My, oh my has the search engine results page evolved over the past few years. Raise your hand if you miss the days of typing in a key phrase to be greeted with a crisp page that presented ten organized and relevant results. Don’t get me wrong, I think the evolution of search to include maps, videos, author pictures, etc. is great (occasionally).
While Pay-Per-Click advertising has gone through its fair share of changes in the past few years, I would argue that the rate of growth as compared to organic results is significantly less. Let’s take a look at the results page that appears when I type in a search for the NBA’s Tim Tebow-like sensation, Jeremy Lin.
Notice the PPC ads include seller ratings, product (shopping feed) pictures, sitelinks and more. At a broader level, you will see the structure of the AdWords ads that appear at the top and side of the page appear differently. What is happening here?!
The actual advertisement text is still there, but Google is simply presenting it differently. The two typical ad formats for PPC advertisements at the top of the page are:
Ad Title – Description Line 1
Description Line 2
Ad Title | Domain Name
Description Line 1 + Description Line 2
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It depends.
Typically the click-through-rate for these top advertisements is higher because they more closely resemble organic results, have a colored background that catches your eye and are typically the first item that draws your attention when the page loads.
When choosing the top ads, Google looks at three main factors:
1. Relevance of the advertisement.
2. Historical performance of the ad.
3. The amount of cash you are willing to bid to have your ad shown.
If you are determined to have your ad show in the top position, heed my warning: I have noticed an abundance of ads over the past couple of months where their syntax makes no sense whatsoever. Why would Google format the ads in a way that does not make sense to users?
As previously noted, Google will sometimes pull in all or some of your description line 1 to add to the title. Google states that this alteration will occur when they have “determined that your first description line is a complete phrase or sentence” in an attempt to create a “more noticeable headline”. The problem arises when Google mistakenly assumes that your first description line 1 is a complete phrase (i.e. you abbreviate a word that Google does not recognize). The result is an advertisement that makes almost no sense. This leaves users confused and unlikely to click on your ad.
The next issue occurs when description line 1 is written without any punctuation. We used to be able to get away with this because the line separation between description line 1 and description line 2 provided somewhat of a pause to the searcher. Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore if your ad appears in the top ad section. Take some time to do some searches for some of your favorite products. Notice that a lot of top advertisements include run-on sentences in the description line because of the lack of punctuation separating description line 1 and 2. Google will sometimes combine these two lines into one without any punctuation to separate.
From here on out, if you write your PPC ads in the AdWords interface, you should be fine since Google provides a live preview of what your ad will look like if it appears on the top or on the side. My advice is to go through your existing PPC ads and make sure that they are not being converted into an ambiguous babbling of words.
Here is how you can use the top ad placement to your advantage:
- For most ads, include a short, informative description line 1 that features a call to action so Google appends the description line 1 to the existing title.
- If you own a new site and are looking to increase your brand awareness, aim to come close to the 35 character limit for both description line 1 & 2. This will enable Google to attach your domain name to the headline.
- Include relevant keywords within the ad text so these words appear bolded when shown.
- Be sure to include a punctuation mark at the end of description line 1 to avoid any run on sentence issues.
Lastly, to measure the performance of your PPC campaign, AdWords has an option to segment via the “Top vs. Other” category. Maybe bidding high for one of your medium-valued keywords in the campaign isn’t the best strategy. Perhaps being in position 4 will produce better results for you!
Analyzing this information will provide you with the necessary information to make better informed campaign decisions.