Many people start advertising their business using Google Search Ads and are surprised to find out that their brand name is not in the first position of the search results, or even in the second or third, when they search for a certain keyword that is related to their business activity.

If you have also found yourself wondering where your paid search advertising budget is going, when you cannot see your business’ brand name in the top ads of the Google search results, this article will clear things out for you.


Creating a Google search ad to target a keyword

In order for a search ad to appear in the Google search results, there are two prerequisites:

  • The creation of a search ad in Google Ads user interface (a process that involves drafting the ad’s text -headlines, descriptions & paths- and the URL link in order for the users to be landed on a page of your website after they click on your ad).
  • The bidding on a certain keyword that you want your search ad to appear when a user is searching for that keyword (specifically, bidding is the price you are willing to pay to Google per click that the users will perform on your ad).

Once Google receives the aforementioned info, a metric named Quality Score is calculated, which, as you can guess, estimates the quality that your ad achieves for the targeted keyword. The quality of an ad is measured mainly by:

  • The landing page experience (Is the content in the URL link to your webpage relevant to the keyword that you are targeting and bidding on?)
  • The ad copy relevance (Does your ad’s headlines, descriptions & paths include the keyword that you are targeting and bidding on?)
  • The expected Click-Through-Rate (This is an estimate that Google calculates and we cannot have an impact on. It tells basically what portion of users is expected to see your ad and click on it).

The Quality Score is specified on keyword level and is measured from a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best quality that a targeted keyword can achieve.

Participating in a Google Search auction

After the Quality Score for your targeted keyword is determined, you are ready to participate in a search ad auction for the keyword you want to target. Google performs such auctions constantly. Imagine it like being an analogy to the Stock Exchange with keywords being the stocks.


You want your search ad to appear at the top of Google’s search results when users are searching for a certain keyword. Your competitors want their search ads to appear at the top of Google’s search results when users are searching for the same keyword.

In order for Google to decide the ranking (positioning) of each search ad for the targeted keyword, the bidding and the Quality Score of each participant are taken into account.

In general, the higher the bidding AND the Quality Score of your search ad, the higher the probability of your ad to be positioned on top of the Google search results.

Determining the optimum bidding for a keyword

So now, you might say “Ok, then I will do my best to achieve the highest Quality Score!”. This strategy is correct. The higher the Quality Score, the more the chances of reaching higher on the top of the Google paid results. 

Also out of two participants that offer the same bidding, the one with the higher Quality Score will pay a slightly lower cost per ad click. So all in all it is a rule of thumb to struggle achieving the highest Quality Score possible for all keywords that you want to target.

But what if your Quality Score for a certain keyword is already equal to 10 and your ad positioning is on average at 3rd, 4th place or even lower? (Which means that some competitors are paying Google more in order to show up in the top search results) Would you be willing to increase your bidding to overthrow the competition? Please do not rush to answer…

The bidding on each keyword has to be really tied up to your paid advertising budget capacity. If you increase too much the biddings in too many keywords, you will eat up your paid search monthly budget at the start of the month.

“But if I cannot compete with other businesses in my Industry, why should I even bother running paid search ads?” you might ask.

Letting go of the big ego

Let us tell you something peculiar. 

Appearing at the top of the Google paid search results is not a panacea (*).

(*) panacea /ˌpanəˈsiːə/ noun, “a solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases”.


When focusing on paid search advertising, your ultimate longing should not be “Why am I not appearing at the top?” (except if your aim is explicitly to do so for some reason), but rather “Which average ad position would help me achieve my ultimate goal?”.

Performance-based ad positioning

If your business’ ultimate goal is to drive sales through your website, you should pick a metric that is tailored to measure such a goal. One such metric could be for example ROAS (Return On Ad Spend), which is the division of revenue generated from paid ads to the cost of these paid ads.


You would be amazed how many people click on the ad that appears first, but do not complete a purchase. Why? Because simply they are not convinced to buy yet.

People that go further down the list and click on ads that appear lower show more will to research the market for better deals. These people are more driven to buy. Also if the keyword that you are targeting is more specific, then it will probably attract the much more “informed” buyers.

