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Campaign Auction Eligibility and Performance Max Behavior

Campaign Auction Eligibility and Performance Max Behavior

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

Post Summary

Recently, our team has been pondering the way Google determines which campaign to utilize in an auction, especially as multiple campaign types are eligible for the same auction (PMax + Search or Shopping as an example).

Geez, you wonder, is that what all your team chats are about? You never discuss, like, the new PS5 game "Stray" where you navigate a post-apocalyptic world as a cat?


Okay actually we've had both conversations in the last few days.

Regardless, one thing we discussed that I don't see talked about a lot online in regard to Performance Max campaigns, is the "Super Secret Trump Card" Google can play of: "auction eligibility".

What do I mean by auction eligibility? 

Well there are many factors that fall into determining if Google can/will show your ad to a specific user making an inquiry. For instance, if your campaign targets the correctly searched for search term, but you are only advertising in Timbuktu and that person is in Siberia, then your campaign will be "ineligible for auction" because they are outside of your geographical network. Hooray!

But, this can bite you. Let's talk bid floors.

Let's say you have a Search Brand campaign set to ECPC and you are bidding $1.20 on a specific brand term [my widget brand]. In Google speak, when someone searches for [my widget brand] then it should go into your Search campaign rather than the eligible PMax campaign... ...but that's where it can get complicated.

If for some reason Google decides to play fast and loose with the auction and has determined that the bid floor for that specific user's auction for some reason should be set above $1.20 then your search campaign is "ineligible for auction" since bid floors are part of this equation.

In other words, your Search campaign doesn't actually qualify for this auction, so what campaign will now pick up that brand term you were exactly targeting? Yup, the PMax campaign that wasn't supposed to.

Please note, the above is an oversimplification.

I don't know all of the things that make a campaign ineligible for auction (there are many), but it's important to understand that there are things like this occurring on the back end that you'll never know about, and could explain why sometimes you may see Performance Max campaigns pick up searches that should be going to a Search campaign (even then, it's difficult to gauge that since you can't see specific search terms in PMax!).

It's definitely in Google's favor to keep everything obfuscated. Hopefully that helps bring some clarity on the complexity of auction eligibility behavior, and why it's more complex than it used to be.

Also, I'd like to go on the record of saying I really detest bid floors. The point of an auction is to identify what the market wants. If the auctioneer is artificially inflating the market, then it's no longer solely based on how the market actually values that auction. It doesn't help that bid floors are privately known only to Google, so yet another piece of the puzzle without transparency ;)

So hopefully that sheds a little light on what is occurring in your Google auctions. Keep on PPCing, but do so with your eyes wide open.

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Kirk Williams
Owner & Chief Pondering Officer

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search & Social PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. His personal motto (perhaps unhealthily so), is "let's overthink this some more."  He even wrote a book recently on philosophical PPC musings that you can check out here: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero 6 years in a row (2016-2021), has written articles for many industry publications (including Shopify, Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Microsoft), and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts and webinars.

Kirk currently resides in Billings, MT with his wife, six children, books, Trek Bikes, Taylor guitar, and little sleep.

Kirk is an avid "discusser of marketing things" on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled around the world to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads).  Kirk has booked speaking engagements in London, Dublin, Sydney, Milan, NYC, Dallas, OKC, Milwaukee, and more and has been recognized through reviews as one of the Top 10 conference presentations on more than one occasion.

You can connect with Kirk on Twitter, and Linkedin, or follow his marketing song parodies on TikTok.

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