Why 1st Isn’t The Best Ad Position In AdWords

16 January 2017

“You’ve gotta be on position 1 in AdWords, right?”

Being 1st is great Organically, because who cares how many clicks you get, right? They’re free!

But in AdWords?

It’s another story all together because if you want to be 1st, you’re going to have to pay for that.

Take a look at this graph below ( the blue line being cost and the orange line being enquiries) and tell me when you think my client allowed me to go from “spend the budget and make sure we’re always on top” to “get us the best cost per lead”.

Pretty big difference, huh? All I did here was drop the bids down so we wouldn’t be constantly in 1st position Google.

People often say “you get the best quality traffic in 1st position”.

So, you’re honestly telling me that the ‘best quality traffic’ just clicks on the 1st ad blindly without even reading it? Or regardless of better offers being displayed below?

That’s not the ‘better quality traffic’ that I’d want to be paying for.

Not when it costs me every single time I get a click whether that visitor does anything useful on the website or not.

Isn’t Being 1st In AdWords Great Branding?

If you want branding then invest in outdoor media, YouTube ads, Google display network, television, newspaper… something where the general public can see and/or hear your branded messaging and become accustomed to it.

There is very little to no value to brand building in AdWords.

AdWords is a direct response form of advertising. If you’re not making money from it immediately, it’s not working.

No one recalls a little text ad that they remember seeing on a Google search – they remember imagery and sound that has been drummed into them continuously.

What Is The Best Ad Position In AdWords?

Just not first.

Because I believe that you can say a lot in a search ad. You can attract the right people whilst also being able to deter the tyre-kickers.


By cutting the bullsh*t in your ads, completely.

You have to remember why people are searching for your products and services.

You don’t have to sell what you do!

You need to sell the benefits of you over your competition.

By searching for your products/service, the search user has already sold themselves

So they are searching, more often than not, for quotes/prices and added value.

Bidding Wars

The need to be in the first position by multiple businesses, or agencies managing campaigns on behalf of businesses, is the exact reason as to why CPCs (Cost Per Click) has gone up from merely tens of cents to tens of dollars so quickly since AdWords launched.

All it takes is for two geniuses in the same industry and location who are fixated on that number one position to drive the costs up for anyone else.

The Solution? Use Better Ads In Lower Positions

In order to get better quality clicks, for a lower cost per click.

Because you have to remember that we need to make more money from the enquiries that we’re getting than the amount of click dollars used up to acquire that sale.

Use Prices

On our AdWords ads for DMS Perth, we used immediate baseline prices in the headlines to scare off those customers who expect the World for absolutely nothing and attracted the genuine searchers.

Too often mobile mechanics, or other tradies, get people calling up and expecting someone to help them out for practically nothing.

The immediate sight of base prices kills off tyre kickers exceptionally well.

And it saves our budget for people who will actually respect the fact that a trained professional who is coming to you needs to be properly reimbursed for his time, labour and parts!

Add Clarity

Don’t let customers waste your budget because you couldn’t communicate your product/service properly.

Again, ignore trying to attract as many clicks as you can or trying to get a good CTR.

Lavish Limousines owns an impressive fleet of Chrysler 300C limousines, but it’s perhaps not what everyone is looking for when they search for “limo hire perth” or similar.

They could be looking for a Mercedes-Benz S Class, a Hummer, something a bit more old school…you get the idea.

So we thought it’s best to announce that these are Chrysler 300C limos from the beginning so if that’s not what people are after, they can save themselves a click and us a few dollars 🙂

AdWords ad stating Chrysler 300C limousine in headline 1

When we implemented this change, the amount of clicks we got decreased but so did our cost per conversion, which is exactly what we’re after.

Reduce Barriers to Acquisition

Do your customers have any way of claiming back money through insurance or other schemes?

Do you have payment plans?

If you do then you should 100% be capitalising on these massive selling points.

Dentistry Plus are not only extremely affordable dentists but they offer up to 80% health fund rebates with selected providers and even offer $25p/w payment plans.

So if you need dentistry work done, these guys can accommodate you even if you’re a bit short on coin!

You can bet that calling these major selling points out gets more leads than your standard pitch like “Friendly dentists with 20 years+ of experience” and so on.

Dentistry Plus ad with selling points

Use Real Competitive Advantages

And saying that you have “great service” or that you’ve been around for decades isn’t going to sell anyone. Anyone can say that (and everyone already does say it).

Give people something real and if you don’t have something, take a look at your service offering and create something.

An example is the Chiropractic side of Karrinyup Wellness Centre, they offer a real competitive advantage with a free 15-minute consultation.

Karrinyup Wellness Centre Ad

So instead of giving a bunch of information that no one wants to read, encourage people to come in for a bit to see if they actually need the service, not if people should use a chiropractor (which, of course, is going to be biased anyway).

Know Your Competition

When you know what your competition does and doesn’t offer, it’s an opportunity to promote something “unique” even if it’s standard to your business model.

Take Latitude Group Travel, for example, who are one of the very few providers of educational group tours for school that completely tailor make itineraries to mesh with a school’s curriculum and desire learning outcomes where their competitors are white labelling pre-packaged services from other businesses.

Latitude Group Travel AdWords Ads

Cost Per Conversion Is All That Matters

It’s nice to have a nice Click Through Rate to show that your ads are actually pulling people’s attention.

But don’t sacrifice your cost per conversion to inflate that statistic, or any other statistic for that matter..

All statistics like CTR are there to help you achieve the ultimate goal – a lower cost per conversion.

If your CTR, average time on site or average pages viewed per session has to suffer to acquire cheaper leads, then so be it.

Drive Perth are consistently bidding around second or third place in their AdWords campaign and getting an average CTR of around 9%.

Could it be higher?


But to be honest, I don’t really care.

Because what is even more impressive than their CTR is their average conversion rate of 31%.

Such a high conversion rate of 31% is possible only because we weren’t wasting our opportunities bidding first and attracting “blind clicks”.

When you bid more strategically and let your messaging and product offering pull the clicks in, you get:

  • Cheaper clicks
  • More clicks from your existing budget
  • Less “blind clicks” of your ad
  • Better informed and self-qualified traffic

It’s a recepie for success.

And hopefully, if more people clue themselves onto this strategy we can finally start seeing clicks deflating in value rather than continually being pushed up to a level that has become unaffordable for quite a few industries.

Exceptions To The Rule

There are times when bidding 1st isn’t actually a bad idea.

A few of those scenarios are when:

  • Clicks are extremely cheap that, even with additional waste, the extra traffic results in more conversion and higher overall profitability
  • Low search volume for your keywords and need to capitalise on what little opportunity you’re getting through Search
  • You’re an emergency based service (such as a mobile locksmith) where people generally will click/call the first company they see

At the end of the day, it’s all about ensuring you bid to profitability rather than a position.

If you’re looking for more tips on how to put together a killer AdWords campaign, have a read of one of my newer blog posts: How To Run A Successful AdWords Campaign.

What’s your take? Have you saved money and increased your conversion rates by bidding in lower positions in AdWords? Or are you convinced that you’re more profitable at the top? Comment below!

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