Episode 25: GMB ads, average position and maximise conversion value

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What's in this episode?

In this episode Mark Williams-Cook and Rob Lewis talk about some changes to Google My Business listings and how ads in these will affect you. We also chat about a new automated bidding strategy, adding to the large portfolio Google already have available for you, called 'maximise conversion value', which aims to drive you the most revenue. Finally, we will see some changes to metrics on Google Ads - specifically Google have planned to sunset 'average position' later this month and replacing it with 'Impression (Absolute Top) %' and 'Impression (Top) %'.

Show note links:

Google showing competitor ads on local business profiles:


MC: Welcome to episode 25 of the Search with Candor podcast! Recorded on Friday the 30th of August. You are back with me now, Mark Williams-Cook after a four-week break. I hope Ayush Kumar looked after you with some of the Search Norwich recordings and I've missed loads in a month, apparently.

So, I’ve kept up to date, despite having baby duties with the search world and I miss doing this. When I started actually doing this podcast, someone said to me hey you know are you gonna actually have enough to talk about on a weekly basis and I found that it’s the opposite problem, where I have to pick and choose what we want to squeeze into the twenty and thirty minutes we’ve got and loads happened while I was away.

There was more indexing bugs with Google, which I love talking about when Google messes up and I've come back to this 25th episode now and I've got Rob with me again.

RL: Hello

MC: So Rob, our in-house PPC expert and much to my delight Rob kind of sat down with me and just gave us a whole list of things he wants to talk about today with PPC because again in the PPC world there’s been loads of updates as well.

So we’re going to be talking about those updates from Google Sun setting some average position metrics to new maximizing of conversion values in Google Ads and there's a couple of other bits I just want to go through as well.

MC: So before we get underway with the PPC stuff Rob wants to share with you.

I've got a couple of footnotes that I think are worth mentioning that I thought of just before we sat down and decided what we were going to talk about today.

Which is on Sunday, so that’s gonna be the on the first, so the first of September just a reminder we did speak about it before but Sunday the first of September is when Google is making the change for how they handle robots.txt.

Specifically , no index commands in robots.txt will stop working so this means if you're using your robots.txt to block pages from getting indexed in Google, so whether it's a staging or dead version of your site or some content that you don't want people to access through Google and you're doing that through your robots.txt. That’s going to stop working as of Monday as of Sunday sorry, so it may get indexed from then there's a Google announcement on it we've talked about it before but put that in your diary if you're still doing that it really needs to get sorted.

So it’ll actually be stopped working actually by the time this podcast is broadcast on Monday and the other thing I wanted to mention was, so I can put you into Google Ads mode here of which was this morning when I was putting the notes together for this show. I saw a report on search engine land that Google is now showing, competitor ads on the local business profiles so by local business profiles I mean if you google a business name, you’ll get that little one box of information come up with their name, their map location, telephone number and you can click to go to their website. So we've probably all seen that before and Google's actually now been seen to use this space within this box of information about your company that’s being triggered only when people really are searching for your company name to show ads for your competitors.

I don’t think you'd seen a live one of these had you yet Rob?

RL: No! I think it’s a bit cheeky. I think it’s a step too far but there you go.

MC: They’ve gone too far, finally! This was the straw that broke the camel's back right?

So it's certainly encouraging more aggressive tactics to be used between competitors. There's whole discussions we've had with people before about things like brand bidding. So brands having to bid on their own name on Google Ads there's certainly in a lot of cases an ROI for that but it's an interesting discussion because some people think obviously, look if someone’s googling my business name it should be Google's job just to return my website. Obviously, it's great for Google when brands are competing on there, you know or paying for their own name and competing for their own brand traffic.

But yeah, so we've started to see ads now within these Google one-box like the business information boxes and there doesn't appear to be any way for businesses to pay to remove those ads. So that means if you are having competitor ads showing in your in your business box. There's unfortunately nothing you can do to remove them but obviously I think that the trick here for Google is , if you start paying you can appear in your competitors ad space as well and I did see an interesting note which was an angle. I have considered in the search engine article, which was if they did if Google did allow businesses to pay to remove competitor ads from their business profile box that's kind of bordering up a little bit on kind of extortion there which is we're gonna do a thing unless you pay us not to.

