Web surfers may be more likely to click on search results ranked higher on a web page, but purchase decisions are not so reliant on search positioning, according to Google.
In a post on Inside AdWords today, Google revealed that the position of key words doesn't affect conversion rates very much at all. If your company is spending time or money trying to get to the top of a page's search results. Don't bother.
Google Chief Economist Hal Varian and his researchers have found that while Google ranks ads by their quality combined with the size of a bid, conversion rates are not really beholden to where an ad is placed on a page of search results:
"On average, there is very little variation in conversion rates by position for the same ad. For example, for pages where 11 ads are shown the conversion rate varies by less than 5% across positions. In other words, an ad that had a 1.0% conversion rate in the best position, would have about a 0.95% conversion rate in the worst position, on average. Ads above the search results have a conversion rate within ±2% of right-hand side positions."
Now, it's cheaper for high quality ads to go up in search results, and better ads often have better conversion rates. But looking at the same ad in different positions, it looks like it doesn't really matters where the ad is located on a page.
"Since Google ranks ads by bid times ad quality, ads in higher positions tend to have higher quality and higher quality ads tend to have higher conversion rates... Thus you may see a correlation between auction position and conversion rates just due to this ad quality effect. However, the real question is how the conversion rate for the same ad would change if it were displayed in a different position."
For Google, this fits in with their theory of why increased key word spending sometimes results in lower page positioning (and why advertisers shouldn't mind their results shifting around so much). This doesn't neccessarily make it easier for advertisers to figure out how much to bid on key words, but it should be interesting to know that while higher positioning often results in more clicks, the number of people making purchases related to those clicks remains the same regardless of where on a page your result appears.