Will Google's paid ads affect marketers?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

Google's paid ads: What will the impact be for marketers? Dorothy Weaver, VP of digital marketing services at Acquirgy, and Tej Shah, VP of e-commerce and marketing at Blue Soda Promo, weigh in.

YES

Dorothy Weaver, VP of digital marketing services at Acquirgy, 13 years of marketing industry experience

Google's decision to not only allow paid search ads to be shown above the organic results  (as they are now), but also to the right (also as they traditionally have been) and below the organic listings, will have a major impact in four ways:

  • Some return on investment (ROI) metrics are likely to decline.
  • This change could affect quality score.
  • Click costs could increase in certain positions.
  • The amount of work to track where ads actually appear and the associated results adds a significant layer of complexity to search metrics.

First, for each keyword, the return on advertising spending (or whatever metric you use) can either increase (not likely), decrease (likely in some cases) or remain the same. There will be immediate ROI impacts, and search engine managers will need to develop strategies based around those changes. Will we see more advertisers spending more money to be in the results that appear above the organic listings?

This change could also affect the Google quality score. Under the new plan, ads will now appear below the fold, and the consumer may never see them, so the result will be impressions without clicks. This means a lower click-through rate and possibly a lower quality score.

Third, if there is a run on the top positions (usually first to third, above the organic results), those click costs will be higher. While today you can have eight to 10 advertisers sitting above the fold, all visible to the consumer without scrolling, that won't be true when this change is implemented.

Lastly, now every search term needs to be tracked and analyzed based on where it actually appeared. Search managers and developers of tracking software will now have to make changes in order to effectively track and report on this change, and analysts and managers will need to develop strategies based on ads having less visibility.

This is clearly a major change — one likely to impact every advertiser. An unintended consequence is that this move might favor marketers with deep pockets who can afford to pay for positions above the organic listings. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

NO

Tej Shah, VP of e-commerce and marketing at Blue Soda Promo, seven years of marketing industry experience

Earlier this month, Google announced that it will be moving the placement of some of its paid advertisements on the right side of the page to the bottom beneath the organic search results. I don't believe this will have a lasting impact on marketers, either positive or negative.

Testing the new layout for months on a small percentage of users, Google claims that the new ad placements have higher click-through rates, providing more clicks for advertisers. Infamous for striving to constantly improve user experience, Google pointed out in a blog post that they have found the “ads below search results fits better into the user's flow as they scan the page from top to bottom.”

However, as a veteran search engine marketer, new and inexperienced Google users may find the right column ads distracting and confusing, while those who regularly use Google, like myself, learn to simply ignore the ads completely, regardless of their location. A study by the organization User Centric found that users spend more time viewing Google's organic search results than they do paid advertising placements.

Moving the ads to the bottom of the page may create a more integrated and consistent experience, but will it change how users view paid ads vs. organic search results? I doubt it.

Despite the potential benefit of increased click-through rates, some search marketers are still concerned that the change will have a negative impact on businesses that want to advertise on Google, especially those in competitive markets. The new layout eliminates up to four of the listings on the first page, which results in the same amount of competition for fewer spots. According to GroupM, this decreased supply could drive up the average cost-per-click, forcing businesses to spend more to get exposure. Regardless of this, GroupM went on to conclude, “there is little doubt that these changes have the potential to have a substantial, negative impact for advertisers and the efficiency of their campaigns.”

In spite of this potential, Google's algorithms have helped them dominate the search engine market, receiving about two out of every three searches placed on the Internet. Moving ads around the page will not change Google's dominance in this regard. The new changes are more likely to prove to be beneficial than negative for both users and advertisers, if there is any lasting effect at all.

Direct Marketing News Decision

It's a well-known fact that no one — especially consumers — like to adjust to new content delivery. However, Google's new ad positions may actually trick some consumers into clicking on ads they may have ignored in the typical right-screen position. Will the move be a boon or a bust for marketers? Only time will tell.

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