Google’s relentless march to completely indistinguishable ad layouts took a big step forward with the implementation of a change to the handling of headlines in ads found above the organic SERPs.
This change coincided with a move back to light yellow backgrounds on top-position ads, ditching the highly noticeable pink that’s been in place for a while now. (Anyone want to bet how long it will be until the background colours disappear completely?)
I’ve seen some crazy CTR-lift numbers batted around in PPC expert circles, with some managers reporting seeing lift as high as 50% or more.
Early Test Results
I ran my own split test to see how much the CTR can be lifted with these new, elongated ad headlines above the SERPs, and I thought I’d share the results so far. The results were indeed positive, but not as good as I’ve heard others mention.
First off, it’s hard to isolate the test to only report on ads that appear above the SERPs, (sometimes Google will show the #1 and #2 ad on the right, where there’s no room for the extended headline to show).
So you have to find a keyword to test the new ads on where you’re sure that 99% of the time your ad appears above the serps where the new format will appear.
I have only one or two keywords where I can guarantee that happens and that have enough traffic to test with accurately, and yes, I realize that position 2.1 isn’t a guarantee that my ad will show above the SERPs even 99% of the time, but this is a keyword I’ve advertised on for years, and in my experience always has had (and continues to have) three ads shown above the organic results.
Anywhoo, I was able to run a pretty stable ad rotation and here’s the results thus far:
A 13% lift is great and I’ll take it, but I was expecting more, particularly when these new headlines look SO much like organic results.
I ran the test on other ads and keywords as well, the results showed no difference, but I think is because I couldn’t guarantee that the ads were not showing on the right, in which case a period isn’t going to make any difference to CTR per se.
Impact for Advertisers
The big thing I see here is that if your competitor is aware of this new change and is actually running ads with the new headlines, their CTR is going to rise leaving you in the dust in the auction.
Basically, you need to be first or pretty damn quick to implement it if you dont’ want to fall too far behind in CTRs and quality score.
Google’s ability to turn their revenue dials to bring in more paid clicks is truly enviable. I can’t wait for their Q1 paid click results to see what impact this has had overall.
What CTR increases have you noticed so far?