Whereas, the model they've adopted or appear to be adopting is you can just pay to have those ads we already have live people also search for. So if you search like for our agency you'll see google lists under our information box people also search for and it'll have similar agencies there, so this is one step further because this is quite prominently placed in this in the company information box. So in this screenshot and I'll put a link to it in the show notes in the screenshot of the box the ad is actually running just below the buttons where you can click to go to the website.

So I thought that was pretty interesting and I haven't seen any announcement on that as to whether that's officially happening or whether it's a test and but I suspect it will be rolled out.

MC: I’m gonna just kind of hand over the torch to you here, so I see from Rob's notes he's got Google Sun setting average position metric on 20th of September.

So tell us more about this. What does this mean?

RL: Well they announced this back in February and perhaps like a lot of advertisers I just pushed it to one side and hoped that it would never happen and I'm genuinely very…

MC: You buried your head in the sand is what you meant.

RL: I’m so sad! The metric has been with me since I first started paid click and it served me so well because it's a really basic simple metric it tells you what your average position is.

So anyway, they’re getting rid of it and for some time now they've replaced that metric with two main metrics. I've actually introduced a few but the two main ones that they are aiming to replace average position with are impression top percentage and impression absolute top percentage

MC: Those ones don't seem quite as clear to me what they are.

RL: Neither in name nor in function no, so just to explain impression top percentage is the percentage of time in which your ads appeared somewhere above the organic search results in the paid section.

MC: Gotcha!

RL: Absolute top percentage is the percentage of time that your ads showed in the absolute top position of the search results.

MC: So that just means number one

RL: Number one or somewhere at the top and google has said that these two metrics provide much more clarity over ad position. That’s their opinion perhaps in the future it will do I don't know.

MC: I guess by splitting it out like could make some case because with averages you know that thing of Bill Gates walks into a football stadium of people and the average wealth of everyone goes up by a million dollars, so I guess the average position if they're separating absolute top it could be some cases

RL: Possibly yeah! I mean just to be very clear that these new metrics that they've introduced are very different they work very differently to average position and to be honest, I'm still trying to get to grips with how that's going to influence things moving forward. So while the average position metric is still active I've been comparing the two new metrics with average position and I'll have to say there's not much of a pattern.

I’ve seen instances where I've been running campaigns for a long time that I know consistently generate a number one ad position through looking at the average position metric and by testing it and seeing it's always at number one and yet when I look at the these new metrics they sometimes hit the 60% to 70% mark so Google's saying well they're only in the top position 60 or 70% of the time this might make sense because actually even though your average position may average out at position 1 from time to time it may fluctuate between position 1 & 2 which in my opinion is fine you know it's not going to make a huge difference from a pay-per-click perspective but technically if you're reporting on absolute top position then it might be that 60% of the time you're only getting that absolute 100% top position.

So it it's a very different metric and it's very difficult to compare the two particularly as the new metric as a percentage, so there's no anchor from which to compare it to to know what the original position was.

MC: Yeah I was having to really keep my brain engaged there to get the 60% of the hundred

RL: You can see why I was burying my head in the sand for the last few months.

So anyway, change happens change is good a lot of the time so I've just been trying to embrace it and just stepping back a bit.

I've recently been trying a split test for one of my accounts using the target impression share automated bidding strategy and I was running this funny enough for a brand campaign and this is brand campaign, which consistently generates an average position of one. So it's bidding on the clients own brand name and because it's the clients own brand name, I don't really want to invest a huge amount of money so I tend to have it as a manual campaign and I tend to set it to a really low cost per click.

So I thought it would be interesting to do a target impression share strategy where I told Google to aim for a 100% absolute top impression share and I thought I’ll trust in Google and I'll let it do what it wants to achieve that and at the end of the test, what Google effectively did was triple the cost per click for this campaign and generate the same volume of clicks and the same average position yet.

