Location, location, location. After many months of test marketing, Google has decided that AdWords, their main advertising and revenue product, would benefit from placing ads in a new location on the search engine results page: at the bottom, just below the organic search results.
Up until this recent change, AdWords ads were always featured at the top and/or right-hand side of the organic search results. Frequent Google searchers always knew that the official results for their search were sandwiched between under the top ads on the left.
If you were apprehensive about clicking on a sponsored ad, you knew that anything to the left and at the bottom was an organic search result. At this point, it doesn’t take a genius advertising placement engineer to figure out that people are going to gravitate to the bottom of the organic search results with their clicks. Google is placing ads exactly where the clicks are headed.
In response to the recent change, the Google AdWords support team commented that the new ads at the bottom of the search engine results page “fit better into the user’s flow as they scan the page from top to bottom.” They also acknowledged that ads will show either at the right side or at the bottom but not both. That’s a relief. Some might think that top ads, side ads, maps, images, related searches, and now bottom ads, are making the world’s most popular search engine regress to the likes of a 2005 ASK Jeeves results page (yikes!).
So Google says that that the new ad placement change stems from a user experience design need? Yeah, perhaps. Could it also be motivated by money? Yes. It is absolutely motivated by money. Google knows that they don’t get paid until AdWords ads get their clicks. Now, before you fly off the handle, remember that this is a win-win scenario. Site owners want traffic and shoppers directed to their site (which are, in turn, converted into buyers). Consequently, Google wants to put as many interested shoppers in touch with sites that may service their needs because it’s good business all around. If Google thinks that they can supply advertisers with more clicks and put more revenues in their pocket by placing ads somewhere else on the page – they’ll do it. And even though average people (especially business owners) are typically resistant to change, it’s really quite beneficial for us all. But there are some complexities.
Google’s official line is that the bottom currently performs better than the right hand side – but they’re not eliminating all right-hand side ads, merely opening new areas for ad placement. Some might say that the growing need for more advertising placement (and revenues) has Google fitting ad products into every nook and cranny. This may not be the case. If the new ad placement does indeed stem from research that shows that some ads will perform better at the bottom of the organic search results, then Google has made a business case for the change. In the long-run, if it’s beneficial, great. But if click-through rates (CTR) begin to drop for ads that previously offered a reliable source of website traffic, there’s going to be a lot of distressed hand-wringing going on in the back offices of small businesses everywhere.
Furthermore, competition may increase to insure bids are set to rank on the top of the page and not the bottom. Perhaps, this is additional incentive for Google’s change.
A few things are certain: in the AdWords game, there is an awful lot of data and detail to monitor. For most business or site owners, the additional effort comes at a time when the small business economy begs attention from their every waking moment. More placements mean more challenges and more monitoring to ensure your return on investment. The online marketing team at Rank Fuse Interactive has already taken steps to ensure that the Google ad placement change does not adversely affect our client results.