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September 18, 2006

What Happens When Google Removes Top Paid Ads in Blue?

By Li Evans

On Friday and over the rest of the weekend RustyBrick on SERoundtable and Search Engine Watch, and the crew over at WebMaster World were reporting about the top "Blue" paid ads, disappearing from Google's Search Results.

One of the posters on WebMaster World, called their Google Adwords Representative to question exactly why this happened.  The result? In a nutshell, Google's testing a new way of serving the ads, if a user never clicks on top blue ads, they move all the ads to the right.  Why?  Because the algorithmn assumes the person doesn't want to see them, and natural results are more relevant to that particular searcher.

Coming into 4th quarter, as a retailer, I think I'd be a bit concerned about this.  I know more than a few eyebrows will be raised at this latest development in Adwords. I've got more than a few questions running around in my head too.  Namely, if this is happening, does the price per click get lowered since you are now not getting that prime real estate of those top 1-3 blue areas above the natural listings?  Isn't that what I pay top dollar to get?

Let's take the example I came up with - and I easily found these, because I'm not one that clicks on paid ads.  I searched on Google for "Thomas the Tank Engine".  I didn't get any top blue ads.

Thomas the Tank Engine Search Engine Results

If I were a retailer running a toy promotion, especially Thomas the Tank Engine (an extremeley "hot" children's toy line - especially around Christmas), I'd be rather concerned.  I would be taking an extremely close look at my traffic coming into my site from Google Adwords, along with the analytics on the conversion. 

That now brings up another point - how does Google count the position - is that #3 or #4 since there is no Blue area.  For those big on the analytics of the ad placement -- how do you know if your ad is really doing well in the placement its at, because - is it truly at "#4" or is it the "#1" on the right hand side?  How will Google define this to advertisers?

Wow - what a can of worms this is going to open for Adwords advertisers who closely monitor their budgets on placement of ads.  I know - I was one of them, and I'd be on the phone with my Google representative right away.

This is about the time where Google should be communicating in their AdWords Blog, like the Webmaster Central Crew communicates with their audience on their blog.  The Inside Adwords Blog has numerous posts and some updates out there, but nothing referencing this "testing" or this change going on.  The latest two entries - Google Adwords Philosophy and Video ads tips and tricks (part 1 of 3) obviously aren't speaking to what's going on.  Hopefully they'll head this off before it becomes a major concern to retailers and ends up costing them repuatation wise.

Others discussing Google Removing Paid Ads from the top of the SERPs:

digg this story | searchmob | sniff it


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