Being #1 Doesn’t Always Mean You Win

This is the first in a series of case studies we will be publishing. These case studies will focus on the work we do for clients. In particular, we will dissect the strategies we implemented to solve certain problems within a campaign or goals we wanted to attain. We will discuss the strategy and the outcome (positive or negative).

Client: Indian Math Online (IMO) is an online tutoring system that helps students with their math skills. The theory behind their business model is that there is an art to teaching math, and teachers in India have mastered this skill. The methodology used in Indian classrooms is implemented within IMO so when students sign up they are not only getting math help, they are learning a whole new way to approach math.

Issue: We were in a heavy testing phase at the time within Google. In one ad group they had only a handful of keywords (3 to 5 keywords). An aggressive standard bid was set that placed each keyword at position #1. Within this campaign, our CPA was over three times our goal, but the client wanted to be in the top position. We were also running four different ad texts at the time (all going to same landing page).

Solution: I decided to make a few changes to the ad group because I was certain we would have just as many clicks and conversions in position #3 or 4. Also, I was certain that we could retire two of our under-performing ad texts which would then funnel more traffic to our better ads, resulting in a higher CTR and a lower CPC. Here are the changes I made:

  • Lowered our standard bid slightly
  • Used Google’s Ad Position Preference Tool and set our keywords to 3 (highest) to 5 (lowest)
  • Retired two of our ad texts

Outcome: On the 25th of January I made the two changes and my theory proved itself out. Our CTR stayed steady, our CPC dropped, our conversion rate remained steady and our CPA decreased.

Summary: The theory that being #1 is not in the client’s best interest holds true (however, there are instances when being in the first position is fine for certain clients, but not for most). Two practices that we implement frequently worked well: optimal ad placement is not position #1, and continue to test ad text because it can affect your ad group’s performance (especially CTR and CPC, which in turn effect your quality score).

Graphs: Below are a few graphs that reflect the changes we made to the campaign. The monetary information has been removed, but you can see the positive trending. Click each image to enlarge the graphs.

Average ad position:

position graph







Categorised in Advanced PPC Strategies, Bid/Budget Management, PPC Management Tips