Recently, I sat down and completed the Google Ads Fundamentals & the Google Ads Search Certification Exams. As the Digital Marketing Engineer at Atilus, one of my main responsibilities is managing our clients’ Google Ads accounts and helping them achieve results through PPC advertising.
While I am experienced in Google Ads, it’s important for me to stay on top of all the changes and new features Google introduces, which is why we regularly take these exams from the Google Academy to maintain our status as a Google Certified Partner.
As I was going through the training for the exam, most of the features of Google search were things I was already familiar with. However, there was one particular section that broke down Ad Rank that stood out to me.
While I was familiar with the concept of ad rank, the Google Academy for Ads broke things down in a very concise manner that I think could be helpful to understand how PPC search ads work in Google. When we’re running Google Ads for a client, we often get questions like, “Why aren’t my ads showing?” – when a client will search a certain keyword and not see their ad pop up, they think something is wrong. It’s not that simple though, as there are several factors that go into when an ad will show for any given search term.
Ad Rank is a value that’s used to determine your ad position, and whether your ad will be shown at all. To being to understand how Ad Rank works, let’s start by understanding the Google Ads auction.
THE GOOGLE ADS AUCTION
The Google Ads auction is the process that happens with each Google search that decides which ads will appear for that search, what order they appear in, and how much each advertiser will pay for that placement. Although when you enter a search term into Google you see results in a few seconds – the process that goes on behind the scenes is a lot more complex then it appears. Here are the steps of the Google auction:
- Step 1: Google Ads system finds all the ads whose keywords match that search term
- Step 2: The system ignores any ads that aren’t eligible based on targeting or approval
- Step 3: The system shows only ads that meet the Ad Rank threshold
So, for example, say you enter “web design near me” into Google search. Google will first find any advertisers searching on that keyword, included broad or phrase matches like “web design” or “web services.” Then, it will eliminate any advertisers whose ads are disapproved or anyone that has targeting outside of your parameters – so if someone is bidding on “web design near me” but has their location targeting set to New York City only, you won’t see their ads if you’re searching in Bonita Springs. Once those eligible ads get narrowed down, the best quality ads get shown, and that’s where Ad Rank comes in.
FACTORS OF AD RANK
Google’s algorithm uses a few main factors to determine your Ad Rank. The factors are:
- Your bid – how much you have identified as the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a click on the ad.
- Expected click-through rate (CTR) – the prediction of how often your ad will get clicked when shown for a keyword. This is based on historic data of how users have responded to your ad in the past.
- Landing page experience – the quality of your landing page, including how relevant the content is and how easily navigable it is for the user.
- Ad relevancy – analyzes the copy in your ad to determine how well it relates to the search query, enabling users to see only useful ads that are relevant to the search they performed.
- Ad formats – your ad should include all relevant extensions. Extensions can include a button to call, a button that shares your physical location, and extra links to relevant sections of your site.
The expected CTR, landing page experience and ad relevancy come together to estimate the quality of your ad and create a number called “Quality Score” that estimates the quality of your ad, which when combined with your bid and quality of your ad extensions, determines whether your ad gets shown.
AD RANKING IN ACTION
Clearly, a lot goes into what determines whether an ad will show at any given time. To make it easier to understand, we’ll give an example on how Ad Rank works.
Say there are 4 web design companies in the same geographic area bidding on the same keyword.
- Company 1 has a $4 bid and a low-quality score with no ad extensions.
- Company 2 has a $3 bid and a high-quality score with one ad extension.
- Company 3 has a $2 bid and a high-quality score with all ad extensions.
- Company 4 has a $1 bid and a medium quality score with a few ad extensions.
Based on these factors, the ad rank would be as follows, from highest to lowest:
- Company 3
- Company 2
- Company 4
- Company 1
As you can see here, the company with the highest bid (Company 1) had the lowest ad rank and would likely not be shown because of a low-quality score and lack of ad extensions. The company that had the lowest bid (Company 4) and didn’t have the best quality score is likely to be at the bottom of the page due to slightly lacking across the board in all factors. Of the two companies with a higher quality score, the one with a lower bid (Company 3) performed better due to better ad formatting by using all extensions.
SO, WHAT CAN I DO TO IMPROVE AD RANK?
Now that you understand what Ad Rank is and how it works, comes the question – what can I do to make my ads show?
If a client comes to us and notices their ads aren’t showing when the search something, the first thing we tell them is that it could be due to budget because a limited budget will prevent the ads from showing all the time. However, if we determine that a limited budget isn’t the problem and the ads aren’t showing, we would evaluate the factors that determine Ad Rank and make sure that we are optimizing the ads to the best of our abilities. This includes:
- Making sure we are using all available & relevant extensions
- Making sure we are bidding on the right keywords and that the ad copy is relevant to the keyword
- Making sure the landing page matches the keyword and creates a good user experience
- Make sure we have a good call-to-action in the ad copy to get users to click on the ad and improve CTR
- Make sure we have a competitive bid price