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Google’s new ‘Top vs Side’ ad performance segmentation tool is a significant development for the search marketing industry.

With many positive developments for agencies and clients, the segmentation tool should finally end the debate into which is the most effective position for adverts – the top of the search engine ranking page or the side.

Google search space

Google rolls out new features regularly, but this is a very interesting innovation. Until now, advertisers were given an “Average Position” metric in their AdWords reports, but this was not always an accurate impression of where the advert was actually showing.

Now, reports can be segmented based on the adverts’ ‘real estate’, the advertising space brands actually own on the page, making the process much more transparent.

Indeed, the new tool allows advertisers to compare the results from their adverts by their position on the web page, either on top of the organic search results or in the right-hand side. 

Here are three ways to take advantage of the segmentation tool:

Achieve brand awareness objectives

Google’s ‘Top vs Side’ ad performance segmentation tool allows for more precise evaluation of a brand’s exposure, helping brands to achieve their brand awareness objectives.

If the main goal is for the advert to appear at the top of the search results page (as opposed to on the right), which is where the advert will achieve most views, this can now be monitored, and ultimately achieved, more easily.

Prior to the introduction of the ‘Top vs Side’ segmentation tool, brands could only know if their advert was in position one, but position one could be in the right hand corner and not across the top.

Now brands can be aware of this and take action to change the position of the advert.

Maximise conversion rates, coverage and quality score without overspending

In some cases adverts that appear in the side bar convert to sale better than those that appear at the top of the search results.

The rationale is that even though fewer clicks are recorded, the consumer will have looked across the page, then scrolled down the page, digested the results and only then clicked an advert that is favourable to them.

This theory can now be put to the test by ‘Top vs Side’ testing and analysis, meaning that brands can plan campaigns more effectively and maximise return on investment in terms of advertising spend.

In other cases, the goal might be for the advert to be at the top of the page in position three (cheaper than position one and two, but still with excellent traffic levels). This position might sometimes be located at the top and other times on the side.

Now that brands can see where their advert appears, they can adjust spend according to their coverage targets and therefore maximise coverage in relation to advertising spend.

In addition, knowing where on a search results page their advert is appearing allows companies to change their bid strategy so that the adverts appear on the top of the web page consistently.

This is important for brands as being in the right position on the search engine ranking page leads to higher click through rates, quality score and conversion rates.

Make the most of your ad copy 

The ‘Top vs Side’ segmentation tool also allows brands to more easily check whether the messaging of their advert needs improving.

If, for example, an advert shows up on the side in position one, two or three, through optimising the messaging, the advert could be promoted to the top position thereby getting more coverage and conversions.

This can be done through refocusing the messaging towards promotion, highlighting the brand’s sales messaging or the customer’s reasons to buy. This will increase the ad copy’s value to the customer as it will be more relevant to them.

Ultimately, the new segmentation tool gives brands much greater control of the content, position and effectiveness of their adverts, something the marketing department will undoubtedly welcome.

Through having greater control, campaigns can be monitored more effectively and optimised more easily to provide a greater return on advertising spend which is music to the ears of every marketer.

Sri Sharma

Published 16 September, 2011 by Sri Sharma

Sri Sharma is Managing Director at Paid Search Marketing Agency Net Media Planet. He can be found on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

5 more posts from this author

Comments (3)



Google loves expanding the paid search space but always at the expense of organic. I notice today they've sneaked in 2cm of whitespace below the search box, pushing the organic results further down the page. And in a flash, the Top 3 has become the Top 2. Nice going, Google !

about 5 years ago

Nick Craig

Nick Craig, Managing Director at Mackerel Media

Back a couple of years ago Google published some interesting information on conversion rates and position with AdWords - their advice at the time was "conversion rates don't vary much by position".

There are of course other factors that could relate to position - CTR being the most obvious, average transaction value being another, so it will be even more interesting to see how the data unfolds over time.

about 5 years ago

Manfredi Sassoli de Bianchi

Manfredi Sassoli de Bianchi, VP Marketing at jobinasecond

Interesting post, thanks.
I think we could also consider the wider implications of top vs side ads. Thanks to the new ad formats, with extended titles and site links, the click through rate of the paid ads at the top of the page have increased significantly. This means that now an ad in position three will receive as much as 300% more traffic than an ad in position 4, (e.g. CTR 8% vs 2%).

Although position 4 is likely to be more efficient advertisers need to decide whether that volume efficiency trade-off is a positive one, (ROI vs Revenue). There is also a more strategic decision to be taken: how much traffic share can you afford to lose to your direct competitor.

This new Adwords report should help us making a call on these tough questions.

about 5 years ago

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