We’ve all experienced feelings of lust – that intense desire or craving for something without even entirely understanding why. But what does lust have to do with PPC?

Many advertisers lust over that coveted number one position on the SERP, sometimes even making rash decisions to achieve number 1 status.

Here are some of the signs that you are in a lustful relationship with PPC:

  1. Your gut is telling you that you should take caution in your actions
  2. You have a sense of discomfort or feel drained (your bank account) after your ad makes it to position 1
  3. Your attraction to this number 1 spot feels dark or destructive
  4. You’re uncomfortable with how this position is treating you, but you’re afraid that if you make any changes you’ll mess everything up

Ok, maybe these signs sound more like your relationships with other people, but it’s all relative. You should be having feelings of love towards your paid search efforts rather than making drastic decisions because you think they will make you and your account feel good in the moment.

The solution is to take some of this emotional decision making out of the picture and pay more attention to your actual performance and what your account data is telling you. Here are three steps you should take to stop committing the sin of PPC lust.

Get in the right mindset and focus on the right factors

Don’t give into the notion that being in the number one position is going to get you the best results. Most advertisers look at the image below and think “yes, that’s the exact right solution, just pay more for a better position and thus get more traffic.”

bid to position

haha nope

But just the same as lusting after that fourth or fifth beer on a Friday night, following through with it is probably only going to make you feel like crap the next day. Even if there is some truth behind the above “formula,” you are most likely just attracting more expensive traffic, which ultimately eats up more of your budget and could actually restrict the number of conversions you could potentially bring in. You will most likely overpay in the process of trying to get into those top positions and will find that it’s ultimately not the most effective way to spend your budget.

Don’t bid to position, bid to profitability

Stop bidding to a specific position and overpaying. The only reason you would want to be in position one is if you have proof that position one actually maximizes your profit and results in a positive ROAS. This of course isn’t to say that holding a high position, even position one, can’t be profitable, but you want to ensure that it’s going to result in positive performance for your account.

In the graph below you can see that there is essentially no correlation between average position and conversion rate.

conversion rate versus ad position

But, you might argue, won’t I get more clicks and therefore more conversions in the higher spot? Not so fast! Because you have to bid higher to get those higher positions, your budget will be depleted much faster; you’re then vulnerable to lose out on impression share due to limited budget.

So unless you have an extremely flexible budget, watch out for this trap. Being in position one isn’t necessarily going to get you more conversions, but it might turn your emotions from lusting over position one to envying your AdWords competitors who are spending less and getting the same number of conversions in lower positions.

Use your data to make educated decisions

Your own account is going to give you the best indication of where your golden opportunities lie. Rather than immediately bidding to position one, test out some other positions to see what your CPCs and conversions are looking like. If you are averaging a position 3, it could mean you’re showing ads in any position from 1 to 6 depending on the time/day/competition, and from breaking down that information you might deduce that you actually get better CPCs and conversions in a lower position. It’s all about testing, improving, and seeing which positions give you the greatest ROI in terms of conversions.

Be sure to also utilize reporting features such as “Top vs Other” in AdWords to identify how your ads are performing in the top positions (usually 1 through 3) versus the other positions (usually to the right of or below the search results). Using this report will allow you to pinpoint performance of conversions and CPA in order to identify where you ultimately want to show up on the SERP.

top versus other report

It’s time to stop lusting over ineffective strategies and start loving your PPC results!

Data above based on a sample size of 360 accounts representing SMBs in all verticals. Incorporates data from the Google Search Network in 2013.