Its PPC, but not as we know it

Paid Search advertisers are this week working out how to operate in a new world. One presumably consisting of less traffic, more competition and higher pricing. Not an ideal combination.

The removal of the right hand side PPC ads over the weekend may seem like a surprising move by Google. Don’t more ads equal more money? But after an extensive period of testing, which undoubtedly proved the intensified auction (and therefore higher CPC) for top slots at a higher CTR outweighed the income from those on the right hand side of the page, each SERP now consists of a maximum of seven ads, four at the top and three at the bottom.

A combination of greater revenues from stagnant growth search terms, the streamlined layout for mobile and desktop and also the extra space for other ad formats and the decision makes sense both commercially and strategically.

But in doing this, Google has changed the face of PPC as we know it, above and beyond the amount of listings on a page.

The success of PPC and Google Adwords over the past 15 years has been down to a number of core redeeming features of the channel.

  • National exposure to potential customers for limited cost
  • Payment model based around ROI
  • Limited barriers to entry around cost
  • Unknown or small businesses can compete on a level playing field

In this latest move Google has removed the bulk of these features and fundamentally changed the Google Adwords channel for good.

Small businesses, once the poster boys for Google, have been pretty much priced out of any ‘commercial queries’, which let’s face it, are any which are going to generate sales.

The barriers to entry around cost have well and truly been raised and in established market it is very much a big boy’s game now. The playing field is now far from level.

And more significantly maybe this move could have removed the ROI viability for everything but high ticket item products. In the past couple of years many businesses have been struggling with their dependence on PPC and its rising costs, this is only now going to get worse.

So the advertising channel where I cut my teeth all those years ago, and where I learnt much of my trade, is now to all intents and purposes dead.

RIP Paid Search, its been fun.

Posted in PPC

New Google Mobile Ad Label

As mobile search continues to grow in importance and steal share of overall search from desktop, it is Google’s number one objective to ensure they effectively monetise this channel.  As pointed out in a previous post they only have a couple of levers they can pull to maximise revenue through search assuming search volume is already taken care of.  These are average CPC generated per search, and CTR on revenue generating listings.

Whilst performing a few search on my mobile (iPhone) at the weekend I noticed a new display feature on the mobile paid search listings which I hadn’t seen before and a few tweets seemed to confirm that this was new and I was part of a test.

Historically Google has always labelled Adwords listings as ‘sponsored’ or ‘Ads’ and differentiated them with a (slightly) different background colour and a logo top right of the screen, as seen below in a screenshot taken this morning.

Google Mobile Listing

But on Saturday what I was getting was different.  The background colour has been removed and each paid listing had a gold/yellow icon next to it labelling it as an ad.

New Google Mobile AdwordsNew Google Mobile PPC

Now Google runs tests all the time so it may be this format never makes it beyond a test group however this change is a lot less subtle than those previous and could be looked at from a number of different angles.

  • Angle 1: Google is being more transparent in labelling which listings are paid and which are not therefore providing a more clear choice for the user.
  • Angle 2: Google is trying to increase CTR from their paid listings.  By placing them on the same background colour and including an eye catching logo which increases stand out.  Seller ratings and Google+ are said to increase CTR by anywhere between 5-20% through the inclusion or a differentiating icon.  Whilst this badge doesn’t provide the same by way way of recommendation, it could have a similar affect in terms of stand out.

What do you think? A good hearted move to be more transparent or a cynical move to increase CTR?

Posted in PPC

Microsoft Joins in the Favicons Trial

Reports on Search Engine Land this week suggest that Google isn’t the only one which is trialling the use of favicons in their PPC ads.  Matt McGee this week posted the below screenshot showing Microsoft displaying favicons alongside their PPC ads on Live search.  Apparently this is part of an internal trial and shouldn’t actually be seen outside of Microsoft IP addresses but a bug in the system has seen it shown to a lucky few in the outside world.

With both Google and Microsoft now prove to be trialling the use of imagery in their paid search listings it appears it should just be a matter of time before they become common place on the SERP.  Well, it should make for a more decorative and visually appealing search results page but, as mentioned in my Google post, I don’t envisage it affecting CTR in the long run as it will appear on all paid results once advertisers get the hang of it.  As a result, after the first few searches with the new results, users will become blind to the logos.  That is unless the great and the good of the search engine marketing world kind find ways of standing out from the crowd.

live search favicons

Google Trialling Favicons

The social world of Twitter and the Search Marketing blogging community has been buzzing today with screenshots of Google trialling the use of favicons in Adwords creative, presumably to judge the impact on CPC.  So far I have seen examples in the bingo and car insurance markets with numerous PPC. Ads showing a favicon alongside the display URL.  Que hundreds of search marketers testing positioning of favicons to try and get theirs included. 

Its an interesting test from Google but surely if it was to be deployed across Google Adwords companies would become wise to it and all 10 would have the favicon in place?  How about, as an interested alternative, allowing only the ads which achieve a CTR. above a certain threshold to show the favicon?  A reward for writing well targeted creative and following Adwords best practice, surely that’s more beneficial than introducing something which will become nothing more than decoration for the SERP in a few months.

favicon in google ppc

favicon in google adwords

Yahoo! Search Marketing Introduces Targeting Options

Yahoo! has announced on the launch of additional targeting across both its search and content network.  They are set to introduce demographic, geographic and adscheduling options to their search marketing portal which will bring them up to speed with the competition in PPC.

There is nothing too exciting about the functions they are introducing they are all available on either Google or MSN already, but they are the first to introduce them all in one place.  Google has geographic targeting and adscheduling, but no demographic.  MSN has the demographic targeting (for what it is worth).  But now Yahoo! will have them all in one place, and their additional volume over MSN should make their demographic targeting more useful than MSN’s has ever been.

Its nice to see Yahoo! pushing forward with releases like this to boost their search offering as towards the back end of 2009 it appeared they may have been giving up the battle in search engine marketing.  The functions arent yet available in Yahoo’s Search Marketing Center but it will be interesting to see how effective they are once they are launched.

yahoo ad scheduling