Feeds

Google AdWords: 11 herbs and spices revealed

Bidding on ignorance

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Impressionable Advertisers

When you join the AdWords bidding, you're vying for more than just a spot on that Google search page. You're vying for a spot near the top of the page, where you're more likely to a get a click. With each so-called auction, the winning bidder gets spot number one, the second place finisher gets the next spot, and so on.

But it's not the bids - or, at least, not the bids alone - that determine where you finish. Each bid is multiplied by a Google mystery number known as a "quality score," and it's this hidden calculation that decides where your ad ranks.

This advertisers know. Or at least, some of them know it. What that they don't know is that Google is also using quality score to apportion impressions.

That ad hoc study we referenced in July compared Google AdWords with Yahoo!'s original search ad platform, which was replaced in 2007. Originally, Yahoo! used a straight keyword auction. The highest bidder got the highest rank. And every bidder got the same number of impressions. But according to this study, compiled by a high-volume advertiser, Google does things quite differently.

The ad that typically sits at the top of a Google page receives significantly more impressions than the ad that typically occupies the second spot, the ad in the second spot receives more than the third, and so on.

This is exhibited by the following graph, where the fractional boost in impressions per rank is plotted against an ad's typical position on the results page (0.5 is equal to a 50 boost). The blue line represents the old Yahoo!, and the red line is Google:

Google AdWords Impressions

Google impression fiddling

Rich Stokes and AdGooRoo see much the same thing - though their numbers put even more impressions in the hands of those in the top rank. And presumably, AdGooRoo's numbers are more reliable. Stokes won't say how many servers he's running, but he will say he's got machines in the US, the UK, Australia, and Asia that do nothing but track search ads.

Lifted from Stokes' book Mastering Search Advertising, this next graph shows how impressions are apportioned on the keyword search "free spyware." Impressions are plotted on the x-axis, average ad position on the y-axis:

AdGooRoo Google Impressions Graph

Fiddling confirmed

Across its entire search engine, Stokes says, Google is putting 80 per cent of the impressions in the hands of three per cent of its advertisers. It's Google's search engine. And Google's advertisers. And it has every right to show this sort of favoritism. Except that it's a monopoly. And it's not telling advertisers what's what.

We've asked Google countless times whether some ads receive more significantly more impressions than others, and inevitably, it says something like this: "There is an unique auction for each query, so it depends on a variety of factors."

We've also listened in as a longtime advertiser asked their Google AdWords sales rep for clarification on this issue. The sales rep gave much the same non-answer.

Never mind that it's obvious. If you do the same search ten times, you get ten different sets of ads.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Next page: False Scarcity

More from The Register

next story
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Entity Framework goes 'code first' as Microsoft pulls visual design tool
Visual Studio database diagramming's out the window
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.