By now you’ve probably heard about Google’s new layout.
In case you haven’t, Google recently cut all of the text ads from the right sidebar of search results and is exclusively showing them above and below organic results. The only ads showing on the right side are either Product Listing Ads (PLAs) or Knowledge Graph ads.
Google says this format only applies to “highly commercialized searches” which is French for “every keyword in your Adwords account”.
This change means 7 maximum ads shown on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) as opposed to 11 maximum ads.
So you’re thinking, “4 less ads, what’s the big deal? Who cares?”
EVERYONE. EVERYONE CARES.
The implementation of this new layout is one of the largest changes to happen to Google in the past 3 years.
Google’s new layout has created two major changes:
1. More ads with high visibility, and therefore high click-through-rates.
2. Less visibility for organic results.
So what does this mean to people who rely on Google traffic (free and paid)?
Here are the two major theories out there:
Theory #1: Cost-Per-Click (CPC) will skyrocket.
This seems like a logical progression. There are now 7 ads on the page, only 4 that any advertiser really wants. If we’re fighting for only 4 spots, bids will rise.
BUT, when you really think about it, before the change we only had 2 spots that advertisers really wanted. No one was really clicking on the side ads.
So maybe CPCs could drop? Stay the same?
At this point, we really don’t know. Our clients’ CPCs have remained steady since the update.
Theory #2: Organic traffic will plummet.
Another logical argument. Organic results have been shunned to the bottom of the SERP and frankly, they look way less appealing than anything else on the page. Now that SERPs are decorated with huge paid ads, knowledge graphs and PLAs, organic results look less, well, pretty.
BUT, there’s the possibility that users have become savvier to ads. And let’s face it, people kind of hate ads. So if users’ SERPs are bombarded with little yellow “ad” tags, are they going to automatically scroll past paid and dive into organic?
OR are users going to be so frustrated with the user experience that they use a different search engine all together?!
Okay, I know. I’m getting way too ahead of myself. There has been no data supporting a drop or rise in organic traffic. But I think it’s important for everyone to be looking at this situation from both sides.
Basically, if you are relying solely on free traffic, it’s time to stop digging your grave.
So now that we know the theories, what can we do to prepare for them?
Let’s start with paid search.
The only way to attack this update head on is to TEST.
TEST, TEST, TEST, TEST!
Here are 4 AdWords metrics that you NEED to be tracking now if you’re not already:
1. Ad Extensions
We already knew ad extensions were important.
But since the update, ad extensions have become about as optional as red beans on Monday. Not only are ads less abundant, they’re in the spotlight. If you’re landing in that top four, your ad NEEDS to look good.
Beyond looking good, you want to make sure your extensions are effective. FSC Interactive works regularly with representatives from Google to ensure that all of our ad campaigns are delivering the most value for our clients.
Recently, one Google Agency Account Strategist told us, “Your agency’s attention to detail probably puts them in the top 10% of agencies whose [AdWords campaign] builds I’ve seen.”
2. Average Position
Everyone and their mother is debating which ad position will be the Holy Grail. Some people say 1, some say 4 and some say all of the above. I’ve read extensive research that 3 is the golden child of the 4.
But who knows. All we can do is test, and optimize accordingly.
Find the position that maximizes your favorite metric’s performance, and work that sweet spot!
This one’s going to be huge, because the value of a good click-through-rate may decrease. Years of Google’s studies have shown that top ads get higher click-throughs. But are post-update clicks going to be qualified?
Is the correlation between your click-through-rates and conversions rates the same as it was pre-update?
You should be checking your CPC religiously. If what many are saying is going to happen does happen, CPCs are going to increase substantially, and we’re all going to have to step back and evaluate keyword effectiveness.
But that’s a different discussion for another day.
So let’s move on to organic!
What the heck are people that rely on organic traffic to do?
First and foremost, track your traffic. This update occurred on February 19th, 2016. Has your organic traffic decreased overall?
If so, what specific pages are seeing the decrease? Are these pages likely to come up in a highly commercialized search?
If so, consider optimizing the pages that aren’t. Optimize for super long-tail searches that avoid the ad snafu all together and build them into beautiful long-form masterpieces of link-able content.
For those of you further-down-the-funnel-folk, here are my recommendations:
Use Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
Much like ad extensions, Title Tags and Meta Descriptions are no longer optional. You’re a Toyota Corolla competing with the Ferraris of the SERPs. So you best have some dope rims.
Implement Paid Search
This may feel like selling out or giving up, but it’s not. Regardless of whether or not your organic traffic stays stagnant, it will undoubtedly perform better when paired with a paid campaign. That’s an indisputable fact.
Paid search and SEO can still be friends.
So in conclusion, we really don’t have enough data yet to make legitimate claims on how this update has affected our campaigns. We will continue to gather data and optimize accordingly.
If all of this sounds like a foreign language to you, contact FSC Interactive and let us set up the integrated ad campaign you’ve always dreamed of.