Regular readers of this blog know I have a lot of pet peeves related to paid search, but perhaps the largest is the fact that paid search management – the process and the software that supports it – is often referred to as ‘bid management’.
The use of the term bid management to summarize paid search management suggest a profound lack of understanding. Of course, many people genuinely think that’s what the discipline is called. They don’t really mean anything by it – they’re just repeating the phrase they heard.
My problem with the phrase is that it perpetuates a level of importance for bidding that is undeserved. For most paid search advertisers, bidding isn’t that important.
Putting Bids In Perspective
If you’re a good skier, sharp edges matter a lot. When you’re learning to ski, they hardly matter at all.
First you have to get comfortable just standing on skis, and then standing on them while sliding down the hill and riding over all kinds of terain. They you have to figure out what to do with the various parts of your body – ankles, knees, hips, arms, head – while all this sliding is going on. You have to learn to initiate and complete turns, and at some point you start subtly shifting your weight through the process.
Until you reach a certain point, it hardly matters if your skis are slabs of wood from a garden fence. As long as they slide downhill, they’re fine. But eventually your skills reach the point that their length, flex pattern, and ultimately fine tuning points like sharpness are both noticable and impactful. But only after a long list of much more fundamental issues have been resolved.
Paid search bids are like that. Initially, any bid that gets your keyword shown in the top 2/3 of the first page is fine. After that, it’s not worth worrying about it again until a lot of other more important skills are mastered, tasks are completed, and data is gathered. When they are, and only then, is it worth allocating serious time to bidding, and even attempting an intense and sophisticated approach to bidding.
Spending a lot of time on bidding when the other attributes of each keyword aren’t in very good shape yet is like sharpening your skis when you still fall down a lot. It’s not the place you need work.
First Things First
This ‘sharp edges’ analogy actually doesn’t even do justice to the problem with premature bidding.
Generally speaking, sharpening edges actually improves ski performance and have a very small chance of actually causing problems for even a beginning skier.
But bids actually cannot be reasonably be calculated for keywords that are not haven’t already been properly tuned in terms of organization and negatives and match types and ad copy. The data surrounding these keywords is garbage data – putting that into even a very clever bid algorithm or calculation results in a garbage bid suggestion.
So attempting to bid prematurely results in inappropriate bids which will *cause* poor performance and potentially skew the data that will be used to drive future decisions.
Bidding on a weak foundation isn’t just wasteful, it can be harmful. It produces bad numbers based on incorrect assumptions that serve to drive you further away from optimal future results.
The Fairy Tale
The idea that paid search success is driven by keywords and bids hasn’t been true for many years, but it remains the dominant narrative of our industry. Don’t fall for it.
In upcoming posts we’ll examine why you should bid no keyword before its time, the steps you can take to prepare keywords for bidding, the tests that will tell you when a keyword is bid-ready, and then finally we’ll take a long hard look at how to bid once it is actually time to do so.