The Ultimate Guide to Manual Bidding on Facebook



The Ultimate Guide to Manual Bidding on Facebook

Table of contents:

Given the choice between manual and automatic anything, most people would probably go for the automatic. It sounds easier, more seamless, and just a lot less work. Why have a car where you have to manually roll down its windows, instead of just pressing a button, or a phone that requires you to adjust the brightness through several steps instead of just doing it automatically?

Less work, however, doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes “manual” also means “more control,” and that’s exactly the case for Facebook Ad’s bidding system.

I’ve used manual bidding to scale and optimize my campaigns and make thousands in profit through Shopify Stores, and I can help you do the same thing for your business.

In this guide, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about the manual bidding on Facebook, including when to use it, best practices to use it strategically, and all the factors that can affect it.

Why Does This Matter?

Facebook Ads runs on a bidding system. All advertisers will bid what they’re willing to pay for results (which can be conversions, impressions, clicks on a site, or other actions) from the specific audience that they’re targeting. Your bid will be a central part (though not the only factor) in whether or not you earn placements in Facebook Ads.

Facebook takes three different factors into consideration when determining who sees your Facebook Ads. These are:

  • How much you bid.If you outbid your competitors, you’ll have a better shot of getting more ad placements than them if all else is equal. Bidding higher can work to your advantage, especially since you’ll never pay more than one penny higher than what your competitors bid was. Even if you bid $1 when they only bid $0.50, you’ll only be paying $0.51.

  • Estimated action rates.This is the likelihood that showing the ad to the person will result in the desired action. Facebook tries to show your ads to users who are most likely to take the action you’re optimizing for, so they’ll show the ad to users who have a history of those online behaviors.

  • User value.This determines how valuable your ad will be to a user, and can be evaluated largely through your relevance score. Factors like amount of engagement, number of clicks, likes, saves, and hides from users are all taken into account.

What this means is that bid alone isn’t enough to guarantee the best placements. A high relevance score can actually save you a lot in ad spend, because you can pay less and still get more placements.

It’s important to note that competition on Facebook Ads isn’t industry exclusive.
Advertisers are competing with each other for the limited number of spaces in the newsfeeds or side columns of audience members; there aren’t a set number of ad slots for furniture companies, or fashion businesses, or subscription services.

What this means is that yoga companies aren’t just competing with other yoga companies, and businesses aren’t just bidding against other businesses– there’s so much audience overlap, and only so many spaces, so you’re bidding against everyone who may share your interest in certain audiences.

What is Manual Bidding?

When you’re moving through the ad creation process, Facebook doesn’t require you to customize anything in the budget and scheduling section except for your ad’s budget and schedule. You aren’t required to make any choices regarding bidding at all. But, if you so choose, you can- and that’s where manual bidding comes in.

While you can just opt to go with Facebook’s automatic settings, you can also select different options for ad optimization, bid strategy, bid caps, and delivery type. All of these options, pictured below, fall under the manual bidding category.

Manual bidding isn’t necessary, but it gives businesses more control over what they’re willing to spend and on what. It gives you more room to be strategic, and it’s a valuable cost control tool. If you know, for example, that you can only afford to pay $1 per lead and only half of the clicks that come to your site convert into actual leads, you’ll want to set your bid cap at about $0.50 or lower to start. This ensures that you’re never spending more than you can afford, both in total and per result.

Manual bidding allows you to customize the following:

  • How much you want to spend

  • What types of results you want to pay for

  • Whether or not you want to set a bid cap

Should I Always Use Manual Bidding?

No. Simply put, you should not always use manual bidding. You shouldn’t use it, for example, if you are really unfamiliar with Facebook Ads and aren’t really sure what the different options mean and how they’ll affect your campaign.

ou want to make sure you know what you’re doing. Fortunately, that’s why I’m writing this guide. By the end of it, you’ll know how to optimize your Facebook Ad campaigns with strong manual bidding strategies, and all the most common bidding mistakes that you want to avoid.

Ready to get started?

Let’s go.

How to Place Manual Bids on Facebook

You can adjust your bid and your bidding strategy in the “Budget and Scheduling” section in the ad set creation of Facebook Ads. This will be located towards the bottom of the ad set section, and it will look something like this:


Your bidding options may be restricted by the type of campaign you’re running. You can’t, for example, optimize for conversions when you’re running a Traffic campaign, which limits other options on the playing field.

In this section, you’ll get to choose what to optimize for. This helps determine who sees your ad, as Facebook will show your ad to those most likely to take these actions. Different options may include:

  • Link clicks

  • Conversions

  • Link clicks and conversions<>/span

  • Daily unique reach

  • Impressions

  • Landing page views

If you’ve chosen conversions, you’ll next be asked to choose your conversion window. You can set how long it typically takes for someone to convert after clicking or viewing an ad; this gives you more control over how Facebook is tracking and charging conversions from your ads.

Below this, you’ll see the options to choose a bidding strategy and your actual bid (we’ll discuss what these options mean a few sections down), and when you get charged. In many cases, your choices will be clicks or impressions. For clicks, you’ll be charged for every click. For impressions, you’ll be charged for every 1,000 views of your ad.

