If Google AdWords were a simple auction format than getting the top ad position would be relatively simple. Outbid your competition and you'd have the number 1 spot. Every time.

Yet, just as it does with its search results Google has an algorithm to determine where your ad is placed.

Create a compelling ad with a relevant landing page and your ad could appear at the top spot, even if your competitors are bidding higher.

Google wants to show ads that get clicks, as this is how they make money.

A competitor that bids higher, but whose ad isn't clicked on doesn't make Google money.

Yet, just because your ad appears on the top spot one day, doesn't mean it will be there the next day. It might not even be there the next hour.

And because you rank number 1 for one keyword, you might not with many other keywords, even though you have the same bid.

With each keyword, you have to look at it on its own to determine where it regularly ranks.

The Safe Way to Check Your Ad Position

First of all, never check where your ad is positioned by doing a Google search on your own. Each time you do this is another impression that goes against your click-through rate.

Instead, use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool. You can find this by clicking on the wrench in the upper right-hand corner and then look for it in the left-hand column.

It used to be that you'd know when your ads appeared at the top through average position. If your ad showed an average position of 1. something, it meant it was in the number 1 spot all the time.

Unfortunately the number 1 spot didn't always mean your ad was at the top of the page. They now have two competitive metrics that provide a little more help.

The first is Search Top Is. This is the percentage of time that your ad appears at the top of the page, above the organic listings. This means your in the top 3 or 4 ads.

The second metric is Search Absolutely Top IS, which is the percentage of time you were at the very top of the page.

To have these metric show up on your keyword page, click modify columns and then click competitive metrics.

Modify your columns to add the competitive metrics which will show when your Google Ad appears number 1.
How to check your ad position on Google in 2020

Modify your columns to add the competitive metrics which will show when your Google Ad appears number 1.Modify your columns to add the competitive metrics which will show when your Google Ad appears number 1.

Remember that your position for a keyword often varies by device. To see the metrics for desktop, mobile, and tablet you first must click the segment graphic.

After that look for device and click that. Now you can see your position on the various devices.

Position for ads on Google AdWords by device
Choose device to see how ads perform.

Here are some reasons your ad isn't appearing number one and, in some cases, not appearing at all.

Your Bid Is Too Low

Your first instinct is to raise your bid, but as you’ll see this isn’t always a long-term solution. For one, your competitor could already be bidding higher and this will trigger their bid to go higher.

The way bids work is that you’ll only pay one cent more than your competitions highest price. So if your bid is 2 dollars and then next bid is one dollar you pay 1.01. The adverse of this is true, as well

If you raise your bid to 2 dollars, but their bid is 3 dollars, their bid will automatically go above you. That means you have to keep raising and hope that they don’t outbid you again.

Yet, as you’ll see bid is only part of the Google AdWords algorithm. And if you do outbid that at some point, there’s no guarantee you’ll stay even if they don’t counter-bid. You might find your ad dropping below theirs with them having raised their bid at all.

Low Quality Score

As mentioned, Google doesn't use a simple auction system to display their ads. Bidding is obviously a major factor, but so is Quality Score and ultimately Ad Rank.

AdRank is what determines how your ad shows up. It's your Quality Score times your bid.

Quality Score is a number from null - 10 that Google applies to your keywords. It's based on the relevance of your ad to the keyword being targeted, the expected click-through rate of your ad based on its position, and the effectiveness of your landing page.

Your ad may initially appear in the top spot, but if you receive a low Quality Score, then your position will drop. The good news is that if you significantly improve your Quality Score you could start to appear higher, even if you're being outbid.

Read my article What is Quality Score in Google AdWords and How To Improve It

There Are New Competitors On the Scene

It’s easy to become stagnant with your ads, particularly if you’re doing them yourselves and running your business at the same time.

Google Ads is never a set it and forget it platform.  The program constantly changes, and new players come onto the market.

You might not even notice that a new entrant is on the AdWords scene.  It could be business new in your area or an old competitor who is just starting to advertise online.

Suddenly their ad is more creative and seeing better results. This means you might have to come up with a new ad to beat them. This could take time as you might have to test a variety of ads before becoming successful. And increasing your bids could also help, in this case, as well.

