Understanding How Google Ranks Ads – Search Network

There are several factors that determine where Google places your ad when you are bidding on keywords in Google Adwords.  These factors are all added together to come up with, as Google calls it, your Ad Rank Score.  Some factors have more weight than other factors, but every single one of them is important in making sure you get the best possible ad position for your ad.

In this article I’ll discuss the factors that determine your ad position when you are bidding on keywords on the search network of Google Adwords.

In the next post I write, I’ll discuss the factors that determine your ad position when bidding on keywords on the content network of Google Adwords.

The formula for Ad Rank is pretty simple…

Ad Rank Formula = Max CPC Bid x Quality Score

Most of you know what Max CPC bid, it’s just the maximum you are willing to spend per click and is a number you set in your Adwords account on either an ad group level, or if your smart on a per keyword level.  It’s the biggest factor determining in what position your ad will appear within the search results Sponsored Links section.

This means that you can’t bid .10 cents on a keyword like auto insurance even if you have the best quality score possible and expect to show up in position one… it just isn’t gonna happen…

Moving on, so what affects your quality score?

The quality score you receive is based on a number of factors, however, once again there is one major factor that tends to be the most important.  That is your CTR (click through rate) of your ad.  The higher your click through rate, the higher your quality score.  The reason for this is because Google is out to make money…I know…shocker…right?

The only way that Google makes money is when someone clicks on your ad.  If you write an ad and Google shows it yet no one ever clicks on it, then they make nothing.  So naturally Google desires for you to have the highest CTR that you can, which also benefits you!  It means more traffic for you, and more money for Google as their being paid per click and the higher your CTR the more clicks you are getting for the same amount of impressions.

So the two biggest factors is your Max CPC (Max Bid) and Ad CTR (click through rate), however, what happens when you have a competitive bid price and a great Ad CTR but yet you still just can’t seem to beat that one competitor that is outranking you?

Well, there are several other factors that Google uses to determine your quality score, and while they may not give you as big of a boast as having a high CTR would give you, they can still help you tremendously.

  • Your Account History – Not only does Google care about your CTR that you are currently getting on a campaign, but they also take in to account the overall CTR that you’ve received for all your campaigns, ads, and keywords.  The better CTR you have long term, the strong your account becomes.
  • Ads Relevant to Keywords? – Google also takes in to account how well related your ads are to your keywords.  If your writing ads about selling a dog training ebook, yet your keywords are on ringtones, that will lower your quality score.
  • Ads & Keywords Relevant to Landing Page? – Another factor that will affect your quality score is whether or not your ads and keywords are relevant to your landing page.  Again, if you are bidding on keywords and writing ads on things that aren’t related to the actual product or service you are promoting, it will negatively affect your quality score!

There are several other factors that will affect your quality score, however, the ones listed above are the ones that I’ve found to affect your quality score the most.

While Google doesn’t show the actual quality score you have, they do now give a number 1-10 to help you see how a keyword is ranking quality score wise.  You can see this quality score by going to an ad group and looking at the keywords and turning it on by click the show/hide columns button and selecting it.

In the next post I write, I’ll discuss what factors determine your quality score when bidding on keywords on the Content Network, so make sure you subscribe to my feed if you haven’t yet to make sure you get an update when the next one is posted.

UpdateUnderstanding How Google Ranks Ads on the Content Network


  1. I think the google adwords system is a great system. It helps to keep everything relative while also providing a good product for the advertisers. It tries to discourage irrelevant advertisers by charging them more to bid. Great System. This is why they are the #1 SE for relevance!

  2. Simply a well described post including some really nice and good points,simply just good to came across the post.Especially the formula is very good.

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