5 Questions About Ad Rank You Need Answers To Right Now

Ryan MootHart, PPC Architect

You know those blog posts that attempt to answer questions about something you’re keenly interested in, but then the first 80% of them beat around the bush until they actually provide the insights you’re looking for (if at all)?

This isn’t one of those posts. Neither you or I are interested in wasting a few minutes of your life only to be let down wishing you could get your time back.

Paid search. Google Ads. Ad Rank. You have questions. We’re going to answer them. No fluff. No bullsh*t. Here you go.

1. What Is Ad Rank?

Google defines ad rank as “a value that’s used to determine your ad position and whether your ads will show at all.” Your ad rank is the result of any given paid search auction and is compared to those of your competitors to determine if and where on the SERP your ad will show in relation to these competitors.

2. How Is Ad Rank Calculated?

According to Google, ad rank is calculated using several factors, including your maximum CPC bid amount (and whether or not that meets a minimum threshold), your auction-time quality score, the context of a user’s search, and your enabled ad extensions. Your ad rank is also recalculated each time an ad is eligible for and competes in an auction. Therefore, it’s entirely possible that an ad for one of your keywords will show up in position #1 at the top of the page for one user’s search and in a different position for another’s.

3. Can I Just Bid More to Get the Best Ad Rank in an Auction?

Not necessarily. Don’t forget about the other factors; quality and context matter! If your quality score is high and your assets (keyword, ad copy, etc.) are highly relevant, you can still wind up getting the best ad rank in an auction while bidding less than your competitors. Likewise, if your quality score is low and your assets aren’t as relevant to your user’s context (where they are in the funnel, for example), you could bid higher than all of your competitors and still not get the best ad rank.

4. How Are Ad Rank and Quality Score Related?

While your keyword quality score factors into determining ad rank for a given auction, your ad rank does not directly impact quality score as a result of that auction. Quality score is, however, determined in part by your expected click-through rate (CTR) which takes into account your historical CTR trend. That trend can be influenced by an improved ad position, which is determined by your ad rank.

I know that seems like circular logic but stick with me for a moment.

It’s common for ads that show up first at the top of the SERP to naturally have an advantage at acquiring a higher CTR. Because your positioning is determined by ad rank, that positioning can (but is not guaranteed to) help improve your CTR trend which, thereby, positively impacts your quality score. That improved quality score then directly factors into your ad rank for future auctions.

5. How Do I Improve Ad Rank?

Having a better ad rank means better visibility on the SERP. The more visible you are, the more likely someone is to click on your ad. There are a few ways to directly improve your ad rank, which all refer to the factors mentioned earlier in question 2:

  • Increase your maximum CPC bids
  • Improve your quality scores
  • Ensure your keywords and text ads are highly relevant to the search queries which may trigger them
  • Optimize ad extensions and use as many as are relevant to your account

There you have it! Hopefully, your questions have been answered, and you’re well on your way to improving your ad rank. And don’t forget to bookmark this page in case you need to reference it in the future.

Ryan MootHart, PPC Architect
PPC Architect

Ryan is a PPC architect at Portent, with more than a decade of experience managing large-scale e-commerce, international B2B lead generation campaigns, and everything in between. He became a published author in 2016 with the release of his book, Towards Cascadia, which is a non-fiction exploration of Pacific Northwest identity, bioregionalism, and nationhood. Outside of work, Ryan and his husband, Paul, enjoy traveling and are avid followers of Sounders FC, Seattle’s Major League Soccer club.

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  1. What are your thoughts on account history being factored into Ad Rank? Do you think a historically poor-performing account is at a permanent disadvantage, even after they’ve fixed their issues?

    I few years ago I took over an account that was completely unmanaged for years and unsurprisingly was in terrible shape. I completely overhauled it, did everything by the book, and we were still seeing poor clickthrough rates, ad positions, etc. I spoke with an AdWords rep (I know, I know) and they said its Ad Rank was really holding them back due to years of being in terrible shape. They recommended I start a new account, copy all my new campaigns over to it and stop using the old account. And it worked. Everything was the same except the CID and yet we saw immediate improvement.

    And yet nothing I read ever mentions this and talks about how Ad Rank is completely fluid and fresh. I haven’t tried starting fresh on other takeover accounts since then but I’ve been tempted. Curious to hear your thoughts.

    1. Hi, David.

      Poor account history affects quality scores which are a direct factor in determining ad rank in any given auction. If you had an account which suffered from poor optimization and poor performance for years, it doesn’t surprise me that your overhaul didn’t immediately show the results they did when you started a brand new account. In my experience, an account overhaul or rebuild like this takes between 1-3 months in an existing account to “get over” the noticeable effects of its previous history if was in that bad of shape.

  2. Hello iam sreelatha i thankful for sharing your information but can you provide blog on quality score also..

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