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Google AdWords

How to Use the Top vs. Other Report in 3 Easy Steps

How do we feel when we see our content or ads on top of Google’s Search Results?

Top Position Google SERPS
Leo King of the World gif

Well, don’t get ahead of yourself, Dicaprio. It’s 1997. You won’t see an Oscar for nearly 20 years.

Just because your ad is at the top doesn’t mean your campaign is smooth sailing. 

A common misconception in Google Adwords is that ads on the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) ALWAYS perform better than other Search Ad positions.

It’s important to understand how your ad performs in different positions. If you could get the same number of conversions for cheaper, you’d go for it, right? Of course.

This is where Google’s Top versus Other Report comes in. The Top vs. Other compares how your ads perform when shown in the top positions versus other placements (source: AdWords Glossary). It’s among AdWords’ hidden reports crucial to your PPC success.

*Note: Not to be mistaken for the Ad Preview & Diagnosis tool, which is oftentimes called the Ad Position Checker.

What are the different search ad positions?

Just about every guide (including Google’s own) on search ad placement and position is out-of-date.

It used to be relatively simple: A maximum of 3 ads on top of SERPs and up to 12 in total appeared on the right-hand side and the bottom. But in 2016, things started to change for the first time since Y2K:

  • In February 2016, Google said NO MORE to right side-ads.
  • Around the same time, they started showing up to four ads up top and a random assortment of bottom ads
  • Some pages display no ads on top and multiple ads on the bottom

More ads on bottom than top suggest that the search term triggered low intent-to-buy keywords, where Organic search results will provide a better user experience.

This is more common on mobile, where Google tries to avoid showing you more than 2 pages of ads.

This all prompts the question: what does it even mean to be #1?

Answer: Position #1 does not necessarily mean your ads are showing on top of the page. Position #1 simple means that your ad is the first ad to show.

Desktop positions: There is a maximum of 4 ads on top and 3 ads on the bottom

Desktop Search Ad Positions


Mobile Search Positions: Maximum of 3 ads on Top and 3 ads on bottom

AdWords mobile search results


How to Control Your Ad Position

Ad position is determined by a formula known as Ad Rank. Ad Rank is Google’s combination of:

  • Bid $$
  • Quality Score (Landing Page, Quality of Ad, Extensions, and ad formats)
  • Your competition (both paid and organic)

Adjusting one of these three metrics will adjust your ad rank and thus your position. (If you have suggestions on how to eliminate your competition, let us know). Ad rank is recalculated each time your ad appears, which is the cause of some ads showing on top versus bottom while holding the same position.

How to Use the Top vs. Other Report

  1. Open up your Google AdWords account.
  2. From the “All Campaigns” page, select the segment button (found towards the top of the page, just above the graph).
    Top Vs Other Selection
  3. Within the “Segment” list, select “Top vs. Other.”
    Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 10.59.56 AM

This is where you dig into the various campaigns and see your key performance metrics segmented by top of search, bottom of search, top of search partners, bottom of search partners, and general display (for Search with Display select). 

*Smart Tip* Look for large disparities in your CPA. If you’re converting at a much lower CPA on bottom than top, you should lower your bid to lower your ad rank.

For a walkthrough on how to get the most of this report, check out the video below. 

Questions? Comments? Personal experience? We’d love to hear! Lead your thoughts and questions below, or Tweet us @AdHawk

2 responses to “How to Use the Top vs. Other Report in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Hi Bobby,

    Good post, this is something that a lot of people miss. It’s a great little tool for when you think you’ve got an account running well from an ad group/keyword perspective.

    Just one thing I would point out, however, is that lowering your bids because the CPA is better in lower positions isn’t a particularly “smart tip” in my opinion. Although CPAs will more than likely be better in the lower positions, the volume of clicks and therefore conversions is going to be minute compared to the top spots. Personally I’d rather my clients pay an average CPA for 1000 conversions than a low CPA for 10.


    1. That’s a great point, Matt. I’ll happily update this post to give that heads up to future readers.

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About the Author

Marketing and Growth Director at AdHawk. Helping business find confidence and success online, one hefty article at a time.