Six weeks on from the biggest change in Google AdWords’ history and all the hype that ensued and, surprise surprise, the world hasn’t come to an end. Google is still making money hand over foot and us savvy advertisers are also still making money by showing our ads on the new-look Google Search Network.
Last month saw a massive change in the way the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is shown to searchers. Around the middle of February, all the ads which appeared down the right hand side disappeared.
Instead of 3 paid ads above the natural or organic listings, there are now four. Google’s announcement seemed to cause a furore in the AdWords fraternity with both paid traffic and natural listings protagonists predicting a bleak future.
However, rising above the turmoil, the more sensible, switched on commentators who actually take the time and trouble to measure the effects of any Google change started to notice some significant trends.
Most commentators assumed that the big beneficiary of this massive change would be the newly created paid-for position 4 on the SERP. To a certain extent, it was with an increase in clicks of around 15%.
The Winners and Losers
According to Larry Kim’s team at Wordstream, the biggest winner was position 3 where, under test, it appears to have doubled its CTR since the change.
Whilst we’re on the subject, the biggest losers were those advertisers whose ads regularly appeared in positions 5 to 11 as these positions no longer exist on the first page.
It could be argued though, if the best your ads were achieving were positions 5 to 11 then there was something seriously wrong with the overall quality of in the first place.
As I mentioned in last month’s article, shopping campaigns have also shown to be the beneficiaries of the new system as shopping ads get to occupy the space vacated by the sidebar ads. Local advertisers have also gained as that same vacant space can now also be taken up by more, in-depth info on local companies in response to a local search.
Now all this got me thinking.
Is Number One All it’s Cracked up to be?
Those who know me and have worked with me over the years know I’m fiercely competitive and I’ve always worked hard to grab the number one position in the SERP for The Scottish Shutter Company and for the clients whose AdWords we manage.
So Pieter De Villiers and I decided to do a test (we do love our tests – it’s really the only way to find things out). And again, we used the SSC AdWords account as our guinea pig.
What if we stopped going for the number one position and worked on our campaigns to try and engineer our ads into position 3?
I know, I hear you say – this is surely heresy? David, you’ve always told us the number one position is the only place to be – it’s where all the action is – or more precisely, where all the clicks are.
I’m not admitting I’m wrong – I’m just saying let’s test the theory.
We would do this by reducing our individual keyword bids until we were able to hover around position 2.5/3.
Let’s be clear on this – the position you end up in on the SERP is determined by your Ad Rank in each individual auction.
This score is determined by your actual bid multiplied by your keyword quality score (which itself is made up of expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience) with your use of ad extensions thrown in for good measure.
This might sound a bit complex but basically the test we were planning to do would only be relevant if we were working with keywords with a QS of 8 or higher. The SSC average QS is 9.6 – and full use is made of all the possible ad extensions.
The Results? They Might Surprise You…
We set about manually reducing our individual keyword bids, a small amount at a time – effectively relinquishing our grip on the coveted number one position.
Google can actually do this to a certain extent automatically, but – tip from me – never let Google do anything automatically. I know it would save time, but Google has only one care – and it’s not to its advertisers but to its shareholders.
Reducing keyword bids, one by one, on a daily basis is a chore but as Nigel says – do the hard work to make the selling easy.
Of course, we also increased bids if we found that we were slipping below position 2.5 to 3. We’ve been doing this for around a month now on the SSC account and with some of our other clients and the stats show something really very illuminating.
Let’s take the SSC stats.
If we compare February’s figures to March’s, then:
- Our average position for the month of March was nearly 40% down on February. This meant that we pretty much achieved our positional goal of 2.5 to 3.
- However, clicks were down 25% in March – and Impressions were down just over 15%. Not looking good. Click through rate was also down nearly 13%.
Well no actually, quite the opposite in fact.
You see, despite what a lot of agencies tell you, clicks and impressions are not all that important in the grand scheme of things. Let’s take a look at some of the other stats.
The number of conversions was actually up by almost 6%. The click conversion rate was up by 50% but, wait for it…
** drum roll **
The actual cost (the money spent with Google in the month of March) was down by 48%. Yes, 48%.
For SSC, that was a saving in March of nearly £3,000. Just by giving up the coveted number one slot and bidding less to get in position 3.
So 6% more conversions for half the amount spent. Don’t you just love it when Google makes a change?