The strategy an advertiser chooses in Yandex.Direct has broad effects: from their bid adjustments to where their ads appear to what limitations are available. The main dilemma is whether to go with manual or automatic bid management. We always recommend basing your decision on the specific goals you have for your business. Let's take a closer look.
More factors, less time
Many Yandex.Direct specialists choose a manual bid management strategy: they want to make their own bid adjustments depending on their current situation. This is an important and time-consuming task.
There are a variety of factors that affect campaign performance that should be taken into account when managing bids:
- changing audience interests
- the time of day, seasonality, holidays
- device types
- the user's operating system
- demographic characteristics — the age and gender of potential customers
- the characteristics of the ads themselves
- host sites
- the weather forecast
- the quality of the landing page
- query length.
It is quite difficult to try to keep even half of this in mind, moreover assess each of them at the moment of the impression. Robots, however, can weight dozens of factors, among them factors that people simply don't have access to: the user's conversion path and the particularities of their online behavior.
In just a few seconds and without the helps of specialists, Yandex.Direct robots can do things that take a person hours to complete, moreover they do so without involving specialists. At the same time, automatic strategies take more factors into account and calculate bids for each specific ad impression — making sure that the ad remains effective in constantly changing conditions. So while manual strategies might appear to give complete control, it is clear that there are significant limits.
How it works
Automatic strategies manage bids and impressions according to your chosen goal: optimizing clicks, conversions or profitability. We recently wrote about changes to automatic strategies in the Yandex.Direct interface.
Specify the goal for optimization. Then it will take just a few minutes to set up the automatic strategy: select a strategy from the list, e.g., Average CPA, enter the average amount that you are willing to spend for each instance when the user completes the target action (clicking on a link, spending a certain amount of time on the page, etc.), and click on the "Enable" button. And you are ready! You don't need to do anything else, except analyze the results, of course. But what is going on "under the hood" of the automatic strategy at this time?
All Yandex.Direct strategies are based on mathematical algorithms that predict the likelihood of a user clicking on an ad and completing a target action on the site. These algorithms are constantly in the process of learning and improving. Thanks to the launch of priority goals this year, the algorithms got more than 84,000 new signals to analyze. When advertisers indicate which actions Yandex.Direct should consider as conversions and these actions' value for a business, the algorithms can do a better job of optimizing campaigns for different business types and get better results for each of them.
When creating a forecast, the system analyzes the statistics for the keywords selected for the ad. For search sites, the system takes data for Yandex search impressions into account, and likewise looks at data for impressions in ad networks (YAN and external networks) for contextual ads. If there is insufficient statistics, a database of similar situations and information about conversions in Yandex Search will be applied. The behavior or the users that click on the ads is also taken into account.
The forecast takes into account the dependence of factors like the number of impressions, clicks and conversions on the time of day and day of the week. Forecasts are recalculated according to the latest data throughout the placement process.
To improve their performance, strategies predict the optimal bid for each individual impression, which manual strategies or third-party tools cannot do.
Real cases of automatic strategies' performance
An advertiser promoting smart watches compared the "Manual bid management strategy with priority goals selected to the "Conversion optimization" strategy. They were hoping to increase the number of orders without increasing the CPA. They selected "adding items to cart" as the goal for optimization. Strategies were compared via A/B testing in Yandex.Direct. As a result, even with identical budgets, the automatic strategy brought 10% more conversions than the manual one:
Which strategy will be most effective for your business depends, among other things, on your goals. Try out experiments to figure this out, and feel free to share your success stories with us.
What about the budget?
No matter which strategy you choose, you always have control over the campaign budget. You are the only one who determines how much to spend on advertising: per day —with a manual strategy, per week — with an automatic strategy. Strategies allow you to set limits: with automatic strategies, it is especially important to pay attention to this at the start of your campaign, before the strategy has gathered information about your goals, your potential customers and how best to achieve your target CPA.
Automatic strategies have built-in protection from overspending by default — in one day, the system cannot use more than 35% of your set weekly budget, and a bid can never exceed 10% of the weekly budget. If time targeting is enabled, the system will spend the allocated budget only on the allotted days. In this case, more than 35% of the weekly budget can be spent in one day.
It is important to understand that CPA on a given day can be both below or above the set average. The more conversions, the more accurate the average CPA will be. Don't make a practice of frequently restarting the strategy or changing the settings — this can lead on one hand to the average budget not being maintained, and on the other, to control of the campaign being lost.
If a campaign with conversion optimization starts from scratch or if there were less than 10 conversions in the preceding week, the automatic strategy will actively gather as many statistics as possible. During this "learning" period, the range of CPA can be quite noticeable. Let's say you set an average CPA of 3000 RUB. At the beginning, the algorithm can lead to conversions that cost 9000 RUB. Then, once enough statistics are accumulated, the cost of conversions will drop.
The average value is maintained over the course of a week, but this does not exclude the possibility of spikes on individual days. To avoid spending spikes when launching the campaign, set a weekly budget. You can remove it once the weekly CPA for the week matches the target value. We do not recommend setting CPA limits at the very start, however, since the strategy does not have data on what the minimum CPA could be.
Pay careful attention when choosing goals for optimization. Always choose a specific goal when setting up your conversion strategy. We do not recommend optimization "for all goals" — if you change your goals in Yandex.Metrica, the algorithm will have to restart the leaning process for the new list, and this can lead to spikes in conversions (when you add a high-conversion goal), as well as to drops (when you remove a high-conversion goal).
Moreover, it is better to set a goal higher up the sales funnel, if it is achieved more often (at least 50-100 times per week). Our advertisers' success stories are good evidence of this. For example, optimization for the "add to cart" goal in an automatic strategy results in more "orders" than optimization for the "orders" themselves, simply because there are fewer orders.
More benefits of automatic strategies
As we mentioned before, automatic strategies show ads for better (in terms of the campaign settings) search queries and take factors into account that even a specialist cannot know. To be exact, they don't just take them into account, but weigh them against other factors in that specific moment. This is easily the most significant advantage of automatic strategies.
Automatic strategies also save your time for more creative tasks. Here are just a few ways to get more out of your ads:
- Create more scenarios and creatives for retargeting.
- Come up with new ideas for your creatives within one ad group: texts, images. Run A/B experiments and analyze their performance.
- Improve the quality of your ad campaign: add as many extensions as possible for Text & Image ads (vCards, sitelinks and descriptions, callouts, display links, images).
- Try new ad formats, e.g. with video.
- Check your landing pages' relevance and try making lighter, faster-loading Turbo pages for a specific product or promotion — they work on mobiles as well as desktops.
Good luck with your campaigns!