Device-Based Bid Adjustments for a Mobile First World

Just having a mobile bid adjustment fits more into a “Mobile-Friendly” world, which is a term that had an important but brief existence. Marketers and advertisers need to take that step away from mobile-friendly and toward mobile-first if they haven’t already. Those who have are already dominating on the SERPs and probably spending less per click at the same time.

These new bid adjustments for desktop and tablet devices will help those who choose to leave behind Mobile-Friendly and embrace Mobile-First implement strategies that align with mobile paid search trends.

Ginny Marvin from Search Engine Land puts it perfectly:

“Over the past year or two, it has felt increasingly awkward to have bids tied to desktop when mobile usage has been ascending so rapidly. For some advertisers, it has been a growing challenge to scale mobile when bids are handcuffed to a limited desktop multiplier.”

Now we have an opportunity to unlock that handcuff and position our AdWords campaigns to run in a Mobile-First world. We can set mobile-based bids and set desktop and tablet devices to play second and third fiddle to mobile, which currently rules us all.

Where To Find Device-Based Bid Adjustments In AdWords?

If you’ve ever implemented a mobile bid adjustment — device-based bids for desktop and tablet — it works pretty much the same. After logging into your account, choose the campaign you want to add a device-based bid adjustment to. Click the “Settings” tab and then the “Devices” partition to add your desired bid adjustment to one or all device types.

Crash Course In Calculating Your Desktop and Tablet Bid Adjustments

Since there are two additional bid adjustment options, you might be adding new desktop and tablet bid adjustments to all your campaigns when the option becomes available. Coming up with a bid adjustment can go on of two ways.

  1. You can make an educated guess using conversion rate KPIs and other metrics like average position to either increase or decrease your bids across campaigns based on past performance.

This method can work well. You see that your campaign is successful on tablet devices as it has a strong click-thru-rate and a higher than average conversion rate, but you’re sitting at an average position of 3.0 or worse on mobile. Adding a 25-50% mobile bid adjustment to start is a great way to capitalize in the short term by improving your average position almost immediately with a higher mobile bid.

2. You can take a mathematical approach to bid adjustment strategy using this simple formula, which you might remember from your Google AdWords certification exams.

The formula for calculating a bid adjustment is:

(Device Conversion Rate / Overall Conversion Rate) – 1 * 100

The individual conversion rates segmented by device type can be found in each campaign under the “Settings” tab and then the “Devices” partition. Keep in mind that your KPIs will change based on your time span.

Device-Only Campaigns

This update also gives advertiser the ability to run mobile-only, tablet-only, or desktop-only campaigns. Advertisers can run non-tablet, non-mobile, or non-desktop campaigns as well. To achieve this effect, implement a negative bid adjustment of -100% on devices where you don’t want your ads. For example, if you want to focus your entire budget on smartphone users, you could put -100% bid adjustments on the tablet and desktop device types as seen below:


-100% bid adjustments on tablets and desktop devices


When Not To Use A Mobile, Tablet, or Desktop Bid Adjustment

Don’t blindly add a bid adjustment just because you can. There’s no need to set your max CPC to spend 25% more if you don’t have to. Remember that data beats intuition, so listen to the data.

Here are a couple of tips for when not to add a bid adjustment.

  • Check auction insight report or ad preview for each device type across your campaigns and Ad Groups. If you don’t have competition or your average position is already strong, skip the bid adjustment and consider decreasing your bid at the keyword or ad group level to save on spend.
  • You should also skip adding a bid adjustment if you are lacking data. Maybe you just started your campaign or maybe the search volume just isn’t there. Wait for a few weeks of data first.


There have been a ton of changes to the Google AdWords Platform in the past 6 months.

We’ve seen the right sidebar full of ads go extinct. We’ve seen the yellow ad icons turn from yellow to green. We have almost 50% more text for our search ads thanks to Expanded Text Ads. Not to mention smart bidding, responsive display ads, and many new features currently in beta, such as Click-to-Message and demographic-based bid adjustments.

If your Google AdWords performance has been lacking or you haven’t seen improvement, now is the time to learn about and implement these new tools and features so you can dominate your competition on the SERP. The timing for device-based bidding is perfect as Google’s recent release of Expanded Text Ads are structurally optimized for mobile devices by default.
If you’d like a free Google AdWords account audit or more information on Device-Based Bid Adjustments, I’d be happy to share some advice. My name is Mike Ayer, and I am the Paid Search Specialist at Reunion Marketing. Contact me at for your free audit.

1 comment
  1. Mobile Bid Adjustment Formula and Best Practices | Matchcraft
    December 15, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    […] Device-only campaigns. You have the option to run mobile-only, tablet-only, or desktop-only campaigns. Additionally, you can avoid these three categories, too. To make this happen, place a -100% bid adjustment on the devices you wish to avoid. […]

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