Ian Lurie // Nov 13 2007
Why do some PPC ads rank well, and others fall no matter what you spend? There’s more to your pay per click ad ranking than your bid and your clickthru. Read on to learn what we know matters, and how you can get a better paid search ranking.
The folks at MindValley Labs just did a nice post, Get a Great Ad Position in PPC Right from the Start, but oversimplified how Google sets PPC ad position. Now, I have to say that MindValley rocks!!! I read their blog daily. I’m just trying to shed a bit more light on what can be a murky topic.
They state that ‘PPC Ad Position = CTR X CPC’. While your cost per click (CPC) bid and clickthru rate (CTR) are huge factors, there are several others that will affect your AdWords PPC Ranking. Here are all the factors – I heard about these at Search Marketing Expo Stockholm, in a panel session that included a Google rep, so hopefully I’m not leading everyone astray. Google uses a number of factors to generate an ad and keyword quality score:
Note: You can see a very rough quality score in your Adwords keyword page: Click ‘customize columns’ and select ‘show quality score’.
No question, your bid is still a huge factor. The maximum CPC bid you place will affect your rank. If you bid $.10/click on a keyword that has an average bid of $5, you’re facing an uphill battle.
All other things being equal, a higher bid = a higher ranking.
Clickthru rate (CTR) equals the number of clicks your ad gets, divided by the number of impressions (views). So, if Google shows my ad 1000 times, and 100 people click on it, then that ad will get a 10% CTR score.
A higher CTR can help you gain a higher ranking, even if you have a lower bid.
For example, we had a client bidding on a very competitive keyword. They bid $.75/click. Their main competitors were bidding at least $1.25 and $2.00. So our bid should gain a #3 position.
But our ad gained a relatively high 5% CTR. I don’t know what the competitor CTRs were, but our client gained the #2 spot. Our high CTR was part of that.
But there’s more to your PPC ranking on Google (and soon on Yahoo, too) than CTR and CPC.
If you’re in an industry or semantic space that Google considers prone to unethical behavior, you’re probably going to get a lower quality score.
For example, you may run a gambling web site, and want to buy the keyword ‘Las Vegas’ for your ‘better than Vegas’ campaign. ‘Las Vegas’ isn’t necessarily a topic that Google considers bad. But the combination of that phrase’s possible association with gaming, plus the fact that you’re in the gambling industry will almost certainly lower your quality score.
The page at which you point your ad matters, too. If you point your ad at a page that’s highly relevant to your keyword and ad text, you’re more likely to get a higher quality score, and a higher ad position.
In addition, if your page has the hallmarks of a suspicious site:
…you’ll probably get dinged. A quality landing page is a must.
I’m reasonably certain that ad content matters, too. Not just because it generates a higher or lower CTR, either. It appears that ads with copy that’s more measured, doesn’t include the word ‘free’ or references to pharmaceuticals, and includes the keyword for which you’re bidding, sees a better quality score.
I can’t verify this one. Take it with the usual ‘Ian is being paranoid’ grain of salt.
Given all this, how can you improve your paid search ad ranking? I have a few suggestions:
What have you discovered that helps with paid ad ranking?
Ian Lurie is founder and CEO of Portent Inc., an internet marketing agency that has provided internet marketing, including PPC, SEO, social and analytics services, since 1995. Read More