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Understanding Google’s “Top vs. Side” Segmentation

The first thing that comes to mind when I look at “Top vs. Side” Segmentation, was Google’s decision to stop offering the “position preference” option back in April. But, I have a strange “spidy sense” type of feeling that they will bring it back in a more dynamic form based on the data being retrieved from this new feature. Google’s recent rolling out of their new “bell and whistle” called Top vs. Side Ad Performance Segmentation is “pretty cool” to say the lest, especially the fact that it includes conversion data. However, there are some outstanding questions to think about when making decisions.

Data Fuzziness:
This uncertainty is surrounding their Search Partners, as according to Google “have different methods for showing AdWords ads that don’t always conform to Google’s definition of “side” ads”. (but I guess that can be expected.)

Daily/Monthly Budget Depletion:
This is in reference to the traditional budget depletion amongst the other advertisers who may have ran out of their budgets at the end of the day or month, which could influence the data around positioning from Side to Top sections during specific times of the day. Since, Google retired their Position Preference option, the Ads will dynamically move themselves up the ranks if the competition runs out of their daily spend.

The Next Generation of the SERP Heatmap?
Now, I’m sure many of us are used to the seeing the Heat Map which tells us at a high level where most of the clicks are being generated, but not necessarily the Conversions. However, since Google can now attribute conversions to the top or right hand side, perhaps this will create the “Next Generation” of the Conversion Heatmaps.

What does “OTHER” mean?
Google search: Other — If your campaign includes certain special ad formats (like product listing ads), these formats will be categorized as “Other” because they don’t occupy the usual top and side search ad locations. Google may also occasionally test ads in new locations that will appear in this category.(This is an interesting statement to keep an eye on for future releases)

Search partners: Other — Search partners have different methods for showing AdWords ads that don’t always conform to Google’s definition of “side” ads. Therefore, all ads that don’t appear directly above partner search results are categorized as “Other.” This can help you avoid making inaccurate comparisons between partner and Google ad locations.

Why is this Segmentation Helpful to us?
Affiliates & Reseller Competition: For those advertisers who are competing with a high volume of Affiliates, Resellers and or even a plethora of competition, this will help you define whether the Top or Side positions are working better, especially with in relation to Organic Results.

Brand Terms: Even though this is one of the biggest battles facing PPC agencies and consultants who are telling their clients they should bid on their brand names (even though ranking high Organically) for immediate promotions and brand protection, this segmentation might be the “smoking gun” to convincing them that they need to bid on their own brand name. This also opens the door to PPC testing.

Filed under: Featured, Google Adwords, Paid Search in General

5 Responses to "Understanding Google’s “Top vs. Side” Segmentation"

  1. Katie Saxon says:

    This is an interesting one – lots of lovely data but nowhere to go with it! My mind is racing at the possibilities, I’d love to be able to target just the Search Network with my ads, a la the Display Network. A new and improved position preference would be excellent too..

    Although honestly, right now I’d just like something besides raising my bids that I could do with the data. Any thoughts?

  2. Saija Mahon says:

    I will definitely keep my eyes peeled on this and what comes out of it – thanks, great article!

  3. If you want to see what is going on with campaigns at different times of the day and rule out spent budgets, run campaigns at selected times.

  4. Felicia says:

    We love Top vs. Side segmenting at Hanapin! Check our our blog too at to see how we have been utilizing this and other new Google releases for our clients! Great post, Greg – thanks!

  5. Sean says:

    Great point from Andrew – a common mistake. I also agree that we haven’t necessarily seen the end of position preference.

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