What is Ad Rank and 3 Ways to Improve It Without Spending More

The basic definition of Ad Rank has not changed over the years.

Ad rank is the value that determines your ad’s position relative to other ads in Google Search.

While we all know that ad position is a major factor in your ad targeting, what exactly are these factors?

What is involved in the calculation of ad position? What can you control to improve your ad position?

If you’re not sure where to start with Ad Rank, this is for you.

While ad position may seem like an easy calculation, it can feel like an uphill battle trying to improve it.

You’ll learn all about Ad Rank, why it’s important, and how to improve your Ad Rank without spending more.

What exactly is Ad Rank?

Officially from Google definition Yes: “A value used to determine your ad’s position (the placement of your ad on the page relative to other ads) and whether your ad will appear.”

For example, if your ad appears in the second position on the page, your ad position for that particular search is second.

But what factors really affect your ad position?

Before 2017, Ad Rank was a simpler calculation involving your highest CPC and the number of competitors relative to search.

This is further complicated by Google Ads making some key changes to how Ad Rank is calculated, such as thresholds and machine learning.

In a nutshell, Ad Rank is calculated as:

  • Your bid amount.
  • Ad quality at auction.
  • Auction competitiveness.
  • The context of the user’s search.
  • Expected impact of extensions and other ad formats.

Each specific keyword search is analyzed by determining the factors above to give it an Ad Rank.

This means that every search is fundamentally different. This means that in one search auction, your Ad Rank might be 1. But in the next search auction, your Ad Rank might be four.

To fully understand Ad Rank, let’s take a deeper look at each of the above factors.

  • Your bid amount: This is the amount you’re willing to pay to appear in a specific location when a user searches for a keyword. There are minimum and maximum thresholds. For example, if you set a maximum CPC of $2 and the next highest bidder has a maximum CPC of $1.60, you will pay $1.61 in that auction.
  • User signals and properties: These signals include location, device type, and time of day, among others. Ad Rank thresholds will vary based on these factors.
  • Search context: Two different people can search for the same keyword and have two completely different contexts.
  • Auction Competitiveness: Your ad rank may also depend on auctions for related but similar searches. E.g, [wedding invitations] and [wedding invites] Search terms can inform each other because they are similar in nature.
  • Expected impact of ad extensions and other formats: Google looks at your ad extensions to understand your ad’s relevance, clickthrough rate, and overall experience.

Since Google Ads is essentially an auction, it’s often assumed that if you just bid up, you’ll get the highest ad space.

In a complex world, this is no longer the case.

Your bids in auctions may be much lower than your competitors, but if your ads are better, you will still outrank them!

While there are many differences between organic and paid search, they do function similarly because Google provides searchers with more relevant information.

Now that we know the basics of ad position and how it’s calculated, here are three ways you can improve your ad position—all without spending more money.

1. Improve your ad relevance

Ad relevance is a major component of ad ranking. As mentioned above, ad relevance is one of the three components that make up an ad’s quality or Quality Score.

According to the official Google definitionad relevance is “how well your ad matches the intent behind a user’s search.”

So, how do you improve ad relevance?

Start by reviewing your current ad copy and cross-referencing the keywords you are bidding on.

Does your title or description contain the keyword users are searching for?

Responsive search ads are a great way to test different copy to see what resonates best with users.

Google does provide some reports on titles and descriptions, including how they rank from “low” to “best” in terms of performance.

If you’ve found winning ad copy that’s performing well, you can also pin the top-performing headline at the top of your ad to make sure it always appears in your ad.

Now, while you should focus on including relevant keywords in the copy that users are searching for, don’t confuse this with keyword stuffing.

Gone are the days of focusing on SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Groups). In the past, it was easy to have higher ad relevance with SKAG because you almost always matched specific search terms to your headline.

With Google’s expansion of exact match types, advertisers had to abandon SKAG and focus on the big picture. Everyone searches differently, and you may be limiting yourself if you rely on SKAGs in your account to drill down to a specific level.