All of us surf the web searching purposelessly generic keywords like “oled tv”. We may be curious to see what an oled tv is, but we are not yet determined to purchase one. Showing ads 1st place for such keywords, when your budget does not allow you to do so, would be detrimental for your paid search advertising efforts. Remember that all in all the goal we picked in the beginning of the current chapter is ROAS.

Showing 1st place though for the keyword “65″ Q95T QLED Smart 4K TV” would be a better strategy. If you come to think of it, it is logical. A person searching something so specific might be more determined to purchase. If your ad seems relevant, your website user experience is smooth and you also got a good product deal, the chances are on your side that this user will complete a purchase in your business’ webpage.

Pick carefully which keywords you target and how much you bid on each one.


A different approach

So in the case of an e-commerce store it would be better to structure the potential-to-target keywords by purchase intent (separate the more generic from the more specific ones) and adjust the bidding accordingly.

In this case you would decrease the bidding for targeted keywords that do not perform well in terms of ROAS (why showing up on top when the cost is skyrocketing and outgrows the revenue?), while doing the opposite for the good performing ones.

This process is dynamic and ongoing. Keywords’ performance may fluctuate in time, so it is important to keep an eye on such changes and adjust the biddings accordingly.

Always adjust the biddings based on ongoing keyword performance.

An example with numbers

Since Google does not allow us to see our competitors’ exact (absolute) biddings and Quality Scores, we need to optimize our settings based on the historical data that we see for targeted keywords in our ad account.

The following example uses dummy data (fictitious), but such a case can appear in a real Google Ads ad account. Let’s assume that all targeted keywords already achieve a Quality Score of 10. So we need to optimize their performance by changing each one’s bidding (here it is referred to as “Avg CPC” which is an abbreviation for Average Cost-Per-Click).

In Scenario 1 we placed high bids to more generic keywords (that also attract more traffic). As you can see though the conversions were very few, possibly due to the fact that the users that clicked on our ad were just curious to check on retro/vintage lamps, but not necessarily to purchase. This strategy drove our total ROAS to 0.65, which means that the performance proves unprofitable (for every €1 spent we got back only €0.65 revenue, so we got a loss).

Seeing that the Scenario 1 strategy did not work, we increased the biddings to more specific keywords (that less but more interested people are searching for). The result was more conversions at nearly the same cost, which led to a total ROAS of 2.65 (meaning that we got back our budget 2.65X times)!

And this was achieved with fewer total ad impressions and ad clicks. Why? Because the audience that searches these specific keywords on one hand is smaller but on the other hand is more eager to buy a specific model of retro/vintage lamp that we offer a very good product deal for.

So Scenario 2 proved finally more profitable. Take a look at the metric “Search top IS”. According to Google: Search top impression share “Search top IS” is the impressions you’ve received in the top location (anywhere above the organic search results) compared to the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive in the top location.

If you look carefully in Scenario 2, the Search top IS for the more generic keywords (and more widely popular) is extremely low (our ads are shown very few times above the organic search results). Do we care? Why should we?

The really profitable for our goal keywords (the specific ones, which are less popular, but attract more intended to purchase users) are showing up 90% & 95% of the times above the organic search results. 


So, to sum up:

  • the ad position that your ads achieve depends on the Bidding and Quality Score of the (relevant to these ads) keywords you target.
  • the ad position of a certain ad that is triggered to show up for a certain keyword changes dynamically (depending on several factors like for example if a competitor placed a new higher bid on the same keyword and hers/his ad reached a higher ad position while your ad was pushed further down in the paid search results).
  • your focus and worries should not be on “Why my ads are not showing No.1?”, but rather on “Which keywords do I want to target and at what bidding in order to achieve my ultimate goal?”.
  • The final average ad position that your business’ paid ads achieve should just be the outcome of your strategy and not the target (*).

(*) Except if you have an explicit reasoning that for your business and industry it is extremely important that your ads show always on top. However, for most businesses this is not the case.