What Does Facebook Mean by “Pacing” And How Does It Affect the Process?

The pacing of your Facebook Ads determines how your ad budget is distributed across different opportunities.

There’s currently two pacing options in the Facebook Ad system: standard and accelerated. The pacing and delivery speed will depend on what bidding strategy you choose (which we’ll discuss more thoroughly in the next section).

Standard Delivery

Standard delivery will distribute your ad spend as evenly as possible through the lifetime of your campaign. If you have a budget for $70 for one week, about $10 will be spent every day.

Both the lower cost bid strategy and the target cost bid strategy automatically use standard delivery, but they both have slightly different pacing.

The lower cost bid strategy option uses “discount” pacing, meaning that your budget will be spent to get the most results for the lowest price possible, but that it will do so as evenly throughout the ad’s lifetime as possible. In this case, your bid may be lowered slightly to maximize your ad spend, though it’s worth noting that you may lose out on some placements because of the lowered bid.

The target cost strategy uses “probabilistic” pacing to distribute your ad spend on stable cost-per-result opportunities. Even if you increase or decrease your total budget, the cost-per-result should stay consistent. If you’re looking to scale your campaigns quickly, this could be a good option to choose.

Accelerated Delivery

Accelerated ad delivery will go through your ad spend as quickly as possible while giving you the best results.

The lower cost with bid cap strategy is the only one of the three that utilizes accelerated delivery. It works by automatically entering you into every auction under or at your bid cap, choosing quick spend and a lot of results up front over a consistent cost per click (CPC). This can be a good option for advertisers with really large budgets, or those who want to show their ads to a lot of people very quickly.

The 3 Bid Strategies You Need to Know

We touched on these three bid strategies in the pacing section. Each one gives you a different level of control, and different capabilities for scaling. Let’s take a close-up look at each and when to use them.

Lowest Cost

This bidding strategy prioritizes getting the most results for the lowest CPC possible. Without adding a bid cap, the lowest cost strategy (which is typically Facebook’s default choice) is essentially automatic bidding. This is a good way to ensure that your full budget is spent, but it sacrifices some of the control. Facebook will still try to get you as many placements as possible, and costs may vary.

If you don’t know how much to bid, this is the option to choose. Facebook can tackle all of that for you.

Target Cost

This option gives you more control than the lowest cost bidding option, and works by letting you set a target cost for your bids. This option does not minimize your CPC, which can inadvertently make your campaigns cost a little more than they need to. This can be a good option if you know what you can afford to spend and want to keep it at a very specific cost; in some cases, this makes it easier to know what to expect when scaling your campaigns, which can work to your advantage.

The target cost bidding strategy may not use your full budget, and it can be a little more expensive than other options. In many cases, choosing one of the other two options would benefit most businesses who want to keep their CPC low.

Lowest Cost with a Bid Cap

This option gives you the most control, and helps you to keep your costs as low as possible. It allows you to set a bid cap, which is the maximum amount you’ll pay for a single result. This kind of cost control allows you to make sure that you’re never spending more than you can afford. While it can run the risk of costing you placements because you aren’t running an “average” bid amount (which some higher and some lower costs mixed together to hit the ideal), you’re guaranteed to never spend more than you want for any given result. This can make it easier for some advertisers to maintain their ad spend and stay on budget.

Need a Recap?

This chart from Facebook sums it up pretty well.

Choosing Your Bid

Choosing a bidding strategy can be helpful, but not if you don’t know what you should be bidding for your ad campaigns. Even if you’re planning on using Facebook’s automatic bidding, you should still understand what you want to bid, and what you can afford to bid; this will help you assess if your campaigns are profitable and helping you, or if they’re costing more than they should be.

There are three main factors to take a look at when calculating your bid. These are the immediate ROI of a conversion, the lifetime value of a customer, and your total ad spend budget.

Immediate ROI of Conversion

Are you looking to drive immediate sales right away with your Facebook Ad campaigns? Determine the ROI of an immediate conversion that comes directly from a Facebook Ad.

Sometimes, this is easy. If you’re selling a pair of shoes that’s $70, and your CPC is $.75 with 30% of clicks converting, it’s easy to see that your ad is profitable even once shipping costs and credit card fees are taken out.

Sometimes, this is more difficult. How much is a like, comment, or share worth to you? What about a video view? Monetarily, not much, but the social proof can be valuable, and maybe these campaigns are designed to set the stage with a cold audience for a lead generation campaign once they’re familiar with you. In this case, it’s best to take a look at our next factor…

Lifetime Value of a Customer

The lifetime value of a customer is an exceptionally important metric that a lot of marketers overlook when deciding on bid cost.

Let’s look at our shoe store example again. You’re looking at a $70 pair of shoes, with a 30% click-to-conversion rate. But maybe it’s not just about that one $70 sale. Maybe 60% of customers who purchase will come back and buy at least three more pairs of shoes from you. That makes those initial leads and sales significantly more valuable, giving you more wiggle room in your budget.

You can calculate the lifetime value of a customer based on a combination of historic and predictive metrics and assumptions. You can learn more about this here.

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