Second, part of Google’s definition of ad relevance is how well the ad matches the user’s intent.

say i search [keyword research tool cost]. I’m obviously looking at how much a tool like this will cost each month.

screenshot from search [keyword research tool cost]Google, June 2022

The above example touches on all the key points of a good ad:

  • The title matches my search query.
  • Take advantage of sitelink extensions to compare plans and pricing.
  • Brand authority for over 10 million users.
  • Additional trial period is required for testing before purchase.

All in all, ad relevance is more than just trying to put as many keywords into your copy as possible.

Google pays more attention to the user’s intent and how your ad helps that user solve a problem.

2. Pay attention to ad add-ons

It’s easy to forget about ad extensions when setting up new campaigns and ad groups.

While setting them may seem tedious or unimportant, the opposite is true.

Ad extensions are an important part of improving your ad position on Google. They help increase your CTR, which in turn can help improve your ad position.

Why do they help improve CTR? Glad you asked!

Ad extensions allow you to give users more information about your business that you can’t convey in your ad. After all, we are still limited by the character count of titles and descriptions.

However, don’t add extensions just to add extensions.

In fact, if you add extensions to your campaigns or ad groups that don’t match your search terms, this may actually lower your ad position.

So, what should you use ad extensions for?

Well, almost anything! Google will continue to provide other ways that we as advertisers can communicate our information to users to help them solve their problems.

As of now, these are the available ad extensions you can create:

  • Location (and subsidiary location).
  • Additional links.
  • call out.
  • Structured Fragments.
  • price.
  • application.
  • picture.
  • Lead Form.
  • promotion.
  • call.

With all these options, how do you choose which ones to add?

Ideally, you should create ad extensions based on your campaign goals.

For example, if you’re a local business trying to increase in-store traffic, you can benefit from adding location extensions.

If your goal is to increase web traffic, try adding relevant sitelinks to different areas of your site to help solve users’ problems.

If your main goal is to generate leads, try adding a lead form extension to your ad – especially if you don’t have a great landing page. However, we will cover the login page in detail in the next section.

In general, please be specific about the extensions you’ve added to your campaign. Aligning them with your campaign goals can help significantly improve your ad position.

3. Create better landing pages

Landing pages are often the forgotten piece of the conversion puzzle.

However, I would say this is the most important part of getting your ad rank right.

If you’ve ever clicked on a paid ad and been disappointed with your landing page experience, you know how frustrating it can be.

As a searcher, user experience can determine whether they buy from you.

Your search query should be a direct indicator of what you expect to see when you visit your website.

In the past, many advertisers would spend a lot of time creating a different landing page for each ad group to ensure that the page had what the user was searching for.

Well, in theory, that’s fine, right?

That’s fine – if you’re helping them with their problems. If you’re creating landing pages with fluff copy just to match search terms, you’re doing it all wrong.

If you haven’t noticed Google’s theme lately, it’s all about intent.

We need to stop worrying about whether our landing page title is an exact match for what users are searching for, and more about what they actually see when they land.

There are many things to consider when creating a good landing page:

  • What device the user is using.
  • How much “white space” (or unnecessary space) there is on the page.
  • Is there a clear call to action (CTA) before the user has to scroll.
  • How many clicks does the user need to solve their problem.
  • Website loading speed.

The list can go on and on if you know what I mean.

The point is, your landing page experience must be of quality and consistency to improve your ad position.

So much so that Google even includes landing page experience in its Quality Score metrics!

By checking on your landing page now, the results will show up over time.

in conclusion

Are you more inclined to manipulate bids and budgets when it comes to improving your ad position?

If this is your preferred tactic, I encourage you to take a step back and look at your campaign in the bigger picture.

There are many factors you can influence in your ad to change your ad position metrics without spending more on your campaign budget.

  • Improve your ad copy to match users’ search intent.
  • Increase your ad CTR with powerful and relevant ad extensions.
  • Focus on improving your landing page experience for higher conversions.

Once you’ve done that, then you can confidently adjust your bids and budget to take the top spot in the search rankings.

More resources:

Featured image: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

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