Number One on Google Paid Search?

What position do you want your ads to be on Google Paid Search (PPC)? What’s the best position from an ROI point of view? 

“Number one” I hear you say.

At Pull Digital we pride ourselves in getting our client’s ads to the ‘Top’ paid search slots. However, we always try to find the most cost effective position for our client’s ads.

There is no doubt that being at the top of a Google search engine results page is generally better than being down the side. Google’s ‘Top vs. Other’ analysis allows you to see this clearly:

The table shows that the click-through rate percentage (CTR%) and conversion rate is far better at the top of a Google results page than down the side.

But what about position 2 and 3 at the top?

Below is a heat map showing where the eye is drawn to on a Google SERP. Again you can see that the majority of people’s eyes are drawn to the top left of the page. 

However position 2 and 3 are given almost as much attention. In general position 1 is more expensive than position 2 and 3 so could it be reasoned that occupying lower positions is more cost-effective?

After reviewing the data above, we decided to run a test and change the position of our ads to see if occupying position 2 and 3 with lower costs-per-click (CPC) could reduce the overall cost per conversion.

We ran a test over three months, reducing the maximum CPC of our keywords each month so that the average position would be lowered. We didn’t reduce the CPC too much as we wanted to keep within positions 1-3, anything outside of this would have resulted in ads being moved to the side of the page and a real loss in performance. The below is a table showing the results:

The table shows that reducing the CPC in order to occupy position 2 or 3 resulted in almost halving the cost per conversion from month 1 to month 3. Interestingly, the volume of conversions has remained almost static. The only down-side is that the results show a slight drop in the CTR% from month 1 to 3 but this is compensated by acheiving a higher conversion rate.

Google would probably disagree with the above and encourage you to spend, spend, spend! After all, if every advertiser reduced their CPC’s Google would lose money; it is in their interest to advise you to increase your ad budget. However, at Pull Digital we don’t make any commission on Google’s CPC and we aim to help our clients be as cost-effective as possible with their online campaigns.

So what is the moral of this story? Undoubtedly, it is best to be at the top of the page with paid search ads on Google and getting there can be a question of ‘quality as Google sees it’ (and that’s another story!) but it could be argued that it is more cost-effective to occupy position 2 or 3 than the coveted top position.


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