Why Position Preference May Stop Showing Your Ads

One thing I love about managing PPC campaigns is that I’m always exploring new features, using new tools, running different reports, etc. In this process I always manage to learn something new.  I have used the position preference tool in Google before but I didn’t notice that it can be a tricky tool to use and the results can be disappointing. Not because my ads may not display in the position I expect to be in, but because my ads we literally turned off because of my position preference settings!

For most of my clients I don’t typically recommend being in the #1 or #2 positions in Google. Being that high can trigger many unqualified clicks from people who are clicking on your ad when they’re not ready to buy or submit information, leading to high PPC costs and little conversions. But I do like to be in the middle to bottom of the first page. This allows people who are comparison shopping to be far enough along in the process to have a better idea of what they want to buy by the time they get to my ad.   Therefore, in order to consistently stay in the middle to bottom of the first page I set my position preference bids from position 4 to 6.  After a day or so I checked my keywords and sure enough, we were in positions 5 for all keywords I used position preference on.  However, I get a call from a client about a week later saying their keywords aren’t showing up anywhere on Google. So I check this out myself, and he’s right, we’re not showing.  After check all my settings and daily budgets, I contacted my Google rep.

What I learned is that my ad rank had dropped somehow within that week and I no longer qualified to be in positions 4 – 6 with my current bid.  Since I had my position preference set to positions 4 -6 but didn’t qualify, Google shut off my ads.

Position preference instructs the AdWords system to try showing your ad whenever it’s ranked in your preferred position and avoid showing it when it is not. It does not mean that your ad will appear in the position you specify for every single search on your keyword. If you broaden your position preference, you’ll see that the keyword will trigger the ad, “says my Google rep.

What my Google rep is saying is that there are many factors that may prevent your ads from showing when you have position preference turned on. One being that your bids may be too high or too low for the requested position, or two that your quality score may be too low to be in a higher position. If you don’t meet those guidelines, then Google will stop showing your ads. Just think of it like this, when you request to be in a certain position, Google will only show your ad if you qualify for that position. They will not show your ad if you qualify for any other position other than what you have requested.

I think what Google is lacking here is some kind of alert telling advertisers that they’re keywords are no longer showing up for search. Currently, if you want to find out if your ads are working you can simply type in the keyword like I did in Google, or click on the ads diagnostics tool next to the keyword.  Our ads should never be shut off without some kind of immediate notice or emailed alert. It really doesn’t help Google either that they’re shutting our ads off.

What I recommend doing is make sure you’re bidding high enough if you are requesting to be in positions 1 – 6. When in doubt, bid higher to almost ‘guarantee’ that position. Also, if you know that a keyword has a lower Quality Score, then I would hold off setting up position preference for that keyword until its Quality Score is higher. This decreases the chances of your keywords/ads being turned off.