What Can We Learn From Ad Counts?

Ad Count is the measure of how many paid search ads are served for a search query.  It differs by match type and is unique to each search platform.  For instance, the term “poker chip” with phrase matching would trigger a higher ad count than a much more narrowly targeted keyword such as “7.5g clay poker chip set” with exact matching.

It is important to note that Ad Count only accounts for Paid Search Ads, and does not take organic listings into account at all.

In Google, I searched under the first term “poker chip” and was served over 220 ads!

When I narrowed the term to “7.5g clay poker chip set” I was only served 10 ads, and of these  several were repeats from the ads displayed for “poker chip”.

How Google Has Changed the Rules:

Historically, we would look to the measure of Ad Counts and Ad Fills to predict how revenue from Search would fare over the ensuing year.   Then Google decided that Ad Quality was more beneficial to the search experience than blasting the user with dozens of ads.

Over the past year average Ad Count on Google has been declining.  In the first half of the year, average ad count per keyword on Google went down to 4.0 from 6.5.

This shows us that the search giant is putting an emphasis on serving qualified ads, but what do we really see?

Actual Example: B2B PPC / SEO

What Can We Infer From This?


  • Google is absolutely saturated with ads despite their promise to reduce ads and only serve the best most qualified options.  In many instances Google services 2 or 3 times as many ads as Yahoo or MSN.
  • There is value in competing on the secondary engines.  There is little or no competition for premium ad space for several of these terms on Yahoo.

For Google:

  • You can drastically reduce the amount of Ads being served in competition to yours by using specific match types.
  • For broad match terms, you run the risk of being “lost” on any page other than the first.
  • Very limited allowance for characters in ads, copyright, and general syntax rules are strict.  Ads are often similar.

For Yahoo:

  • Yahoo is serving no ads for b2b pay per click?  This opportunity practically jumps off of the page.
  • Because Yahoo does not allow you to specify for match types, you are essentially always competing in the “broad match” spectrum.
  • Longer allowances for characters in ad text allow you to differentiate your ad more than on Google.  This may allow your ads to be successful on lower average positions.

For MSN:

  • Less competition coupled with specific matching types insure that you can limit the amount of competing ads.

Ad count data courtesy of our friends at iSpionage!

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