Online Marketing Blog

Great Quality Score, Low Min Bids But No Impressions?

A fellow online marketer got in touch with me via Facebook this week with a question. I am asked this question at least once a week on various forums and through this very blog. The question is as follows:

I have been using Google Ads for a long time and I seem to have hit a brick wall. I set up my tightly knit and focused campaigns, have a perfect landing page (That I know converts from SEO) and all my keywords have a “Great” quality score. I bid 10-50 cent more than the required minimum bid and set the campaign live. It has been live for weeks now, the Ad Diagnostic tool says my ads are being displayed but Google Ads is reporting little to no impressions? Has Google changed something? What am I doing wrong?

The Answer my friend is simple. Competition.

Let’s assume that ALL advertisers in your market have a tightly knit campaign with focused keywords and compelling ad text, have a campaign bursting with “Great” quality keywords and have the same minimum bid requirements as you. Now lets assume that there are 40 advertisers bidding on the same keywords as you. Assuming all things being even, what determines which ads get placed on the front page?

Old School Maximum Cost Per Click.

According to Google your minimum bid is defined as follows :

A keyword’s minimum bid is the lowest amount that you can pay in order for that keyword to trigger your ads.

Note “trigger” being the operative word there. Trigger means it will indeed show but not necessarily on the first page or even second.With the introduction of quality score (at all levels), country targeting, matching options and bringing Click Through Rate into the equation people still tend to forget that the maximum price you are willing to pay for the click still comes into play. Seeing that quality score column all green does not mean you are golden and entitled to a top spot on the first page. I see this all the time when ringtone affiliates, insurance and mortgage affiliates and dating offer affiliates ask me to take a look at their campaigns. The simple reason you are not getting impressions is because you are not bidding enough and you are up against a LOT of other advertisers.

So you cannot afford to pay 5 Euro a click? Tough. Other advertisers pay spend that and still make a profit from the click. They tweak their campaigns and squeeze every last drop of revenue from their landing pages (unless they are bidding cluelessly on the top spot in which case their budget will not last long!).

To sum up, a lot of factors come into play when advertising using Pay Per Click but remember, PPC is still a bidding platform and there are sometimes more than eleven other advertisers competing for a first page spot.

Note: I am aware that the above scenario is a little over simplified and I did not take into account historical data or ad rank but I think the point is still valid.

  1. Steve Baker Says:
    October 16th, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Ultimately, you have to do what’s most profitable for you, I suppose. If everyone else is bidding more than you, it suggests that one of four things is happening (there may be more, but these spring to mind).

    1. The Numpty effect. People are bidding more than their clicks are worth, thinking that appearing first = ‘Winning’

    2. Your site doesn’t convert as well as your competitors’ sites do.

    3. Your margins are lower than your competitors’ margins, so they can afford to pay more per click.

    4. You aren’t bidding the most profitable amount for you. It’s better to make £5 per sale on 10 sales, tham to make £10 per sale on 1 sale.

    I think that 1. is often the case, particularly with big, offline companies, but whilst this makes position 1 too expensive sometimes, there aren’t usually that many people paying over the odds.

    It sounds like your friend was too wrapped up in what he/she COULD pay, and lost sight of what they SHOULD pay.

  2. Simon Says:
    October 16th, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    Little or no impressions !? Not enough keywords, keywords too specific.

    Put some of those longer keyword phrases to broad match making sure you have plenty of negative keywords and go from there.

  3. Dave Davis Says:
    October 16th, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Simon, I should have made the fact that these were very VERY competitive markets. The keyword “Mortgage” has a pretty full competition list. The reason for no impressions is because their ad IS being triggered just 5-6 pages deep.

    Steve, Thanks for that. I didn’t mention the numpty effect by name but it is referenced.

    And “too wrapped up in what he/she COULD pay, and lost sight of what they SHOULD pay.” I could not have put it better myself.

