It depends on a number of interdependent factors and the only way to truly find out the answer is to test, test and test some more. Some of the factors that will determine the best ad position for conversions include:
- Product or service offered
- Competitive ads
- Organic search results where ads appear
- Keyword phrases used
- Time of day
- Day of week
- Time of year
- Ad copy headline
- Ad copy body
- Ad copy display URL
- Landing page or destination URL
- Top-level ads (blue area) or not
- Pay-per-click program used
- And more
What I can tell you with some degree of certainty is that you should not assume the top position will result in the most conversions and especially, the best ROI.
Here’s a study I did with one of my niche apparel clients to identify the best ad position for conversions. This study was based on results over a nine-month period and included thousands of conversions. Conversions in this situation were purchases. It’s important to note that these results include a number of keywords combined and over an extended period, so we’re not giving anything away and please don’t assume these results will fit your situation – they most likely will not.
As you’ll note in the graph, the number one position did not fair very well for conversions when compared to most all of the other PPC ad positions. For the cumulative number of keywords this graph represents, we would probably look to position ourselves somewhere between position 2 to 6. Of course, we’d be very happy sitting consistently in positions 5 or 6 if we could generate enough clicks there at a much lower cost than positions 2 or 3.
Of course, since Google AdWords recently removed the right-side paid search ads, this study no longer holds nearly as much relevancy – even for this client. So, I’ll be running another test in the not-too-distant future…
The most important pay-per-click myth I hope to break with showing this graph is the belief that you have to bid for the top position every time to make the most money. Simply not the case if conversions are your primary objective – and they should be!