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Google logoIt seems to have been a really rather busy few weeks for Google, with them testing new variations of PPC advert display all over the place.

If you’re not familiar with this practice, Google split-test paid search adverts with slightly different appearances – for example something in a slightly different colour – across a huge number of potentially worldwide searches and judge whether certain variations are more successful in terms of encouraging click-through.

Why do they do this? Well, Google always trot out the party line of “improving user experience”, which can mean a user getting to the information they want quicker. But in the end paid ads make Google money, so the more people click on these as opposed to ‘natural’ listings the more money Google makes. Here’s a summary of the changes we’ve seen popping up recently:

Yellow advert background

What’s in a colour? A lot apparently. Google’s switch to the purply-style background from yellow was quite well documented in 2010, but they now appear to be introducing yellow back into the mix. Did the purple result in an improved click-through that has subsequently fallen? It could well be a ‘shock of the new’ effect, with searchers becoming ‘ad blind’ to changes after a period of time. We’re now seeing the yellow so much it seems to be a wide-spread standard for searches now.

adwords yellow background

And to remind you, here’s the ‘old’ purple:

adwords purple background

Google Places local extensions map pins

Although we were aware of Google proposing to display Google Places extensions map pins for Google Boost accounts (a kind of ‘stripped down’ automatic Adwords for small, bricks and mortar businesses, rolling out across the US) they’ve been expanding this to Adwords paid search as announced here. It’s potentially a big thing, and is another step in Google’s desire to improve the relevancy of ‘local’ searches following their big changes earlier in the year. Paid adverts will feature a blue map pin as opposed to the red pin of the natural results, and this appears both in the advert area and the map displayed on the right side of the results page. It will be interesting to clarify how these map pin local extensions will combine with / replace the previous local extensions integration seen in the purple image above, where users are given an option of ‘+ show map of [company] locations near [location]‘. You may notice that the second listing has a non-standard character in the title but they’re unlikely to get away with this for long. Plus, there’s something more interesting in that listing…

adwords blue map pin

Extra long ad titles

Google has also been testing moving the first description line up to the title to make an extra long title. It will only do this if the first line of the description is a grammatically-formed sentence with punctuation i.e. you won’t see this on adverts where the sentence carries across both lines. The moved text will be separated by a dash (–). Admittedly with ads displayed in the first three positions, as above, the two lines of description appear as just one line so it’s difficult to make out where the split is, but PPC advertisers will know that each description line is limited to 35 characters.

The ol’ display URL switcheroo

Our final Adwords change is courtesy of the chaps at Black Hat PPC and shows a switch of the display URL from final position to underneath the headline.

Facebook ads go horizontal

Facebook are known for their interface changes (and the excessive reactions they sometimes draw from users), and they’re not averse to playing around with ads. However Facebook are pretty poor at letting advertisers know what’s happening, so you have to keep your eyes peeled for changes that could ruin the display of your ads. The most recent change in from a primarily ‘vertical’ ad display (below right) to a ‘horizontal’ display (below left). facebook ad horizontal facebook ads vertical

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