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PPC Optimization: Minimize Learning Mode


In Google Ads the bid strategy you choose determines how Google calculates your ad bids. Different bid strategies have different uses and advantages, and include manual and automated bid strategies like “Maximize Clicks” and “Target CPA” (see Figure 1). Depending on your ultimate goal, leads, conversions or traffic, there are one or more bid strategies …

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In Google Ads the bid strategy you choose determines how Google calculates your ad bids. Different bid strategies have different uses and advantages, and include manual and automated bid strategies like “Maximize Clicks” and “Target CPA” (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Google Ads Bid Strategies

Depending on your ultimate goal, leads, conversions or traffic, there are one or more bid strategies that will work. However, changes in bid strategy and other factors can cause Google to put your campaign into “learning mode” (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Google Ads Learning Mode

Learning Mode

Google typically puts your campaign into learning mode when the bid strategy is changed or a significant change is made to the campaign. Over a period of 1 to 5 days (switch to a “Target” strategy or switch to a smart bidding strategy), Google optimizes your bids to best work within your automatied bid strategy and settings. Google says the following about learning mode:

“After you make a change to your bid strategy, it takes time for Google Ads to gather the performance data it needs to optimize your bids.”

What Causes Learning Mode

Google says the following reasons put your campaign into leaning mode.

  • New strategy
    Creating a new bid strategy or reenabling one
  • Budget change
    The budget was changed recently. Google says by more than 30%, others say more than 20%.
  • Setting change
    A setting for the bid strategy was changed (enhanced CPC [eCPC] for example).
  • Conversion setting change
    You recently set up conversion tracking or changed your conversion bid metric.
  • Conversion action setting change
    You’ve added or removed a conversion action related to one of your bid strategies, changed the “Include in ‘Conversions'” setting, or changed your conversion “Count” setting.
  • Composition change
    Campaigns, ad groups, or keywords were added to or removed from the bid strategy.

In addition we’ve seen the following cause Google to put a campaign into learning mode.

  • Pausing and Enabling Campaign or Ad Groups
    Recently pausing and then reenabling a compaign for a 1 day holiday put a client’s campaign into a 5 day learning mode.

Typically, changing keywords, ads, or ad groups will not trigger learning mode. However, if you make significant changes to same, Google can put your campaign into learning mode.

The Problem with Learning Mode

While learning mode is necessary for optimizing your bids, the efficiency and spend will go down during the learning period. Google reports that your target spend may go down by 50% while in learning mode. So you want to minimize the time your campaign is in learning mode to spend your target budget and maximize its efficiency.

Tips to Minimize Learning Mode

The key to minimizing learning mode is to plan ahead. Set your conversion actions up first, choose a goal to match the client’s goal, choose a bid strategy to match, then create your extensions, keywords and ads. Once everything is ready enable your campaign.

  • Choose a Bid Strategy
    There are numerous automated bidding strategies. Choose one that matches your goals. Smart bidding strategies like Target CPA and Maximize Conversions require accurate conversion tracking but can yield more conversions for lower cost. Running an experiment with same can minimize the impact.
  • Batch Numerous Changes
    If you have a number of changes to make to a campaign do them in a big batch, rather than dribbling them in. Rather than a continuous learning mode you’ll have one.
  • Daily Budget
    Avoid frequent changes to your daily budget. Let the budget run for at least a couple weeks while Google is digesting your change. Google recommends budget changes less than 30% and others recommend keeping changes less than 20%.
  • Conversion Actions
    It is best to set up all of your conversion actions beforehand. If you must make changes to conversion actions plan ahead and make them in bulk, to avoid multiple learning mode periods.

Progression of Bid Strategies

If you’ve got accurate conversion tracking (website and ads) you can progress through automated bidding strategies to squeeze more leads out of your budget. Typically we start with Maximize Clicks. Once we see 15 or so conversions in the past 30 days, Google will recommend a smart bidding strategy. We typically either go to eCPC or Maximize Conversions after enough conversions have happened. After you’ve got enough conversions in one of these smart bidding strategies you can try Target CPA, where you can set a target Cost Per Acquisition (say $35 for a conversion) and Google will optimize your bids to squeeze as many conversions out of your budget while targing your CPA.


By planning ahead and batching your changes, you can minimizing learning mode in Google Ads. Reducing the amount of time your campaigns are in learning mode will help you fully utilize your budget and PPC ad campaigns.

Further Reading

  • PPC Optimization: Abbreviate Ad Text
    Abbreviating key phrases in PPC text ads can lower CPC and the cost per conversion. Our otherwise identical text ad with “Michigan” abbreviated to “Mich” decreased the cost per call by more than 35%, and increased the conversion rate by 33 percentage points.
  • PPC Optimization: Ad Text Position
    Leading with benefits can improve PPC text ad conversion rates. We show a case study that improves conversion rates by 1.8X.
  • PPC Optimization: Ad Title Tweaking
    Learn how small changes in ad text can make big changes in performance. By varying our Ad Title text we improved ad position from 2.4 to 1.0.
  • PPC Optimization: Age Range Targeting
    You can target specific age ranges in Google Adwords to optimize conversion rates. By tweaking the bids on high performing age ranges you can tilt your campaigns to those folks more likely to convert.
  • PPC Optimization: Average Income Targeting
    Targeting your desired audience within particular geographic area using income is a powerful tool you can use to improve your conversion rates. Average household income is just the first demographic that Google has rolled out for that purpose. Coming soon are gender, age, and parental status which could be used to further refine your campaigns.
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    Adding ad extensions to Call Only campaigns can boost click-through and conversion rates.
  • PPC Optimization: Dayparting Display Ads
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  • PPC Optimization: Display URL Expansion
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  • PPC Optimization: Early Warning
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  • PPC Optimization: Exluding ZIP Codes by Income
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  • PPC Optimization: Experiments in Punctuation
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  • PPC Optimization: Using Call Only Ads in Search Campaigns
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