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How Google Decides When To Show Ads

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One of the biggest questions I get from clients when they first choose to embark on a Google AdWords campaign is, “How does Google decide when to show my ad?” Unlike the first days of pay per click campaigns in the 1990’s, ad delivery factors in more than just the amount of your keyword bid.  Here’s everything you need to know about how Google decides when to show your ad, and what you can do to increase your chances of great ad exposure in the search results.

First, let’s outline the basics. When a user conducts a search in Google, Google finds all of the ads that are being targeted by that keyword, across all of Google AdWords advertisers. Then, from that group, Google chooses the ads that will appear on the page, and serves them up in ad positions within the top center and right hand navigation of search results.

Factors That Determine When Your AdWords Ads Display

As you can imagine, there are more advertisers than available ad positions. So, for any given search, how does Google decide who’s ad gets included, and in what ad position? It really comes down to three important things that makes up your ad’s Ad Rank.  Ad Rank was invented by Google to ensure that people are displayed the most relevant and useful advertising. Advertisers with a favorable Ad Rank are rewarded with a lower average cost per click (CPC), more ad impressions, and the best ad positions.

Here are the three main things that affect your ad’s Ad Rank:

1. Your bid amount in contrast to competing advertisers

2. The relevance and quality of your ad’s landing page to your ads and keyword targeting

3. The estimated impact that your ad extensions and ad formats will have on response rates

​If you want the best chance of your ad displaying above the competition, you’ll want to have a better mixture of bids and quality.

So, what can you do to improve your Ad Rank? First, you’ll want to identify which keywords in your accounts have low quality scores. Quality Score is an assessment at the keyword level that takes into account the components we just discussed. This is a score assigned to each keyword from 1-10, with 10 being the highest score.

How To Improve Your AdWords Quality Scores

  • Test out increasing your bids.
  • Use highly targeted ad extensions, and use as many types that are relevant to your campaign.
  • Consider mobile only ads if you are targeting mobile traffic.
  • Always try to include the targeted keyword or keyword phrase in your ads, especially the headline. This might mean re-working how you set up your Ad Groups.
  • Put some real thought into whether the ad’s current landing page is the best choice for the ad in question. Is there another page on your site that might be more specific to the keyword search?
  • Try refining your keyword, or keyword match types to be more specific to what you offer.
  • Consider optimizing your landing page, much like you would for SEO. Improving the quality and relevance of your content and meta tags as it relates to the keyword you are bidding on can go a long way in helping your Ad Rank.

A few things to keep in mind:

It’s normal (and common) for your ad to display in different ad positions for the same search term. Each time a search is conducted, the entire Ad Rank evaluation repeats before Google displays the ads. Results will vary depending on the competition at that moment, and your ad that is being served. Use the average ad position metric in your account, which tells you what the average position has been for your ads during a specific time frame. This will give you an idea of where you stand.

Setting your bids higher are a good way to improve your ad delivery, but the highest bidder won’t always win. If you have higher quality, more relevant landing pages and ads than your competition, this could propel your ad to the top of the page, despite having lower bids.

To help understand how changes you make impact results, you’ll want to monitor the keyword Quality Scores within your keyword tab. By making changes to keywords with low quality scores, you can dramatically improve your ad delivery.

What’s worked for you to improve keyword Quality Scores?

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