I got a slightly higher top absolutely impression share metric out of it but actually I guess my question is so what so I've got a higher absolute top impression share but how does that translate to actual clicks how does it translate to actual impressions and how does it translate to conversions?

MC: So this triples did you say? Sorry.

RL: Yeah tripled the cost per click for the same average position yet. It influenced this new metric but actually the actual output, the output that I'm only ever interested in and pay-per-click is the traffic and the sales and the profit, so traffic and sales stayed the same profit went down because the cost per click ran up and the conversion rate stayed the same.

So I guess the main takeaway that I would like to get out this and to put across to anyone listening. Is that these new metrics are going to be very much at the top of Google's teaching when it comes to optimizing for traffic and they’re very much of the opinion. Now that impression shares are really important metrics and it sounds really important because it's the percentage of time that your ads are showing in comparison to competitors, so advertisers gonna to want to see it 100% they’re going to want their adverts to be at the number one position a 100% of the time

MC: It’s an easy sell.

RL: It is a really easy sell but it doesn't actually mean anything of substance when profit sales leads cost per lead whether, KPI is important to you or on the line.

So I think it’s just as we've all faced it's just another metric to look at to consider but by no means should you be over optimizing for these two new metrics as we've averaged position. Average position was never a metric that I would actually optimize for, I would always look at profit, look at my results and look at the average position to see whether there is room to either reduce the bid or to increase the bid.

MC: So this really reinforces the case that you need that understanding and that tracking setup on your site or on your app or wherever and that's there because they're the closest thing to your business objectives and that's what you need to be optimizing for not the metrics you're getting directly from Google Ads.

RL: Yeah what I'd really like is for them to keep average position on there and also keep those two new metrics, why not have both?

MC: Well we can try! Google, can you please keep average position? Thanks from Rob and Mark. Let's see if that works.

RL:That will work which I'm confident.

Just to jump in actually, despite what a lot of pay-per-click managers will have you believe. Google Ads does actually have algorithm of its own and it’s constantly changing and over the years of managing pay-per-click accounts they've been really subtle background changes that have completely impacted the performance of a pay-per-click account.

So what used to work would suddenly stop working, what never worked before would suddenly work really effectively and because of that sometimes entire pay-per-click accounts need restructuring in order to handle those changes and it's possible that these two new metrics may in fact reflect another change that’s happening to the base algorithm if you like of Google Ads.

MC: Interesting theory. Maximise conversion value, this is a new bidding method within Google Ads is that right?

RL: It is.

MC: Brilliant tell us about that.

RL: Okay well, we've spoken before about the various automated bidding strategies that are available and there's quite a few now. Now there's an additional one, so I'm gonna just quickly summarize three of the automated bidding strategies that fall under the maximize label.

So you have maximise clicks, which is where Google will aim to drive as many clicks as possible within your daily budget. Now as part of this setting, it will aim to spend your entire daily budget. So if you set your budget to £50 it would spend £50 and generate the most volume of clicks possible within their budget wherever that means squeezing out one extra click cost per click of £40 it will do that .

Maximise conversions is exactly the same except rather than optimizing for clicks, its optimizing for the ad groups or keywords that are most likely to generate conversions and again it would spend your entire budget in order to squeeze out that additional conversion, if it feels it can.

So, starting to bear in mind of those two options they're great. I guess for newbie advertisers who just want to automate everything and just want to get as much traffic or as many conversions as possible right of their daily budget but one thing that these bidding strategies don't factor in is profit or your cost per lead or cost per conversion, they just aim to spend your daily budget and get you as much traffic or conversions as possible.

So, maximize conversion value works on exactly the same basis really except rather than optimizing for conversions or clicks, its optimizing for revenue. So revenue outputs and it will aim to spend your entire daily budget but it will optimize your campaign to get the highest amount of revenue possible out of that daily budget.

MC: So this is another automated bidding strategy right?

