Surprise! AdWords Ad-Serving Myth-Busting

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I feel kinda stupid. Either I didn’t read the AdWords Help on Ad Serving settings closely enough (again), or AdWords made something super non-intuitive (AGAIN). More likely, a little of both. I’m sure someone in the comments will tell me they already knew this LOL 🙂

When you create an AdWords campaign, you can edit the Ad Serving setting to rotate or optimize the ad distribution.

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I thought that meant I could control whether the ads were given equal impressions. Not true, it turns out.

The insight given to me by one of our dedicated AdWords reps today is this:

Even when ad serving is set to Rotate, Ad Rank determines number of impressions.

Ad Rank can vary from ad to ad, because

  • Different ads cause different CTR with the same keywords,
  • Quality Score (QS) is largely determined by CTR, and
  • Ad Rank is the product of Bid * QS…

…so every ad has a different Ad Rank.

The Factors That Determine The Outcome of Auctions

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I had already watched Chief Nerd Hal Varian’s video (Just kidding, Hal! You are the coolest nerd at Google, and nerds are awesome) on the ad auction twice. I guess I should have watched it thrice. Now I have:

Introduction to the Google Ad Auction

Still, he leaves out the ad auction -> impression relationship in this video.

The Rotate Ad Serving Setting: Myth and Truth

To clarify, here’s a chart of the misconception some of you may have shared with me, compared to the actual, real, true truth.

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All of this happens when you notice that your AdWords ads are getting different Served percentages. Click that link to read more from AdWords help about it- you want to read part I.

Ad Serving Setting and Impression Share

  • If you have it set to optimize, the better Ad Rank show will show more often, and you’ll win more auctions and get more impressions.
  • Even your campaign is set to rotate ads, the overall lower Ad Rank can give you fewer impressions. Using the rotate setting can lower impression share.
  • An ad with a lower quality score would get fewer impressions because it would show off the first page more often. Even when average position is fairly high (1-4), that’s still an average; sometimes the ad could be showing on the second page or lower.

Hmm… Let’s Read This More Closely

adserving

Ha now I see it says “more evenly”. That makes more sense now. I feel truthier. I hope you feel more truthier, too!

Brian Carter
Brian is author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook and Facebook Marketing: Leveraging Facebook's Features For Your Marketing Campaigns, How to... Read Full Bio
Brian Carter
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