Google has added a new metric into the AdWords interface at keyword level called the "Estimated Top Page Bid." This could revolutionize the traffic volumes from each of your main keywords.
What it Means
Quite simply, this new metric will give you an estimate of what your bid will need to be for you to be consistently showing in the banner positions.
The banner positions are reserved for advertisers who meet a minimum quality requirement. The requirements are quite fuzzy. When the banner was still in a trial stage, ads needed a 3 percent click-through rate (CTR) history on a particular search query to qualify. If an ad that wasn't in the top 3 positions qualified, but an ad in the top 3 positions didn't, then the lower placed ad could leapfrog the higher placed ad into position. We believe that this CTR criteria has since been lowered, but we don't know to exactly what extent.
There is also a minimum bid requirement. This is almost certainly based on your quality score and is more accurately described as a minimum ranking requirement, but since it's easier to adjust your bid at will I'm going to refer to it as a bid requirement for now. If you fail to meet this minimum, you will appear on the side of the page.
This new metric will show you what your bid will have to be (for your current quality scores) for you to show in the banner positions, not on the right hand side. It can be accessed by going to the keywords tab and clicking on the "columns" button, then checking the box for "Est. top page bid."
Why Advertisers Should Care
Make no mistake about it, the banner counts. In fact, the banner is almost all that counts.
Below you can see the stats for a major high street retail brand's own branded keywords. Their ad sometimes showed in the banner and sometimes showed on the right hand side. I want you to take note of the click-through rate.
The figures on the far right are impressions over the last few hours.
Pretty astonishing, right?
I can tell you that these figures are pretty typical. A bit stronger for brand searches than for generics, but a range of 0.5 percent RHS to 15 percent Top would be what I would consider a viable median set of stats. Your campaigns will likely see similar discrepancies.
These differences can be found by selecting the Top vs Side segment in your keyword tab. Go and take a look at this for all accounts you manage right now. You won't regret it.
The message you need to take from this: if you aren't in the banner, you're not going to get traffic. It doesn't matter what your impression share might be, you're simply not going to get the clicks.
Never assume that a small change in bid that moves you down the page will result in a small drop in traffic. If you're dropping out of the banner it'll result in a huge drop in traffic and the keyword will be as good as paused.
Can I trust these numbers?
I've heard it a thousand times: "I ignore the first page bid estimates. I'm in position 2 and I still get them!"
Don't ignore these. Your ad position numbers are misleading. If you've been appearing on the second page most of the time it's still entirely feasible that when you were on the first page you showed high up. Google wants to spend some of your budget to keep you coming back. Average position is calculated as:
Avg Pos = ( Sum of (Actual Position * Impressions in that position) ) / Total impressions
Essentially if your ad didn't get seen (i.e., you were off the first page) it doesn't contribute to your total impressions. To give you a more accurate view it should look something more like:
Avg Pos = ( Sum of (Actual Position * Searches when you were in that position) ) / Total searches
This would give you an indication of what position you were in for those occasions when your ad was off the first page.
If your impression share lost due to rank (enable this from your columns view at campaign level immediately!) is low then this is impacting you. Your average position is telling you that you were higher up the page than you really were.
So trust those messages about minimum first page bids. You don't have to act on them, but they're warning you that your lost impressions came because your bid was too low, and giving you hints about what kind of bid would fix that.
In a similar way, I want you to trust these new figures for Estimated Top Impressions. They may not be 100 percent accurate, but they'll give you a great idea what bid it'll take to get into the banner.
Getting into the banner is important.
If you can afford it.