Breakdown of Top Ad Placement: Before and After

Google’s Top Ad Placement formula change took effect last Wednesday. Within 2 days of the shift, I began to read posts like this one where advertisers began calling out negative effects to their AdWords accounts with no hard data to back it up. The entire team here at PPC Hero felt that we needed to analyze our own data before deciding to agree or disagree.

To test, I chose three clients with an average position in the top 3. The three clients chosen: Client A is a book publisher, Client B is in medical devices, and Client C is a musical instrument retailer.

Before I present the findings, I should point out that this test isn’t 100% scientific! The after data contains weekend figures which vary and fluctuate considerably compared to weekdays. Additionally, the figures were taken from a sub-section of each client – from a single ad group on the search network only (no content network!). The time span for the data includes the 4 days before the formula change (08/18-08/21) compared to the 4 days after (08/23-08/26).

This data was pulled from AdWords reports run for the time period between 08/18 and 08/26. I added a filter for Ad Distribution to filter out all content network data. At that point I simply summed the data segments in Excel and recalculated the Click-through-Rate and Avg. Position formulas to be accurate for the chosen data.

For clients that are managed by our agency, positions 4-5 consistently provide higher ROI and we manage our clients accordingly. So, this made available data for positions 1-3 difficult to come by. Has anyone else run a similar test with ad groups that generate heavier traffic in the top 3 spots?

Top Ad Placement Stats

Impressions

Clicks

Click-through-Rate

CPC

Cost

Avg. Position

Client A

Before

10317

544

5.27%

$1.21

$656.37

2.8

After

7902

397

5.08%

$1.30

$514.98

3.0

Client B

Before

7013

574

8.18%

$0.05

$26.64

1.5

After

9174

717

7.82%

$0.05

$38.38

1.7

Client C

Before

6901

434

6.29%

$0.38

$164.40

2.1

After

7329

393

5.36%

$0.31

$122.19

2.5

 

It should be noted that all of these clients were already in the top 3 ad spots prior to the formula change. Big things to notice:

  • All three clients actually lost ground in Average Position after the formula change, but remained in the top 3.
  • They all decreased in Click-through-Rate as well (all within 1 percentage point).
  • Clients A and C lost Impressions and Clicks while the lone ranger, Client B, did see a definite jump in Impressions and Clicks.
  • However, based solely on Avg. Position and Click-through-Rate, I would say that the formula change had a generally negative effect.

In another 30 days, I will run this test again and follow up. At that point, the “fallout” from this formula change should allow me to answer these questions: Did I have enough data? Did time allow these ad groups to regain balance? Did the stats stay the same? Did the stats get worse? Check back in for answers to these questions and a recap of Google’s Top Ad Placement change a month out.

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