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Three changes to Google ads you should be aware of

While Google Instant Preview pretty much stole the show this month, it wasn’t the only development in the wonderful world of search. Here’s a brief look at three subtle changes to text ads that occurred in November, which may affect user behaviour and ultimately click through rates from the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).

Sponsored Links are now Ads

Sponsored Links have now been labelled as Ads. This change came into effect during November after testing was reported in October. It is a minor text change which may have been made to accommodate the richer ad formats and extensions which are now served, for example, map and product extensions.

Before:

After:

So what?
A study by Harvard Business School Professor Benjamin Edelman examined this change and found that a hypothetical change from “sponsored link” to “paid advertisement” resulted in “25% to 33% fewer clicks” on those ads. However, a separate study by The Search Agency contradicted those findings, stating that CTRs increased by 11.4 per cent. They took into account average positions as well as CPC.

User perceptions of paid listing may now be different, but the jury is still out as to whether or not this will have an impact on overall click through rates.

Display URL in Top Bar

The display URL for paid listing in the “blue” bar has shifted to below the description text in the ad. Each copy in the premium position now has an additional line of text. On a practical level, this means that if there are three ads in premium position, then the natural listings will be pushed down by a further three lines of text.

Before:

After:

So what?

As we read from left to right, description line text will be read immediately. The additional line of text will increase real estate above, giving prominence to paid listings. Also, as it will be in its own line, this presents the opportunity to have a more creative and catchy display URL. The combination of these factors is likely to facilitate an overall increase in click through rates.

Display URL in Side Bar

Location targeted paid listings used to have the address/location below the display URL. It is now above the display URL. This change is similar to the previous example as the display URL has been shifted to the bottom line.

Before:

After:

So what?
I am not a fan. The new format presents the address as part of the descriptive text and makes the ad copy feel cluttered. In the example above the ad simply loses its flow. This may impact click through rates negatively and I would suggest revising and testing variations of the address displayed if you run these.