Reviewing Google’s Top Ad Placement One Month Later

By John Lee | @Hanapin

p>On August 22, Google updated the ranking formula that determines which ads make it into the top 3 spots. After only 4 days, I ran reports for 3 different ad groups (3 separate client accounts) to determine if this change had affected my average positions or any other important metrics. Within the scope of my initial comparison, all three ad groups had seen an obvious decrease in average position and click-through-rate despite remaining in the top 3 ad spots.

As promised in my initial review, I have pulled reports from the same 3 ad groups with a full 30 days of data before and after the formula change. Here are the questions I wanted to answer with the new month to month data: Did I have enough data when I compared in August? Did time allow these ad groups to regain balance? Did the stats stay the same? Did the stats get worse?

Top Ad Placement Stats

Time Period






Avg. Position

Client A

07/23 – 08/21




$ 1.22

$ 5,401.83



08/23 – 09/21




$ 1.33

$ 4,734.59


Client B

07/23 – 08/21




$ 0.05

$ 229.45



08/23 – 09/21




$ 0.04

$ 233.54


Client C

07/23 – 08/21




$ 0.39

$ 1,079.42



08/23 – 09/21




$ 0.32

$ 1,093.20



Here is what I’ve taken from the data presented above:

  • The primary similarity between all three ad groups was that Average Position decreased! This is consistent with what I discovered after only 4 days of the formula change.
  • Clients B and C gained impression share and clicks, but lost ground in click-through-rate. Cost increased marginally from date range to date range, but CPC decreased for these 2 ad groups.
  • The “oddball,” Client A, was the complete opposite. This ad group lost impressions, clicks and cost while increasing its click-through-rate.
  • To answer my questions directly: Yes, 4 days of data was enough to see the change. While these ad groups may have found a balance, they did not stay the same. It is obvious that Average Position was affected across the board. I wouldn’t say that the stats worsened because with Clients B and C, I’ve actually seen an increase in clicks!

I should remind everyone once again that our account management techniques here at PPC Hero require us to make frequent changes to actively meet specific goals for our clients. So the data presented here could in part be affected by active account management and not natural shifts. That being said, these three ad groups are all prominent fixtures in their respective niche markets and consistently hold top 3 ad positions on Google’s Search Network (which is why they were chosen!).

Based on those statements, I will say that Google’s Top Ad Placement formula change had a lasting negative impact on my clients in regards to their Average Position. Furthermore, I will infer that due to the “simplification” of making it into the top 3 ad spots, my competition has made their way into crowding those coveted spots, thus lowering my Average Positions. But from a high level perspective, this formula change wasn’t all bad – as I’ve already stated, two of my test ad groups saw an increase in clicks despite the downward slide in position.

Has anyone else noticed changes in Average Position for ad groups in the top 3 spots on Google?

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