Google Speaks Out on AdWords Changes

It’s fair to say that Google’s recent change to where and how many AdWords ads are shown in search results has provoked a lot of discussion amongst search marketers. It’s not just me and you talking about it, and not just anyone running AdWords campaigns — it’s also those involved with SEO.

Now, belated as it is, Google is at last providing more commentary on the changes, and why they were necessary.

ga changes

Writing for Search Engine Land, Managing Director of Ads Marketing Matt Lawson explains that Google made the changes:

  • To improve user experience
  • To make that experience consistent across devices (desktop, tablet and mobile)

We have heard this before, of course.

But Lawson also states that the data show no impact for small advertisers (those many think may be priced out of the market), and no change in auction behaviour. “Small advertisers as a whole haven’t seen much of a change in clicks”, he states, adding “there have been no appreciable changes to cost-per-click in aggregate”.

Lawson is what those who know him would call a stand-up guy. Some 10 years ago we were co-workers at web analytics company Coremetrics and, if he’s saying this, I’ve no reason to think it untrue. However, he is talking about results “in aggregate” and small advertisers “as a whole”. As those of us who habitually work with data know, shift your focus to averages and totals and it’s easy to overlook any extremes in performance (good or bad).

There’s danger, also, in jumping too quickly to conclusions. Yes, everyone wants to know right now what to expect after these changes. But, as the advertising fine print all too often says, your experience may differ.

Two examples. With a large customer base (2,367 accounts), but only four days of data, search platform provider WordStream stated that clickthroughs for ads shown in position three doubled, while those in position 4 saw a 15% increase. WordStream used US data for its analysis, which was at odds with the results seen by Accuracast, a UK digital marketing agency. Accuracast examined half a million searches and, with a smaller number of clients but seven days of data, concluded that position 4 clickthrough rates improved by 18.2% (while CTR for position 3 fell by 5.6%).

Why should you care?

The AdWords landscape has changed and the dust has yet to settle, and it may be some time before it does. But since it is our business to do so we will keep analysing our results and making AdWords changes where we see the need.

That, too, is Lawson’s recommendation: watch your bids and budgets. And focus on your ad extensions, ad copy and targeting.

Or, to put it another way, keep on optimising your campaigns, just as you were before.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer

Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.