  4. Barry Hand Says:
    November 19th, 2007 at 10:32 am

    With all things being even in the above example, and pure competition and MAX CPC determining ad position. I’d suggest increasing the Max CPC above and beyond “10-50 cent more than the required minimum bid” for a new campaign, firstly to trigger your ads in actionable positions as they are new and won’t have any CTR data, while your competitors ads could have been there for a long time (They’re placed #1-3 for a reason)

    But it’s all in the micro-management of a campaign, instant results don’t always happen, and it’s a case of testing ad copy & CPC over and over again to get the balance of ROI.

    Avoiding the numpty effect, you could analyse closer on the long tail phrases (broadmatch keywords search query report FTW!) and perhaps position yourself outside of the costly #1-2 with position preferences.

  5. Dave Davis Says:
    January 27th, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Barry, you’re dead right…all things being equal that is. Just looking back over this post, I failed to address the reason I actually wrote it. Countless times in forums the question is asked and I forgot to mention that at the weekends the ads on the content network have to be manually approved and wait until Monday.

    Oh, and “broadmatch keywords search query report FTW!” – For the win is right! I have seen campaigns literally skyrocket in ROI as a result of adding a couple of hundred negative and negative embedded keywords/phrases to a campaign.

  6. Andy Smith Says:
    June 5th, 2008 at 2:51 am

    Hi all, I have a qestion! Strange situation that I cant explain. Im not new to PPC but this has me stumped.

    I found quite a few highly searched terms (30k to 1.6 million) a month with NO PPC ads showing at all.

    My adwords campaign has 15-20 of these keywords and I set the max bid to the lowest to start. My ad quality is between good and great for all of the keywords.

    I have other campaigns where I have used this technique and have got thousands of clicks for .02 – 0.5 pence per click – so no problems there.

    With this particular campaign the min bid is .20p and I have done all I can to cure it with not luck!

    My question is, why is the bid price so high when there are NO other ads showing??? I have left it to do its thing for weeks and still no change. Is Google pulling a fast one here?

  7. Dave Davis Says:
    June 5th, 2008 at 2:57 am

    Hi Andy,
    Thanks for stopping by.

    The minimum bid is so high because of your quality score. Quality score is a strange beast and covers a lot of “factors” relating to pricing and ad rank.

    The problem is more than likely due to “historical” keyword performance with other advertisers.

    Start bidding the 20p for the keyword, bid more for it if you need to.

    I’d tweak your landing page so that the improvement in conversion comes in line.

  8. Ole Says:
    June 8th, 2008 at 4:07 am

    Thanks for this article. I like your way of writing. Helps me to grasp things every time.

    Here is what I noticed. Real example:
    Max CPC 0,20 Pos. 1,8 Impressions >100 every day.
    Changed to:
    Max CPC 0,07 Pos. still 3,4 (due to very high CTRs) Imp. ~20

    So in this case we can not assume that the ads “got shown on a second, third etc. page” and thus lowered the impressions, can we?

    It looks like Google just simply “punishes” my lower CPC by not giving me the impressions that would be available.

    I noticed this trend a lot recently.

    Note: All Test were made in Google Germany. CPCs are Euros. Enough time was given to make sure this is not just fluctuation.

  9. Briana Says:
    April 28th, 2009 at 12:33 am

    New to Adwords, I am racking my brains trying to figure out the answer to this: I have a minimum CPC of $2.00 with a firstpage CPC of $0.80. Does this make sense? If so, what could be the cause? I have a low quality score of 5 as well.


  10. Leigh Says:
    November 19th, 2009 at 4:31 pm


    Could it be that the minimum CPC is $0.20 – those figures don’t add up. I would suggest contacting Google Adwords Support.



  11. George Says:
    January 21st, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Hi I have two campaigns with 2 groups each, and 1 or 2 ads in each one, just to having something to compare with. I started 4 weeks ago and being increasing my CPC from 0.54 up to 9.00 USD. I have worked with the keyboards, changed ads, create new groups and NO IMPRESSIONS, Zero, Nada. could some one give an advise please?

    Thx George