Google’s Paid Ad Change: What Does it Mean for Marketers?
In March, Google quietly rolled out a change to search results. From a consumer perspective, the page simply appears slightly different: hyperlinks are no longer underlined and ads aren't as prominent as they once were.
Minimizing the appearance of ads seems like a natural step toward integrating paid and organic listings. A recent study by Bunnyfoot found that 40 percent of consumers don't know the difference between paid and organic listings. Since consumers are used to ignoring the old ad format, the new format means that marketers can more easily earn clicks from the top paid spot if ads are properly targeted.
At face value, the change seems like a good thing. Marketers whose paid and organic keywords are on target won't see much of a difference. If consumers are accidentally clicking on the new ad format without realizing it and traffic is relevant, then it's business as usual for that advertiser.
If keywords aren't on target, however, the change to the results page may make that clear through a sudden drop in conversion rates. While it's impossible to tell how the change will affect marketers at this point, here are next steps to keep tabs on the change and determine which keywords are on target post-switchover:
1. Keep tabs on conversion rates. Properly managed accounts will see little change in conversion rates, but keep an eye out for a sudden drop for any one keyword. This could be an indication that Google users are confused about the new format and that a given keyword may be irrelevant.
For example, someone searching for "fuel efficient suvs" may be in the research stage or the purchase stage. If you're a local car dealer with the top paid search listing but consumers using this term are in the research stage, you may see conversion suffer. This is an indication that Google users were "tricked" into clicking on your ad by the new format and the keyword may be irrelevant.
2. Adjust keywords and bids. If you find that keywords are slightly irrelevant, the easiest fix is to lower bid amounts. However, this presents an opportunity to go further and find keywords that might be more relevant to your audience. After all, search marketers will have to live with the new search results page for some time and work with consumers as they adjust.
Adjust your keyword matching and negative keywords based on your findings. Go beyond what your keyword planner tells you and consider why consumers might be clicking on your ad and what's motivating them to search for a particular phrase in the first place. These insights can influence your SEO keywords as well.
3. Check back frequently. For marketers, the change is a blessing in disguise. It's another opportunity to follow Google users’ journey to your website and get inside their heads. Since this change is so new, you'll have to check back frequently and adjust as consumers adapt to the new layout.
Over the years, Google users grew used to disregarding the highlighted pay-per-click ads at the top of the page. Now that those ads are less distinct from organic results, that process may take longer or not happen at all. It's up to marketers to play psychologist and keep up with evolving search behavior.
Michael Mothner is the founder and CEO of Wpromote, an online marketing firm that runs SEO, PPC and social media campaigns for companies worldwide. He's also the author of the new book, "Experts & Engines: ROI Focused Online Marketing Through Intuitive Search Intelligence."