How does Google Ads algorithm work?

Google Ads is one of the best options for gaining traffic and customers for your business online – if your ads are well-positioned on search engine result pages (SERPs) and for your keywords of interest. That’s a pretty big “if” that no Marketing team should leave to chance...

So how do you get Google Ads to work to your benefit? It’s all about the Google Ads algorithm. Now, Google actually uses hundreds of algorithms to work its magic, but there are a few key algorithms that every person running Google advertising campaigns should know: Ad Position, Ad Rank, and Quality Score 

Understanding these algorithms and their components is extremely important. The algorithms are Google’s own mathematical calculations that use a variety of factors to confirm your final ad position (which will determine when and where your ads are shown on a specific page and for specific audiences).  

Before we dive in, let’s first explore the logic behind Google Search. 

How does Google Ads Search Algorithms work

Have you ever thought about how large scale Google advertising really is? Google has to sort through billions of websites, partner sites, and content to find the most relevant and useful search results – all in just a few seconds – and present the results in the exact way that the searcher is expecting. 

This is an incredible feat, and one of the ways that Google is able to achieve it is by using algorithms to rank search results and paid advertisements. The search algorithms look at information and factors relating to: 

  • The meaning of your query: Google’s intelligent platform seeks to understand the intent behind each search, considering things like natural language, synonyms, category and context, as well as spelling mistakes and freshness”. 
  • The relevance of web pages: Next, they assess the content of websites to see if the keywords included on these pages are related to the search query, also analyzing data related to other content formats such as pictures, videos, lists, etc. 
  • The quality of the content: Google identifies quality by looking for signals of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness related to pages. This could be the quality of websites linking to other pages and overall content quality, plus spam reports. 
  • The usability of web pages: Google hates poorly functioning websites just as much as you! That’s why they evaluate the ease-of-use of pages in terms of responsiveness, loading time, navigation, etc. Then they promote the sites they consider more user-friendly.
  • The context and settings: This is related to the actual searcher, and involves factors like the searcher’s location or country, past search history, preferred language, etc. Their Google account personalization is also taken into consideration. 

This description shows that it is not just one single factor that affects Google’s algorithms, but a myriad of factors touching all aspects of your web pages, content, and keywords. Keyword identification and optimization is of particular importance since keywords are the basis of each and every search query. 

Moreover, there’s not one single “trick” or “best practice” that you can use to try to hack Google’s algorithms. First of all, because they are constantly updated! And that’s why it’s essential for your Marketing team to have a good grasp on the latest updates about how Google Ads works, so you can make timely adjustments before your campaigns are affected. But more importantly, because you should not focus on trying to beat the algorithms, but instead understand them and create truly great ad campaigns that speak to your potential customers. 

So let’s get one step closer to that goal and start by understanding the main Google algorithms: Ad Position, Ad Rank, and Quality Score.

Ad Position

According to Google, “Ad position is the order of your ad in the auction results as compared to other ads. For example, an ad position of “1” means an ad was the first ad shown, with no other ads ahead of it.

Google further explains that an ad with an ad position of “1” doesn’t necessarily mean that your ad is above the organic search results. If the layout of the page features paid ads above organic results, then a #1 ad position would be the first to appear there, or the first to appear below or beside the organic results. 

On a Google SERP, ad position can affect the location of your ad on the page; your ad can appear at the top, side, or bottom of the page. Prominence metrics, your top and absolute top metrics, will give you a greater sense of your ads’ location on SERPs.  The main top metrics include impression rate/share and lost share. A couple ways to improve these metrics include improving ad/landing page quality and increasing your bid.   

The better your ad position, the higher the chance that searchers will see and click on your ad. And how do you get a high ad position? This is where the second Google Ads algorithm comes into play: Ad Rank. 

Ad Rank

Google calculates the Ad Rank for ads in the ad auction, and your Ad Rank directly translates to your Ad Position. 

Let’s explore the Ad Auction a little deeper: anytime a user performs a Google search, Google runs an auction for clicks. To participate in the auction, you bid on your keywords of interest. Based on the outcome, the auction decides which ads will be shown for that search. 

Thus, an ad with the highest Ad Rank will achieve the #1 ad position for that given search. 

At a high level, Google takes these factors into account when determining Ad Rank:

  • Bid: Maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click on your ad. 
  • Ad and landing page quality: Relevance and helpfulness of ads and landing pages as determined by the Quality Score (more on that in the next section). 
  • Ad Rank threshold: Quality thresholds set by Google in order to show an ad. 
  • Ad auction competitiveness: Difference in Ad Rank between you and other bidders.
  • Search context: Whether the ad is relevant to the search terms, location, device, other search results, etc. 
  • Expected impact of ad extensions and format: Google’s measurement of the expected performance impact of any ad extensions and other ad formats. 

Quality Score

This is the one of the most subjective metrics on Google Ads and deals with the quality of your Google ad campaigns. Quality is important because Google’s main goal is to give searchers exactly what they’re looking for. What’s more, if your Quality Score is too low, your ad might not even be eligible for the ad auction. After all, Google doesn’t want to risk its reputation on bad ads. 

Quality Score is measured as a number from 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. It is comprised of three main elements: 

  • Expected Click-through-Rate: Based on the historical CTR of keywords, ads, ad extensions, formats, campaigns, and more. Basically, it looks at your entire account to predict this figure. Your CTR gives you an idea of how keywords and ads are performing (a high CTR means users find your campaigns useful and relevant.)
  • Ad relevance: Google’s main goal is to figure out how relevant your ad is to the search query, so keywords are of the utmost importance here. It also looks at cohesion between keywords, ad copy, and landing page copy. 
  • Landing page experience: This analyzes how easy-to-use, helpful, high-quality your landing page is in terms of page loading time, navigation, content, etc. 

Though this is the “final” algorithm, the effects of Quality Score can be felt all the way at the top, as it can lead to lower costs, better ad position, and better performance. 

After going through these 3 algorithms, it’s clear that it’s all interconnected; you can’t improve your Ad Position without looking into your Ad Rank, and you can’t improve your Ad Rank without understanding your Quality Score. And of course, all of these must be combined with the greatest intention to create high-quality content for potential customers. Only then will you get Google Ads to work successfully for your advertising campaigns. Sounds like whole lot of work… No worries, we’re here to help! Interested in perfecting your online campaigns? Get in touch with us!

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