Competitors Might Be Bidding More Certain Hours of the Day

You might find comfort in the fact that when you first check on a specific keyword you find its number 1. Then later on in the day, when your customers are most active, you’ve dropped down. This is because your competitors are doing advanced bidding.

What they’ve done is the bid a higher percentage certain times of the day because they think those times have more value.  Think of a restaurant that knows the hours 11-1 is when they get the most lunch orders. So they bid a percentage higher for those times.

To counter this take the same strategy.

Your Ad Sucks

Click through rate is the biggest part of Quality Score and if your ad is bad, no one will likely click it.

At first, Google will display your ad at the top if its AdRank is good.  When no one clicks on it, however, your Quality Score will drop and so will your ad.

This is why you don’t want to put all your money on a single ad. You should always run 3-4 ads in each ad group. This way if one is a stinker, Google may instead show one of your ads that people responded to better.

Once an ad has received a significant number of impressions, such as anything over 100 impressions, you can evaluate it. If it’s click-through rate is significantly lower than the rest, then pause it and try a new ad to see how it does.

Even if you have what you believe is a good click-through rate for all your ads, always be testing.

You might find you can improve even more on your click-through rate and help your Quality Score.

I'd recommend having three expanded text ads in an ad group and one responsive search ad.

Your Daily Budget is Nearly Depleted

If it’s near the end of the day it might be finances that are keeping you from being number 1. If you’re bidding 10 dollars for a term, but your daily budget is down to 9 dollars than that 10-dollar bid isn’t feasible.

On certain days Google will feel your keywords are more competitive and could double your spend. Then Google compensates other days by spending less of your budget.

If your ad isn’t showing, see if it’s because your account is depleted. If you’re seeing a good return on your investment, then consider increasing your daily budget to keep from losing potential customers.

If you notice a warning next to your daily budget that your campaign is limited it means it means it's not running all the time.

You’ve Changed Your Landing Page

This is less common, but I have seen it where a client redesigned their website and now their content doesn’t relate as well to the ad they’re running.

If you're considering changing the content of a landing page, make sure it's content is relevant to the issue that prompted a prospect to click on your ad. Google will let you know if they think your landing page, like your ad, is below average.

To learn more about creating a successful landing page, read my article on How To Create a Successful Landing Page for Google Ads.

What to Do If You're No Longer Number One On Google AdWords

Make the Necessary Changes to Improve Quality Score

If you want to reach and stay at number one, then most likely you’ll need to do everything required of a good Quality Score. This includes not just creating strong ad copy, but utilizing as many ad extensions as possible. This will help to make your ad stand out more.

Read my article on How To Set Up Google AdWords Extensions & Which To Use.

And be prepared to monitor your bidding.

Change Your Bid Strategy

Another option is to use automated bidding. In particular, Target Impression Share. With target impression share you can set it to top of the results page.

The problem is your giving Google the means to control your spend. And this could result in substantially higher cost per click. This is why you should make sure to put an amount under the max CPC limit.

One way to get your ad number one on Google ads is to use automated bidding.
Target impression share is a way to get your ad to the top spot.

One way to get your ad number one on Google ads is to use automated bidding.One way to get your ad number one on Google ads is to use automated bidding.

Don’t Be Focused on Being Number One

I have clients that tell me that they want to be number 1 for a specific keyword or for all their keywords all the time. While this is a good objective, it shouldn’t be the main objective of your campaign.

Your goal is to generate business, either leads or sales. If you’re reaching your daily spend and getting a high return on your investment, then being number 2 or 3 might be more cost-effective.  

The goal of your campaign should be to generate as many relevant leads for your business as you can. It’s not about being number 1.

As mentioned if you have quality ads then you might appear number 1 even when you're not bidding the highest.

Let a Professional Run Your Campaign So That You Can Focus on the Business

If you’re not getting the results out of your campaign that you wish, from where your ads rank to the return on investment you’re seeing, then consider bringing in a professional. As a Google AdWords Consultant, I offer adwords management services to grow businesses.