Searching for answers

Google AdWords created a new headache for digital marketers earlier this year. 

It confirmed that paid search ads would no longer be displayed on the right side of a Google search engine result page (SERP).

Ads would continue to appear at the top of the page, as they always have since AdWords’ inception 15 years ago.

The change represented the first of several that highlight the changing landscape of paid search campaigns. Google itself highlighted how AdWords has evolved  to include other media such as display and video media and to offer more call to action conveniences such as click-to-call.

On Google’s Inside AdWords site, Google shares the following aspiration: “This rise in complexity has created the need to reimagine AdWords, and over the past year, our product teams have been thinking hard about how we can make AdWords as relevant for the next 15 years as the first 15." 

Thus, if paid search is an integral part of your digital marketing strategy, you should plan to not just follow Google for more changes, but also pause to learn how your strategy blends with the changes AdWords is creating.

No Ads on The Right Side

So what does the no-ads-on-the-right-side mean for future paid search strategies? For now the key to appreciating the changes is to examine how AdWords provide added information meant to be relevant to the intended audience. Wordstream founder and CTO Larry Kim, for example, noted in a guest post how AdWords extensions, which have been long available, have suddenly become crucial in influencing conversions.

AdWords extensions offer ad viewers more details about the advertising business. For example, location extensions display a map that reveals a nearby branch location while review extensions showcase third-party reviews that assure customers that customer service will be well covered.

The AdWords display adjustment also means a revised context that makes mobile and desktop user experiences more coherent from Google’s perspective. The original premise for paid search was for extending an advertiser’s appearance for a keyword.

But with Google’s ad removal, marketers must audit how ad messages for mobile and desktop are optimized. Comparing mobile and desktop, the number of ads appearances at the top of the SERP can differ.

I snapped a photo shows the results for the word “cars” in my laptop and smartphone. In the SERP, I saw 4 ads in my smartphone versus 2 on the laptop. Such a scenario introduces unexpected nuances. Imagine ads from your competitors not appearing in desktop search, but yet showing up alongside yours in mobile, a device that draws the customers most likely to act on an offer.

Overall, you should investigate your campaigns and audit where you stand, yet remain cautious on making wholesale changes. Other advertising options may be dependent on your given advertising campaigns, and paid search competitor Bing has not adopted a similar change as of yet.

The changes arrive as some industry experts expect some revenues headwinds for Google. eMarketer predicts that video ads and mobile ads will rise at Google while advertising revenue will slow to “single digits”.

Google has already positioned itself for video and, in particular, mobile; eMarketer also reports that Google’s share of global mobile internet ad revenues is a third, and mobile is helping to power the company’s overall ad revenue growth rate. Thus, changes that complement consumer usage trends across devices are understandable.

Other Changes Are Coming

The right-side ad free announcement comes at the dawn of a revised AdWords Manager, the first significant changes for the user interface since its inception. The interface will be rolled out over the course of the year, promising better usage in the accounts and with shared usage alongside Google Analytics.

AdWords interface will incorporate material design, a design philosophy being use and user experience. Google has implemented material design in its other platforms like Google Maps and Gmail.

There are other changes afoot. Google Analytics has incorporated a deep link in its AdWords reports. Users click on an AdWords logo to access a specific campaign. This eliminates requiring a separate browser tab to look at an AdWords account alongside the analytic results, making campaign changes easier to identify and implement.

Moreover, further feature announcements will be shared at the Google Performance Summit on May 24. I will follow up with highlights from the upcoming livestream coverage of the summit.

But in the meantime, marketers should see changes that can trigger more meaningful campaign strategy changes. In short, they should expect simpler campaign tools for better marketing decisions — no matter where an ad appears.

Title image "Searching" (CC BY 2.0) by  kevin dooley