RL: Yes.

MC: And I was part of a discussion yesterday, I was looking at where Google was recommending that advertisers switch on these automated strategies from day zero and I think it's got to do with the change we spoke about the other week about them using data from other advertisers and other sources. Is that something that advertiser could potentially do with this maximize conversion value so just from day zero they can just say this is my bidding strategy you can go.

RL: Yes, they could! It used to be that you'd have to have historic conversion data. It’s funny actually, I was having this conversation with our Google Account Manager only the other day and they said to me that the conversion algorithm that they're using or the algorithm that they're using for their machine learning is now so intelligent that it’s factoring in competitor performance. It’s factoring in other signals real-time signals and it’s also factoring in lots of things. And I’m just going to quote them here lots of things that are confidential in which they can't talk about so they're really pushing the automated machine learning bidding strategies at the moment.

MC: I’m always very skeptical when people say things I know it's confidential I can’t tell you. If this is a you know this is a machine learning platform or AI, they’re using then you know the secret sauce is going to be how all those different variables relate to each other in certain ways and give you know in a train to give a certain output. But you know I can't see why they won't share what variables they're actually looking at to get to those conclusions.

RL: I can only speak for myself but really machine learning everyone says it is the future because it can factor so many processes in one go that the human mind cannot and in theory it should be able to look at all of the invisible signals that we don't have access to that Google does, so actually it makes sense to use Google's automated bidding.

However, Google and not a lot of people know this but you can actually run the split tests with bidding strategies in Google Ads. So you could split tests Google’s automated machine learning bidding with your own manual bidding and I do that quite a lot because I think it's always good to keep testing these automated bidding strategies but for me, it always works better when you manually manage manage them and as someone

MC: That was just a testament to you.

RL: Obviously, I am a machine but no but no I think you know you see some of the things Google does with its automated bidding. You see it triple the cost per click sometimes and low and behold returning investment reduces by 300%.

Well that's you know I could have said that would have happened you know.

MC: We’re not quite there yet.

RL: We’re not quite there yet but it may work for some people so why don't just split test do a manual one versus an automated one and see which performs better. If the automated one performs better go with the automated one.

RL: Another new update that we've just found out about is Google have introduced a new audience targeting method which targets back to school the back-to-school audience ,so if there are any retailers that work in children's fashions sector for example school clothes, stationery…

MC: Protractors!

RL: Yes! Exactly, you can target these people on the Display Network called a Search Network, regardless of whether they’re actively searching for back-to-school items or not.

Google has obviously segmented this group of users into an identifiable audience that you can target, so I've just gained access to it on one account that's been whitelisted for testing it. So I've only just implemented it today so I will look into how it performs.

MC: So this is just like an audience in a can almost isn't it? That Google's providing you, so they're saying like rather than you trying to ascertain what this audience wants or trying to identify yourself through behaviours, they're just saying look through all of our signals we think these people are your back school audience here.They are ready to go plug and play kind of thing for your campaign.


Sure yeah absolutely

MC: Are there any other audiences like that Google offering?

RL: Yeah well this particular audience set falls onto the seasonal audience set which is new, it's a new thing that they're trying so I don't know what else that they’re going to offer. But other things that you can target are life changing events, so people who have recently become engaged, people who are planning on wedding, people who are about to move house, all of these are audiences that Google has put together that allows you to easily target those people.

I guess if you wanted to do so via an automated campaign or wherever you just wanted to bolt them onto your existing campaigns to help refine them.

MC: So I'm very likely I'm one of these life-changing events.

RL: I’d say so.

MC: That's brilliant, that’s reassuring to know.

Well I think we’re already at 25 minutes. That's flown by so I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. I’m really glad and excited to be back to the podcast again, we will be back next Monday which will be the 9th of September now.

Wow! This is flying through and you can check out the show notes get a transcription of this episode from website as usual you can go to and get all of the resources we've been talking about.

Apart from that, I hope you have a really great week to get the rankings you deserve and I will see you later.

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