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How to Properly Use Target ROAS/CPA Smart Bidding Strategies

How to Properly Use Target ROAS/CPA Smart Bidding Strategies

There are marketers who think they “know” the “North Star” Target ROAS/CPA for their campaigns. Some even define the target at a business level. This is one of the biggest mistakes we see businesses do, and it leads to improper marketing mix optimization and losing money for the business. Learn how to avoid making a such mistake in this article.
How to Properly Use Target ROAS/CPA Smart Bidding Strategies Constantine Yurevich
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How to Properly Use Target ROAS/CPA Smart Bidding Strategies
2 min read

There are marketers who think they “know” the “North Star” Target ROAS/CPA for their campaigns. Some even define the target at a business level. For example, we often hear phrases like:

Our Google ROAS should be more than 150%

or

Our paid search campaign CPA should not exceed 20$

This is one of the biggest mistakes we see businesses do, and it leads to improper marketing mix optimization and losing money for the business.

With all the confidence, I would say that it is technically impossible to understand ROAS/CPA at a campaign or channel level. Yes, you can apply different attribution models, but all of them are WRONG and none of them will show you THE REAL ROAS/CPA of the channel or campaign.

The only ROAS/CPA you can calculate for sure is the ROAS/CPA of your whole marketing mix. And this is the only ROAS/CPA you should use as a target for your marketing mix optimization.

Let’s take a look at a very simple example of the marketing mix where you have only 3 channels: google/cpc, google/organic, and direct/none, and the monthly statistics using the last non-direct click attribution looks the following way:

marketing mix example

Let’s say CFO is happy with the current results of marketing team performance. The overall ROAS of the marketing mix is 400%, and it provides a good unit economy for a business.

CFO is happy with the 400% ROAS of the business. And is ready to invest as much as possible within this ROAS. This is the TRUE KPI.

Taking this information into account, an inexperienced marketing manager might say that their Target ROAS for google/cpc is 200%. But this will be completely incorrect and may lead to horrible results:

marketing mix example

Imagine, the client connects SegmentStream and replaces pixel conversions in smart-bidding campaigns with predicted conversions. This way Google campaigns start targeting not only users that convert within the same device using cookies but also users that are likely to convert from other devices and later come as google/organic or direct/none. The next month, the client gets the following results.

A marketing manager is in fury as google/cpc ROAS dropped from 200% to 180% and decides to switch off SegmentStream optimisation. But what actually happened? The marketing manager took as a reference a vanity metric of a channel ROAS, which doesn’t have anything to do with reality. The reality is that overall marketing mix ROAS increased from 400% to 500% and optimisation helped bring $1000 of additional revenue with the same budget.

Hopefully, the SegmentStream team managed to educate an ignorant marketing manager and persuade them to change Target ROAS for google/cpc to 180% instead of 200%. But is our marketing mix optimal now? Not quite yet.

As we remember, CFO confirmed that the marketing team can invest as much as possible as long as the ROAS of the whole marketing mix is at least 400%.

This means that we can push our Target ROAS for google/cpc even lower! And after some incremental changes in a few months, we might come to the following marketing mix:

marketing mix example

This way, we increased investment into google/cpc from $1000 to $1500. This led to a drop of google/cpc last non-direct click ROAS from 180% to 160% while the overall marketing mix ROAS became 400% and overall revenue increased from $5000 to $6000.

Thus, overall by applying proper marketing mix optimization we achieved $2000 revenue increase (+50% growth) while maintaining the same ROAS of marketing mix of 400% even though google/cpc vanity ROAS metric decreased from 200% to 160%.

Main conclusions and key ideas:

  • Per-channel and per-campaign ROAS/CPA you see in advertising platforms or Google Analytics have nothing to do with real ROAS/CPA.
  • The is no technological possibility way to calculate real per-channel and per-campaign ROAS/CPA due to cookie-tracking limitations and cross-device interactions.
  • The only true ROAS/CPA you can calculate is the ROAS/CPA of the whole marketing mix.
  • Target ROAS and Target CPA bidding strategies inside the advertising platforms should only be used as a means of budget limitation and should be revised on a monthly basis depending on the entire marketing mix performance. There is no ideal static Target ROAS/CPA for the marketing campaign. Target ROAS/CPA can be decreased/increased depending on the overall marketing mix performance.
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