Google Moves Adwords Positioning – Google Wins – Advertisers May Lose

Update on 8/26: ok… So sometimes a rant is justified and sometimes not – and sometimes it is unclear. You are welcome to read the following rant, since I still stand by the concerns about higher clicks and potentially lower conversion based on positioning of the Adwords sponsored links in search results pages, however…

After looking more closely at my campaign changes for the week, it seems that much of the degradation in conversion rates were based on changes to the content campaigns, not just the search campaigns (although some were affected).

Pardon what is going to be a bit of a rant. I want to warn you, so that if you are a Google-phile, you can walk away now….

According to a post on The Search Agents blog, Google Moves Ads to the Left, Clickthrough Rate Jumps 10%, Google moved the PPC ads from right justified to right next to the natural search results, starting around August 18. Zack MacLean shows some nice graphics and information about the change.

Now for the DARK side of this change…

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On Tuesday, I reorganized my content campaigns so that I had separate adgroups for banners and for text ads. I wanted to test some things in creative ads, and having them organized this way makes sense. I was anticipating some changes, but not nearly what I saw.

Starting on August 18, my costs sky-rocketed and conversion rate dove. I was absolutely confused!  Now, after three days of head-scratching, soul-searching and spreadsheet-hell, I find out that it wasn’t me – No, Google, it was you.

At first, I thought my campaign reorganization was to blame. When you make big campaign changes, it can take some time for results to even out, especially since I am using the Conversion Optimizer on content campaigns – so I expected fluctuation – but not a 50% drop in conversion rates AND a 30% increase in costs… IN ONE DAY.

Here is the summary from Google Adwords. The change date is highlighted in yellow.

Higher costs, lower conversions.

Higher costs, lower conversions.

So, those of you who are used to looking at daily results in Google Adwords (or in Analytics) can see the problem. Cost per conversion jumped DRAMATICALLY and conversion rate plummeted.

So, by changing the location of the Adwords ads, Google has increased their profits and decreased their value to their customers considerably. Unfortunately, what Google seems to not understand is that people have something called “fixed budgets.” Yes, we do not have endlessly deep pockets from which we can pull money to put in your coffers. But on the other hand, you have us over a barrel – you have the traffic, can set the price (auction my a** – there are enough black-box metrics that you control to keep us all in the dark), and now you are finding new and creative ways to gouge your advertisers.

So, I am back to the drawing board with setting up my campaign optimizations. Just when I was getting on a positive roll. Thanks, Google, because I really DO want to spend all of my time optimizing, tweaking and changing my PPC campaigns. Really, I don’t have anything else to do.

</rant>

Now I feel better. Oh, and I would suggest that you look at your campaigns, too, to see if your metrics are slipping around the same timeframe.

Conclusion: changes to the positioning of ads will increase the likelihood that people will click on them. This may also mean that people are likely to click on more ads before committing to one advertisers product or service. That being the case, costs per acquisition will go up, conversion rates will go down, and how you think about ad positioning may change.