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Google Changes Paid Ad Placements

In an announcement from Google via the AdWords Blog, effective November 2nd, ads that have previously shown to the side of the organic search results may now being to appear below them.  Google says that they will be dynamically optimizing each results page to provide the best experience for users, meaning the layout may not be the same for each query.  The company states that they have been testing the different layouts, and that in some cases, they have found that displaying the paid ads at the bottom of the page seems to fit better within user flow as pages are scanned from top to bottom.  The top listings will continue to show above the organic search results.  The blog post indicates that through the testing, Google has found that in many cases, listings at the bottom delivered better click through rates than those along the side.

This new layout could very well be a bid strategy game-changer for some AdWords advertisers.  Many search marketers today structure their bidding strategies around sustainable goals and objectives (cost per acquisition, return on ad spend, etc.)  Depending on the performance impact of the new layout, some advertisers may be tempted, or in some cases forced, to aim for top positions on Google.  The biggest mistake that marketers can make, however, is a knee-jerk reaction.  There will be some data available surrounding the performance, and I would encourage advertisers to gauge that before making significant changes to their bidding.

For those unfamiliar with the reporting capability, Google AdWords advertisers have been able to view performance data for top vs. side ads by selecting the “Top vs. Side” segment in the Campaign screen of the AdWords interface.  This selection will now be called “Top vs. Other”.


 In this view, advertisers will be able to see impressions, clicks, CTR, spend, CPC, and other standard metrics for ads appearing on top vs. to the side or below the search results.  I would encourage advertisers to take some benchmark captures of the data as the results stand today, and use that as means of comparison.  (Alternatively, results will be viewable based on date ranges selected for comparison).   Based on what the results show, bid strategies may need to be adjusted if bottom placements can’t sustain the same or better level of performance compared to current side placements.

The curious timing of such a change lends itself to the hypothesis that this is yet another way for Google to keep earning.  In a time when most retail advertisers are starting to ramp their spend for the mad holiday shopping rush, some companies may be prone to make the knee-jerk reaction to increase their visibility to help ensure top placement, and in doing so more comfortably gain the exposure among those starting to get into the holiday shopping spirit.  This could mean rapid cost per click inflation.  Additionally, the fact that Google will be “dynamically optimizing” each SERP is very likely based on data that shows how clicks can best be capitalized on for each query.  While this does provide traffic potential for advertisers, it also provides Google with a way to optimize it’s earnings per page.

On a final note, this “new layout” isn’t really all that new.  Yahoo previously had a top and bottom display of paid advertising that it moved away from in order to fit more advertisers onto one page.  It will be interesting to see if the other engines follow suit, as they did in the past when they chose to mirror Google’s top and side layout.

 To read the official Google AdWords Blog announcement, please visit:

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