By Helen Thornborrow

You have an account where the real - and perceived - success or failure hinges on one exact match keyword. You've done everything in your power to optimise, optimise, optimise and now have a quality score of 10... so, what next?

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The Scene

You are currently hovering below your cost per sale target and so happen to have room to manoeuvre. You also have a switched on client who knows their market, PPC and their competitors. How do you devise a bidding strategy that keeps you on target, drives more sales and shows the client that you really are doing everything in your power as campaign manager extraordinaire to whoop the competition?

My colleague Alistair has written extensively on why using the average position metric can be a red herring. And, looking at the data in this test shows that there isn’t an obvious relationship between CTR and the average position metric when in the banner. However, there is a clear and distinct relationship between CPC and click through rate. ‘Doh’ I hear you cry. But how do you go about testing and measuring it? How do you show you are squeezing out as much juice as you can from this one keyword?

You might be like me (a bit of a scrooge) – I don’t like to just pin the tail on the donkey and aim for position one. On principle I don’t want to pay the most until I know it works for my account. You may also share my nervousness that your competitors’ campaigns may be run by the type of manager whose approach boils-down to “hammering that keyword”. Cue bidding war.

So, what to do?

The Auction Insights Tool

The Auction Insights report provides keyword-level data for impression share, average position, overlap rate, position above rate, and top of page rate for you and those that you compete with in the same auction. With a 100% impression share and a consistent 95% top of page rate, I am already giving my account’s ad the best chance of acquiring those all-important clicks. But what can be done to further polish and refine my strategy?

The Test

I noted in the Auction Insights report that the client’s primary competitor also happened to be the only other advertiser to have comparable impression share and top of page rate statistics. Curiosity sparked, I read on to discover that they were above me 80% of the time. This begs the question… What would it cost me to show above them more often than not? Will I generate more clicks and sales? Can I still meet my targets?

So, I incrementally increased bids week by week and this is what I found…

The Results

cost per click vs. percent above rate

Comparing weeks -2 and +2 (week zero being the week of action):

  • An increase in the CPC of 30% resulted in a 57% reduction in the position above rate of my rival
  • I got 57% more clicks per day on average
  • I also saw an increase in sales of 18%

* The fact that both the increase in clicks per day and the reduction in the position above rate both ended up at 57% appears to be a complete coincidence


I was paying more per click, for more clicks, and effectively my conversion rate dropped. But, having breathing space with the cost per sale target meant I brought in a higher volume of sales which levelled out as bang on target.

More sales whilst on target = Happy Face.

The Small Print

This test is obviously anecdotal, it is based on one keyword, for one month, in one account. It will be interesting to see if this sparks similar tests by fellow PPC managers and whether they find similar results.

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