Hilariously, when I was searching for statistics about the second page of Google search results for this article,
I came across this gem in the search results:
That’s because nobody goes to the second page of search results. The first article for that search has less than 10% of traffic of searches being on pages other than the first. Clearly, being on the first page of Google is critical for your company’s visibility and success, but how do you get there?
Well, there are two ways: 1) organically through search engine optimization (SEO) and 2) paid ads using Google AdWords. For organic listings, you don’t have to pay directly for your website to show on Google, but in order to show on the first page, you must demonstrate the quality and longevity of your site to Google through the best search engine optimization practices. But, if you don’t have the time to wait for organic traffic, leads, and revenue to come in, the alternative is paid search ads through Google AdWords.
How Does Google Choose What Ads Show On Page 1?
As the name “paid search” indicates, there are direct costs for showing your ads on Google. However, it isn’t just the companies with the most money that have their ads shown. Google has long since realized that the best way to be successful is to provide users with the most relevant search results. After all, if people don’t find the search results useful, they will stop using the search engine. So, Google devised a system that encourages and rewards advertisers for providing the most relevant content to the searches they target.
The basic formula for calculating how ads rank in search results is:
Ad Rank = Bid x Quality Score
With the bid being the max amount you are willing to pay per click on your ad, and quality score being a calculation of many factors that Google takes into account to determine how relevant your ads are to the search. The higher the ad rank, the higher the position on the search results page. In this system, it is possible for advertisers that are willing to pay less to outrank competitors by having a better quality score.
AdWords further rewards high quality scores in their pricing system. While you won’t pay more than your bid for a click, you often pay less than your bid. This is because Google only charges you the amount it takes to outrank the next competitor. Basically, they calculate what bid you would need to achieve the ad rank of your closest competitor using your own quality score, and then they add one cent. Therefore, if you have a high quality score, you are rewarded by having to pay less per click.
What Makes Up Quality Score?
The actual formula for quality score is a secret. This is so advertisers don’t know exactly what Google takes into account and can’t game the system by only focusing on those factors. Instead we focus on providing an overall relevant and useful experience as users go from search to ad to webpage, following the broad guidelines Google provides.
They have three major components that go into quality score:
Landing Page Experience – How relevant the page you send ad traffic to is relative to the user’s search, and also how easy the page is to use for people, which includes things like load time.
Ad Relevance – How relevant is your ad to what the user is looking for?
Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR) – How likely your ad is to be clicked, estimated by Google based on your historical performance, the historical performance of similar advertisers, and the AdWords features you are using.
What Do I Do Now to Get My Ads to Show On Page 1 of Google?
Now that you know what goes into determining how ads rank on Google, you are probably wondering how to get your business to the top position.
In the AdWords interface, you can check the “Average Position” or “Avg. Pos.” metric in your data to see where your ads are showing. If you want your ads to show higher, you now know what you need to improve to make that happen—bid, landing page experience, ad relevance, expected CTR.
You may have noticed that these elements are not limited to only your AdWords settings, but also take into account your website design and content. And although the amount you are willing to pay is not the end-all be-all, it does play a major role in the formula. A lot of business of all sizes advertise with AdWords because they value the traffic and revenue it generates. As a result, ad ranking can be very competitive with bids and costs per click (CPC) going through the roof.
CPC varies enormously, depending on the competition in your industry and market. While we typically don’t see CPCs anywhere near that high for our clients, they still cost enough that it hurts to see irrelevant traffic come through. So why would anyone be willing to pay that much for an ad click? If they are able to convert those clicks into sales that generate much more in revenue, it may well be profitable for them to spend aggressively. There is also an enormous benefit to showing in top ad positions, studies have estimated that top ranking ads have over two times the click-through rate of the next highest ads, and it drops off further after the first few ads.
I’ve talked a lot about ranking and CTR, but it’s essential to remember those are just top of the funnel metrics. The ultimate focus of your PPC campaigns should be on generating leads that turn into sales. But, it is important to know what goes into running a paid search ad campaign so you know how your money is being spent and what to do to set yourself up for success. Done right, a PPC campaign can result in huge ROI numbers for your company. Done poorly, it can waste a lot of money.
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