One of the questions most asked by new Google Ads advertisers is, How does Google determine which ads to show? Yes, when it comes to SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ads, your bid plays a vital role, but it’s a little bit more involved than this.

Before we get started, here are some important terms and metrics that you need to know:

Impression Share (IS): This metric will show you the number of impressions your ad has generated, divided by the number of impressions you could likely receive. This estimated impression share is determined by your ads’ Quality Scores, targeting, bids and approval status.

Quality Score: Your Quality Score directly determines the relevance of your ad in relation to your keywords and ad URL. You can learn more about this and other vital metrics in our full Google Ads Beginner’s Guide.

In this guide, we will take you through all the elements Google uses to determine which ads to show so that you can ensure you’re getting the ad impressions you’re looking for.

How Google Determines Ad Position

In a nutshell, Google decides which ads to show and their position based on ad auction. To do this, Google will calculate the ad rank for each ad in an auction, which in turn determines which ads are eligible and how they will be positioned. The higher the ad rank, the higher the chances that your ad will achieve a top position. Therefore, ad rank plays a considerable role in determining which ads are shown. There are five important things that influence your ad rank and therefore your ad position:

  • Your bid (how much you’re willing to pay for a click) and budget
  • The context of a user’s search (looking at the location and time of the search, the device they’re using, search terms, etc.)
  • Your Quality Score (your ad and landing page quality)
  • The expected impact of your ad based on its format
  • Your Ad Rank Threshold (ensuring your ad meets the minimum threshold)

Here’s an Example from Google of How These Work Together

Let’s say there are five Google Ad marketers all competing for four ad positions on Google’s SERPs. Their ad ranks are 5, 10, 30, 50 and 80, with the minimum ad rank for an ad to show above search pages is 40 and the minimum ad rank for an ad to show below search results are. This will mean that only the last two ads, ranked 50 and 80, would show above the results and that the ads ranked 10 and 30 would show below search results. Therefore, the ad ranked 5 wouldn’t show at all.

how google determines ads that show

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Google goes on to explain:

 how google determines how ads show example

So, what can you do from your end?

The Best Ad Settings to Help Get Your Ads Placed

The two main factors you have control over are your ad quality and campaign settings. With the latter, this includes your budget, ad rotation and ad delivery. Here’s a breakdown of each.

Ad Delivery Method

Ad delivery is a search ad campaign setting that determines the speed with which you want Google to use each day’s budget. This can either be set to ‘standard’ or ‘accelerated’ and directly affects the times your ads are likely to be shown.

setting up google campaign

Ad Rotation

This is an ad preference setting that determines which ad group ads, when you have multiple ads, show. You can choose to either ‘rotate indefinitely,’ which will evenly rotate your ads across all auctions or you can select ‘optimize,’ which enables Google to automatically choose the ads in your ad group more likely to win an auction.

setting up google campaign

Ad Budget

What you put in you will get out. The bigger your ad budget is, the less limited your campaign will be. You will need to balance your budget in a way that prioritizes your spend; a limited budget means not every ad will have the chance to win every auction.

Ad Quality

Ad quality is as simple as ensuring that your ad text is relevant to your chosen keywords, the URL and your headlines. Keeping your ads relevant and in line improves your ad rank, which in turn will improve your chances of ads being shown.

Bottom Line

When it comes to ad positioning, quality matters in a big way.

Your bidding strategies can be on point but without a good ad rank, your ads will not take the top spot. The rank will determine your auction eligibility, CPC and ad extension eligibility. In short: the better the quality of your ads is, the higher the rank will be. The better your ad rank, the lower your ad costs will be and the better your chances will be at good ad positions.

Beginner Tip: It’s important to know where your ads currently stand. You can check this by going to your average position metric to see, on average, how your ads are appearing. You can check where your ads are showing on SERPs by accessing your top and absolute metrics.