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May 6, 2009 | 2 minute read

PPC Myth Week Pt 2: Bid Higher to Appear Higher

written by Linda Bustos

Because top positions typically receive better click through rates than lower, many people use average position as a KPI (key performance indicator) to measure campaign health, and seek to optimize it -- either by trying to improve Quality Score* or raising the maximum CPC (cost per click) for the keyword. For some, raising the bid is easier than trying to figure out how to appease the Google Quality Score god.

*Quality Score is Google's way of scoring the quality (clever name, hey?) of your ad and landing page relevance and attractiveness to searchers. If you're interested in learning more about Quality Score, Craig Danuloff of Click Equations is writing a book about it and is dripping out chapters on his blog.

Click through rate (CTR%) is the most important part of Quality Score, according to Google's own explanation of how it ranks ads (Youtube video). CTR% is followed by ad/landing page relevance and landing page quality. The video goes into detail on how ads with high Quality Scores are rewarded by higher positions and lower average CPCs.

It used to be common practice to crank up your bids when you first launched keywords so they would rank higher and get better click through, and turn them down once you established a good click through history. Today, Google calculates your click through rate at each position it tests your ad in, comparing it against other data it has for advertisers in those positions rather than an average across every position. So there's no need to bid high - your focus should be improving that click through rate!

Tips for Improving PPC Click Through Rates

1. Find negative keywords. Add as many negative keywords as possible to reduce impressions for irrelevant or near-relevant keyword searches. Some negative keywords will be applied at the Campaign level, others at the Ad Group level. You can also find negative keywords by adding a broad match exposure filter.

2. Group keywords more tightly. Studies have shown click through is highest when the ad headline includes the exact keyword the searcher typed in (limited to 35 characters) -- especially for brand / color / model number searches. So rather than having one big Digital Camera Ad Group with all your brands and models, you would have a Digital Camera group with only unbranded keywords, and Ad Groups for each brand, and model-specific Ad Groups for each brand.

Some keywords might be so popular / high converting they may justify their own Ad Group so you can write an even more specific ad, like "Ashton Kutcher Coolpix."

3. Write better ad copy. Some tips include:

In this economy, you can't afford sloppy PPC campaign management. Make sure you do everything you can to improve Quality Score before you ramp up bids on keywords. After optimizing for CTR%, look at improving landing page relevance, not just to please Google, but to convert more clicks to sales.