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Money won’t buy your paid search ad love with Google, and to a certain extent with Bing, Yahoo, and some of the smaller search players.

There is a formula most small businesses either ignore–or aren’t aware of–that is critical to getting your paid ads higher up on the search results page. This formula is crucial if you want your message to be seen…

But more on that in a second…

Let’s Get Back To The Money

Even if you’re willing to spend big, your ad could still be shoved down to the lower third of the page–you might as well be on Page 2 (read “invisible”) at that point. Why? Because Google doesn’t want you to have the ability to buy your way to the top with crappy, poorly targeted ads. And it has to do with two words…

User Experience

You might be asking yourself why user experience has such an impact on ad placement.

Think of it this way…

Imagine you own a housecleaning company, and you just got back to your home office after cleaning three houses.

Oh, and there was an emergency room trip in there too (long story… you don’t want to talk about it).


Not a great way to end the day.

You’re exhausted. Emotionally spent.

You’ve got an ER visit to pay for, and you realize there’s too much month at the end of your money.

Then you think, “I’m a gamer! I’m not going to miss my bills, I’ll just find a few more clients.” But how?

You fire up The Google–it always knows.

You type “how to find clients”…

What would happen if Google gave you this…?


Not exactly what you were looking for, is it?

Would you be happy?

This Is What The Search Results Should Look Like



Much better. With these results, you’ll have some solid ideas to work with and be on your way to new clients and a paid-for ER experience.

Quality Search Results Is Everything, And This Means…

Relevance. Google doesn’t want to merely serve you results, it wants to serve relevant results that address the intent behind the search query. What does that mean in English? It means…

Google Wants To Be In Your Head

Or for our purposes as advertisers and marketers, in your prospect’s head.

Google’s primary concern is making sure the people who use their search engine–the driver behind everything Google does–are thrilled with the results they get and the company that served them up. What you’re willing to pay to place your ad is only a piece of what determines where your ad will rank on the search engine results page (SERP), and it’s not even the most important part.

Google doesn’t want companies to have the ability to buy their way to high rankings to advertise offers that are unrelated to the user’s search query–the results have to be congruent with the intent of what the user is searching for.

If you’ve got a couple minutes, watch Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, talk about the factors behind the ad auction, and ultimately where your ad ends up on the SERP.

The Paid Search Ad Formula Most Small Businesses Ignore

Everybody knows Google has an algorithm that determines where articles, videos, and other content rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs), but it’s constantly changing so nobody really has a complete picture of what that algorithm is.

But there are pieces we do know, and these are crucial for getting your ads seen in a prominent position… more on that in a second.

Remember Google’s motivation…

If you watched Hal Varian’s video, you know that Google’s ultimate goal is to have a search ecosystem that works well for everyone.

If the user finds relevant ads that match the intent behind their search, perfect! The search user is happy.

If the advertiser creates relevant ads that match the user’s intent, wonderful! That means the ad has a high click-through rate for people searching the relevant keywords, the landing page has low Bounce Rates… All of this making the advertiser is happy because the right people clicked the ad.

And of course Google is happy because it’s collecting data and ad revenue.

It’s perfect harmony.

Now, back to the formula.

Your ad’s placement on the SERP is a function of your Quality Score, the price you’re willing to pay for the ad placement, and the competition relative to your ad.

The Quality Score is made up of three things (plus a fourth!) that I call the Search Triangle Formula.

The Search Triangle Formula is made up of your expected Click Through Rate, landing page quality, and ad relevance to the query. The fourth dimension to the triangle is the ad format–and all of this is factored together to come up with your ad rank.

What Should I Do?

So… What should you focus on to ensure the highest possible position on the paid SERPs while keeping your cost as low as possible?

Focus on these elements and you’ll be ahead of most small businesses… In fact, most of them don’t even know to pay attention to these pieces.

Improve Your Ad Quality

Here are the major elements of Ad Quality again…

  1. Maximize your ad’s relevance to the search query.
  2. Use good keyword selection and segmentation to maximize your expected (and actual) Click Through Rate. Remember that Google treats CTR as an ongoing voting booth about whether your ad is useful or not.
  3. Create a quality landing page that is congruent to the query, the ad, and is easy to use… And is clear about how the visitor’s information is being used.

Maximize Ad Formats

Make your ad flexible, and format it in a way that it can be served in as many ways as possible, while providing a good user experience for your prospect. Use ad extensions, click-to-call features, shopping cart styles–these are some examples of various ad formats that will boost your ad’s ranking.

In The End, Remember The User Experience

As long as your focus is on the user experience, and you keep these principles in mind as you create your ad, research the keywords, and build your landing page, you will be doing everything you can to maximize your ad’s placement on the SERPs and make sure your best prospects give you a chance to solve their problems.

If you’re interested in a free book I wrote that goes a little deeper on the Search Triangle Formula, check it out here.


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