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Exciting New Adwords Report: Top V Side Segmentation

For many a year, Adwords advertisers have seen the age-old search results page heat map, stalwart of client presentations:

adwords heat map

What this shows is that users initially only look at the first few results directly below the search box on the search results page in the first 1-3 seconds whether these be paid or organic (dependent on the search query). Following that, users will start wondering down the page remaining above the fold. Then they will start looking to the top right ads and finally after about 10 secs below the fold and the rest of the right hand side ads. However, in most cases users do not reach this point as they have already clicked!

This is why top position 1-3 ads are so important in PPC advertising. What the new top v side report shows is that CTR massively diminishes between above organic listings and to the side of organic listings.

For a long time, this has been available internally for Google employees but now the option is available for segmentation and has been rolled out in the Adwords UI. The report can be viewed for campaigns, ad groups or keywords – which is extremely useful as you can track the changes for each individual keyword as you increase or decrease CPCs – and is available via the ‘Segment by’ option:

Top v Side

The report then appears like this (for campaigns in this example):

top v side report

(Other means formats such as product listings as these formats will be categorized as “Other” because they don’t occupy the usual top and side search ad locations. Data also appears for Search partners top or side or other and GDN).

What can I use this for?

Advertisers can now apply a cost to the top and side positions and identify on a per keyword basis if top position aggressive bidding is really worth it – in comparison to conversions, cost per conversions and CTRs gained down the right-hand side – this mix will differ between different verticals and even different keywords. There may be occasions where right-hand side works best!

This will also enable advertisers to gain an understanding of where there average position 1 ad is actually at the top of the right hand side and there are no above organic result ads. A recent Google blog post has explained how position 1 can be at the top of organic results or at the top of right-hand side results where there are no above organic ads.

Normally top ads appear above organic results:
Average Position and Auction Position

No top paid ads above organic results:

Average Position and Auction Position 2

This distinction can help advertisers determine why they are not performing well on specific keywords which are average position 1 but that is actually on the right-hand side – going back to the heat map, this is because users will look at the organic top ads first in this second case. In this case, advertisers may decide that the keyword is not worth bidding on any further and turn to SEO instead.

Why do I want to appear in the top positions?

Google are making top 3 position ads more and more desirable. Top ads can now have site links appearing – from 1-6 in total and right hand side ads are not eligible for these additional links. For a long time top ads have joined together description like 1 and 2 in a single line, whereas right-hand side ads split up the 2 description likes over 2 rows. Additionally, top ads now can have longer headlines with part of description line 1 or domain URLs pulled up next to the headline, whereas right-hand side ads can only have a 25 character headline maximum.

Therefore when segmenting top v side, advertisers can now see the sheer difference this is making to CTRs and CPCs. In fact with 6 site links formats, there are not very many organic listings appearing at all:Above the Fold Ads

So it is not inconceivable that the advent of this report may well increase competition and CPC aggression for top position ads. Bidding more is not always going to be the answer and advertisers should actually turn to quality score. This report actually represents an opportunity to identify keywords where you appear along the top but pay a low CPC or Cost per Conversion because you have a good quality score and other keywords where you appear along the top but your costs are high because of a poor quality score. Advertisers can now isolate where quality score problems are especially impacting performance and improve QS there in order to pay less for top positions.

Google profiteering again?

Ultimately, Google are trying to incite advertisers to spend more, bid higher and thereby gain a greater CTR. Undoubtedly top positions are the best for clicks. There are unlikely to be many cases where advertisers prefer to appear down the right hand side. However do not be fooled into paying more unless this suits your ROI. If your conversions are coming through at an acceptable ROI and you are mostly appearing down the right hand side and by paying more to appear in top positions may hamper your ROI, do not do it!

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