2000.  That the process has worked in the past does suggest there has been a change somewhere but the larger the structure the more likely that change is in an area within the structure, rather than the overall approach, for example, a subset of Keywords that are suddenly facing more competition or a greater interest.

 

#2 - Has organic traffic changed at all?

 

#3 - Have you checked Google Trends to look for changes in interest in your topic?

 

#4 - Have you looked at a graph of av. CPC over a long period (a month+)?  As Clynton has said, it's not really a good idea to focus on a single day.  AdWords performance nearly always varies across time and it could well have been that had you not noticed this change, in a few days time the CPCs would have reverted.

 

I personally rarely use conversion optimisation as I prefer to create my own optimisation processes using Rules and/or Scripts.  If you have a large Account with a substantial spend, a more closely managed solution may give you more stability, possibly involving a mixture of Campaign optimisation, flexible strategies at the Group level and "manual automation" processes (i.e. Rules/Scripts).

 

Jon

 

AdWords Top Contributor Google+ Profile | Partner Profile | AdWords Audits

Re: Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 9
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Jon - thanks for your input. To answer your questions:

1.) My top keywords have thousands of conversions over the course of the last 12 months. My less popular keywords obviously have a bit less, but this particular campaign has $XXX,XXX spend, so there is plenty of data there.

2.) Organic traffic has actually exploded over the past month. That is really the one moving factor here, but can you shed some light on how this could effect the optimizer?

3.) There are no changes of interest in my topic. Its a very stable niche

4.) Ave CPC over the course of past 3 months is around $0.20. Ave CPC in the past 4 days is around $0.75.

Let me know your input, especially interested about the organic traffic question.

Thanks

Re: Conversion Optimizer ave CPC price skyrocketing? Potential Bug?

Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
# 10
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
Hey Steve,

with regards to point 2. You are correct, complete brain fart on my part. You can set up day parting but the optimiser will ignore it. *sheepish grin*

With regards to point 1, I have only noticed a problem with new keywords sometimes struggling when added to a campaign that is set as a campaign optimised bid. You can set your ad creatives to rotate indefinitely under a conversion optimised campaign, so you can avoid bias that way.