Secret Truth Series #9 – What’s Your Ad Rank?

Another great misconception, or over-simplification, of paid search is the idea that you bid for position.

This is a deeply held belief. It seems hard to shake even for those who know better.

But as many people know, position is determined by both bid and quality score. Yet how many thousands of discussions, presentations, webinars, books, blog posts, software interfaces, and tweets talk about bidding for position as if it were the only factor?

How can you discuss bidding and position and not mention quality score? Ignorance and denial account for a lot of it. A yearning for simplicity is no doubt another factor. But saying it does not make it so.

  • Position is determed by a number called Ad Rank
  • Ad Rank is = bid x quality score
  • Most keywords display at a huge range of positions in any given day or time period
  • The quality score used in the calculation is unique to the query and go of the searcher
  • Quality score is ONLY calculated when the query is identical to the keyword (match types and negatives don’t matter)
  • The impact of landing page quality score is not considered AT ALL in calculating position
  • There are special rules and requirements to jump to the ‘top’ from the ‘right’ (link)

These just some of the facts.

Yet today and every day, tens of thousands of paid search advertisers will look at their average positions, and their bids, and on those facts alone decide to change their bids. Or they’ll let algorithms that don’t consider quality score do the same.

In many cases it’s like filling the bucket faster instead of filling the hole.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Know This?

Many of the ‘Secret Truths’ make me wonder if the engines intentionally mislead advertisers. That probably could be the subject of a couple of good posts someday. Most of the time I come to the conclusion that they just tell a an over-simplified version of the truth, like most marketers do, and let everyone run with it in the wrong direction.

It’s easy to see why the engines like all the misconceptions about bidding, and position, and quality score. Every time you don’t understand they make more money. The fact that they didn’t intentionally mislead you is an awfully nice coincidence.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Act Accordingly?

What gets measured gets done. That’s a useful old saying for anyone in online marketing. Ad rank is not measured, or reported. That’s probably reason #1 that more PPC managers don’t obsess about it.

Bids are concrete and easy to change. It’s easy to understand spending more and spending less, and accepting that one buys more and the other buys less. Quality Score is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. We’ll visit those waters again in the next few posts.

The whole thing reminds me of the joke about looking for your keys where the light is rather than where you lost them. Bidding is clear and simple. Quality Score is confusing and hard. So lots of time is devoted to bidding.

The truth is that bid management and quality score management should have equal billing, and Position/CPC management should be recognized as being the result of doing both.

It starts with a new mindset: You don’t bid for position. You Ad Rank for position.

What Do You Think?

This blog post is part of a series extending and amplifying the ideas in our free ebook ’21 Secret Truths of High-Resolution PPC’.

What they’re saying: “Everything you know about AdWords is the basics Google wanted you to know. Just enough to get you hooked. But what if there was fundamental secrets that they neglected to share? Would you want to know them? Now you can! 21 Secrets Truths is what you must read, no, act on, before your competitors do.”

– Bryan Eisenberg Conversion Expert and New York Times Best-Selling Author ’.

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