Are you currently maximising your bid strategy against the right contextual signals? Traditional algorithms for bidding have been slow, inaccurate, and unable to set the right bid at the right time. With machine learning technology being developed along with the various types of data and different types of signal combinations available, marketers and practitioners can more effectively and efficiently identify patterns, correlate trends, and make better, more informed bidding decisions. Search Ads 360 (SA360) and the Google Marketing Platform provide this ability in the form of Auction-Time Bidding.

In this article, we explore what Auction-Time Bidding is, the benefits of leveraging the contextual signals that Auction-Time Bidding uses and why first-party data can be your source of competitive advantage when it comes to your bidding strategy.

What is Auction-Time Bidding?

Auction-time bidding is a Google Ads Smart Bidding feature that allows advertisers to optimise their bids at a query level by analysing different contextual signals, including Floodlight signals when enabled in Search Ads 360 (SA360) bid strategies, at the time of auction to set bids.

Auction Time Bidding signals

How does Auction-Time Bidding in Search Ads 360 (SA360) work?

Auction-Time Bidding

What are the benefits of Auction-Time Bidding in Search Ads 360 (SA360)?

  1. Bid on every auction – Auction-Time Bidding allows you to maximise your spend at each auction rather than on a keyword basis
  2. Use a combination of contextual signals – this provides you with more targeting options to ensure you are maximising your search spend and includes signals that are proprietary to Google
  3. Query-based bidding – this enables advertisers to granularly target the query a user has entered and the intent that goes along with it. When combined with other contextual signals this can be a powerful amplifier when it comes to targeting and maximising spend
  4. Leverage first-party data – with first-party data being unique to an organisation, developing rich first-party data (such as your Floodlight activities) can be used to develop a competitive advantage at the time of bidding as it allows you to bid based on unique signals from your organisation

Developing rich first-party data to power your contextual signals

According to the latest research from Boston Consulting Group, “67% of multi-moment brands and more than half of connected brands leveraged first-party data to engage with consumers throughout their purchase and post-purchase journeys with relevant offers and experiences”. With Auction-Time Bidding within Search Ads 360 (SA360) leveraging Floodlight data as part of the contextual targeting for query-based bids, advertisers can leverage intent-based signals from the purchase and post-purchase journey to determine queries to bid on. This means that advertisers with a detailed Measurement Plan can directly match their bidding strategies based on the Floodlight conversions set up in the Google Marketing Platform.

As we mentioned above, setting up Floodlight conversions allows advertisers to use their first-party data as a competitive advantage as they will be based on unique data within the organisation. The BCG research also identifies that “the top barriers to achieving significant business impact with first-party data are tech-related with up to 62 percent of brands citing the inability to link technology tools as the top barrier”. Search Ads 360 (SA360) and the Google Marketing Platform provides a unified technology solution to break down these barriers to consolidate and amplify an organisation’s first-party data.

Read our insights on the latest BCG research on first-party data >

How to enable Auction-Time Bidding in Search Ads 360 (SA360) for your campaigns?

  1. Login to Search Ads 360 (SA360) and go to Bid Strategies in the side left menu
  2. Select +Bid Strategy to enter the details for a new Bid Strategy
  3. Under Engine Features section, select the Auction-Time Bidding checkbox
  4. Select Save Bid Strategy

Case Study - How global e-commerce company Motion Global have achieved a 33.3% increase in ROAS with the help of Auction-Time Bidding


  • Drive more revenue by maximizing online orders
  • Increase ad management efficiency by reducing the time spent on manually optimizing search bids across multiple accounts and focus on strategy work
  • Boost ad spend ROI


As part of the approach to improve the performance of Motion Global’s, we worked with the client in implementing the following strategies:

1. Apply the same bid strategy across campaign groups within the same market/country or the same product category (e.g. Sunglasses), to allow an ‘apples vs apples’ approach when comparing performance.
2. Utilise Search Ads 360 Smart Bidding with Auction-time bidding enabled to optimise the client’s search campaigns based on contextual signals such as device, browser type, location, time of day, remarketing list, and more (see above).


After only a few months, Motion Global have been able to achieve impressive results thanks to Search Ads 360 (SA360) and Auction-Time Bidding. While the client’s ad spend increased by 24.6% during the comparison period, revenue increased by 44.7% with some additional optimisations also planned over the next couple of months.

Here is a summary of the impressive results to date:

  • 7.2% increase in CTR
  • 33.3% increase in ROAS
  • 9.6% decrease in cost per transaction
  • 35% optimization time saved

The results have also been so strong that Motion Global’s Display & SEM Marketing Manager, Gretchen Bao had this to say about partnering with FiveStones in implementing Auction-Time Bidding through Search Ads 360 (SA360):

“We’ve developed a great partnership with FiveStones. Their dedication to technology and data provides valuable insights, helping us to make the most out of our advertising dollars and take our digital advertising to the next level. For example, using Search Ads 360, we saved 35% time spent on account optimization, so we can focus more on strategy and volume growth. We are looking forward to working with FiveStones and unlocking the full potential of Google Marketing Platform together.”


Auction-Time Bidding allows advertisers to take a more data-driven approach during bidding decisions, using machine learning and contextual signals such as device, browser type, location, time of day, remarketing list, and more to effectively and efficiently set the right bid at the right time, ultimately driving higher performance.

Importantly, for organisations that are able to better leverage their first-party data, through Floodlight conversions, they can create a competitive advantage that will help them bid on the right keywords at a query level and use intent-based data within their bidding to drive conversions.

For more information on Auction-Time Bidding and other Smart Bidding features, or for help setting up the right bidding strategy with the Google Marketing Platform, please contact the FiveStones team today.