Google’s top of page bid estimates – how accurate are they?

How accurate are Google’S top of page bid estimates? Not very…

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Back in September Google announced its new feature, “top of page bid estimates”, which is similar to its first page bid estimates but recommends a cost per click bid to help advertisers get their ads to appear at the top of the search results page.

top of serp

The idea is for advertisers to use the “Top vs. Side segment” to determine how their ads perform when on top of the SERPs compared to when they appear at the side (or now at the bottom too). If AdWords shows that their ads are performing best when at the top of the page then they can use the top of page bid estimates as a guide to setting a CPC bid that should get their ads to the top section of the page.

Obviously just by increasing the CPC bid of your keywords to, or above, this recommended value isn’t going to guarantee that your ads rank above all the rest, as Google still takes many other factors into consideration when setting ad position, such as quality score, budget, competition etc. This means that your ads and keywords need to be relevant to your landing pages and attract a high click through rate (CTR) to help increase your average position and ultimately lower the price you pay per click.

Google is now supporting this new feature in Automated Rules and AdWords Editor 9.7.1 to make it easier for advertisers to see these recommendations and set their CPC bids accordingly.

Automated Rules allows advertisers to program AdWords to automatically update the CPC bids of their keywords to the estimated top of page bid, just as you can set it to pause keywords if the CTR dips below a certain value or if an ad has had a chosen number of impressions or clicks but not converted. (NB: To use rules such as these, you will need to authorise AdWords to access and make modifications to your account on your behalf.)

But how accurate are Google’s estimates for first page and top of page positions?

We have found with a lot of accounts that Google can say that the CPC bid is below the 1st page bid estimate on keywords, with an average ad position of anything up to 1.9 and an average CPC of a lot lower than the bid and first page estimate stated:

1st page bid wrong

Similarly we have found that Google’s estimates for top of page bids can also be way out. For instance on one keyword in one of the accounts that we manage the average ad position is currently 2.7 and Google recommends we should increase the current bid by £5.50 to get it to the top section of the page:

top page bid wrong

This clearly shows that there are occasions when Google can get its estimates wrong so choosing to automatically increase your CPC bids according to these figures may not be the best idea as it may be costly – especially if you are not optimising your account and concentrating on getting a good CTR and quality score for the keywords in question.

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