I have to say I haven’t really been a fan of the appearance of the Adwords ads Google now shows in the above-the-SERPs positions that include the display URL in an “extended headline”. Personally I think it strongly detracts from the power of your headlines if you’re using great headline ad copy and overall looks a bit ‘blah’, especially now that they’ve also squashed the capitalization in display URLs.
For those not aware of the change, in certain circumstances when your ad appears above the SERPs, Google will add your display URL to the headline likeso:
That looks great if your headline says something utterly boring like “Google Adwords” as they have here, but if your headlines don’t suck it’s pretty gross-looking. That said, Google did do some testing before rolling this out as many search-watchers reported, and assumably it garnered higher CTRs.
This apparently started rolling out globally around May 17th, so I thought I’d wait a bit and see the effect it had (or didn’t have) on CTRs in one of my larger client accounts.
Some Early CTR Test Results
Here’s an example of a highly navigational, one-word query where my ad shows in position 1.1 almost all of the time, and I’ve confirmed Google is using the new display URL format in the ad (note: no changes to ads, keywords, or bids were made during any of these periods):
Before May 18th, on 5000 clicks: 5.17% CTR
Over 5000 navigational clicks since May 18th: 5.64% CTR
Roughly a 9% lift in CTR (Note: Not a lift TO 9% CTR)
Here’s an example of another randomly selected adgroup where the query is not really navigational in nature, but still only a two-word query (again in position 1):
Before May 18th, over 5000 clicks: 8.23% CTR
Across 5000 clicks since May 18th: 5.76% CTR
A 31% drop in CTR.
One more non-navigational, non-brand two-word query (position 1):
Before May 18th, on 5000 clicks: 3.43% CTR
Over 5000 clicks since May 18th: 2.86% CTR
A 17% drop in CTR.
So if CTR Doesn’t Climb, Why Make This Change?
Overall, when I look at these results, I’m made to wonder if the change was adopted by Google not because it lifts CTR, but because, as they say in their announcement blog post, “Potential customers, on the other hand, will be able to more easily identify the site to which they’ll be taken after they click on your ad.”
Could it be that the FTC and other governmental bodies are pressuring Google to be more clear about where a user will be going when they click an Adwords ad? This corresponds quite coincidentally with Google’s recent push for more disclosure by Adwords advertisers on their landing pages.
Of course, these are random, anecdotal CTR results, but I hadn’t seen anyone post their stats on this yet, so I thought I’d see if we could get the ball rolling and get PPC marketers to share what they’re seeing.
What are you seeing in your accounts with this change? Do you think these new headlines dilute the value of good-quality headline writing?
Share your thoughts in the comments!