Are You Ego Bidding?

ego bidding (noun): the conviction that the top spot in the search engine results page is the best place to be.

Ego bidding can be seriously detrimental to your PPC advertising performance. Don’t compound the problem by ignoring the data and logic that can prove the wisdom of advertising lower on the page.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when the top spot is absolutely the best position to be in. But we need to let the data tell us that – is the ROAS enough to offset the increased spend? Does it drive leads that meet a CPA goal? Does it produce phone calls (and yes, you should use call tracking)?

The problem is when someone is convinced that the number-one spot is the best place to be, and no amount of data can convince them otherwise. And that can be damaging to PPC performance.

Contrary to popular belief, trying to maintain the top position can get you less business, not more. Why? Because the top spot is hard to maintain in a competitive marketplace – it can cost significantly more. And if you don’t have the budget to increase your spend to keep up, that can mean you actually get fewer clicks for the same amount of money, or it can take spend away from keywords that are actually producing valuable results.

For example, consider these ego bidding scenarios that I’ve run into with clients:

  • Client A always wants to be in the number-one position on some very generic terms, no matter what the cost. What usually happens is this: I get a call to boost the bids to get in the number-one position on their special terms. I raise the bids, the ads land in the number-one spot. The client spends almost two or three times what it cost for position two or three, but with get the same or even fewer conversions. Then I get a call saying that we spent too much money and I have to reduce the bids. Two months later, I get the call to boost the bids again, and the scenario repeats. Each time, I remind them that we’ve been down this road before, and each time they tell me to do it anyway.
  • Client B only has ego bidding issues on one search term. This particular client is in a very specialized industry with a very specific product in a very competitive marketplace. With them, the ego bidding behavior is driven by the board of directors. If a member of the board searches on this particular key term and their ad isn’t in the top spot, I hear about it immediately. It doesn’t matter that their cost per conversion could be twice as high as their conversion cost average, or that the cost per click is three or four times higher than the average. As long as the ad is in position one, they are happy and they deem paid search successful.

By all means, test bidding to win the number-one spot. But when you have the data, analyze what the increased position and increased spend are actually doing for you, and use the data to drive paid search performance metrics that matter.

This post was originally published June 25, 2008, and was substantially updated January 24, 2020.

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