Is Position 4 The New Position 1? | SEMimpact

Is Position 4 The New Position 1?

We recently posted an article regarding suspicious behavior surrounding Google’s own use of Adwords titled “Is Google Manipulating Adwords?”. In it we illustrated how Google is somehow able to maintain the top right ad position over a wide array of generic, advertising-related keywords. In sum, while other PPC advertisers fluctuate in position, Google’s persists atop the right hand section of the SERP (generally referred to as position 4). Since this discussion generated a bit of buzz in the SEM community, we at SEMimpact decided to look at this issue from a different angle. While in our previous post we pondered the question of “how Google owns position 4″, here we’ll discuss the “why”.

Most search marketers (we, here among them) have been taught that the higher the average position, the better your campaigns will perform. Seems logical right? However, after seeing Google’s own SEM ‘strategy’ one can hardly help but question this time-honored school of thought. Now, having sat down and really weighed all the options, position 4 seems like a true diamond-in-the-rough scenario. Let’s start with the obvious benefits of this spot:

Lowered Costs

- It should go without saying that if you’re bidding for a lower position, your CPCs will end up being significantly lower than those fighting for the top spot. This in turn, should equate to a higher ROI or a lower CPA etc. Nonetheless, a lot of top advertisers will insist on dominating the top spot for branding purposes or to generate huge amounts of click volume. If that’s your prerogative, then so be it. But this may not necessarily the best course of action when optimizing on a budget.

More Relevant Clicks

- Here’s where thing get interesting. We surmise that the 4th position actually generates more relevant clicks and has a higher conversion rate than the ‘premium’ ads. Here’s why: over the years search engines have taken so many steps towards blending the premium ads into the organic search results, that most users don’t know what’s what. Often, users will click the top ads thinking they’re getting the number one organic result, which after all, is exactly what search engines want. However, it’s hard to mistake the right hand column of ads for anything other than what they are: ads. Since these ads are not in user’s direct line of sight, when they mouse over to them they’re not just clicking the convenient organic listing, they’re actually reading through the advertisers’ content. Thus, when they click these ads it’s with the mindset of “all right, these are ads, when I click them I’m probably going to be taken to some sort of conversion page”. Therefore when someone clicks these ads they’re probably more likely to convert!

Could it be that Google, omniscient and all-powerful as ever, has purposely posted up on the top right hand side of the SERP? Could it be that they’ve found the ad ‘sweet spot’ and are reaping cheap conversions while other advertisers in the space fight for the top spot? Now, we don’t presume to have an answer – that’s for every search engine marketer to decide for themselves. But it’s difficult to argue with the benefits of the 4th position.

*Note: If you’ve got your own data or results we’d love to hear from you. Whether it’s to support our theory or blow it to smithereens, the floor is yours.

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