Have you been seeing ads in unexpected places in Google search results? After testing it for months, Google recently announced that they are officially adding "bottom ads" on their search results pages. These ads appear below organic search results, and directly above page navigation.
For example, I was recently looking for a new desktop Twitter client. Searching for twitter client gave me the following results.
We see no ads on top of the organic results, and no ads to the side of the organic results. Scrolling down, there are two ads directly above the "Goooooooooogle" page navigation.
What does this mean for users? Not much. This ad placement only shows up for a fraction of searches anyway, so many users may never even encounter it. The only danger is if users feel misled by seeing ads "where they don't belong". In a similar example, Bing received criticism this summer when testing ads within the organic search results.
What does this mean for advertisers? Google is pushing this change as a win for advertisers. In their blog post, they highlight that below-result ads had better click through rates than side ads for certain queries. (And Google has the data to know when bottom ads will be more effective.)
But advertisers will always be concerned by the unknown, and Google is increasing the unknowns with this change. Previously, advertisers could see how their ads were performing in the top placement versus the side placement. One would think that an additional placement would yield more data: top vs. side vs. bottom. But instead, Google has combined the side and bottom data into the "other" category, leaving advertisers without that key piece of information.
What's more, advertisers used to know when their ads were visible on the initial screen load, or "above the fold" in web terms. If your ad had an average position of three or lower, you could be almost guaranteed that it was at least glanced at by a user. But with this change, your ad can be in the top position and still be at the very bottom of the page. If a user clicks away without scrolling, the ad will be counted as having one impression in the top ad slot without even being seen.
This isn't the end of the world– Hendo is quick to remind us that "there is no fold"– but advertisers will at least want to have some information on where their ads are being placed, and at most want some control over those placements. The AdWords service often innovates more quickly than its own reporting tools can keep up with, so that information and control may be coming soon. In the meantime, we'll be watching the ever changing world of the AdWords platform.
What do you think is the next major change in the Google search results page?