Ben Childs
By Ben Childs | Uncategorized | November 10, 2013

New Ad Extension Rules- Game Changer?

Late last month, Google announced what was probably their biggest update to the ad auction since they introduced Quality Score back in 2008: along with max bid and Quality Score, Ad Rank is now also going to account for the ad extensions and formats that your ad is using. In addition, Ad Rank has become more important in determining whether extensions or different formats are even eligible to show at all.

Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look at the change from a big picture. Here are 3 of my thoughts.

1. It’s not the seismic change that it seems to be – for now

Google has consistently been trying to nudge more and more advertisers into using ad extensions ever since they were first introduced. Keeping this in mind, when news of the Ad Rank change broke, this seemed to be their dirtiest trick yet. Most managers will do whatever it takes to improve their accounts but they don’t want a gun to their heads.

However, taking a deeper look at the verbiage in the original Inside AdWords post, it’s actually not so bad after all:

 “If two competing ads have the same bid and quality, then the ad with the more positive expected impact from extensions will generally appear in a higher position than the other.”

So really, it just breaks ties in Ad Rank, which rarely happen. In fact, that actually seems like a smart idea. Why wouldn’t Google have a tiebreaker, and isn’t this as good as any? It keeps all the tools in a manager’s bag (quality score, bid adjustments, etc.)  while using some Google favoritism (stuff that gets clicks) as a tie breaker.

At first glance, this seemed like a travesty. But upon further examination, it’s not so bad.

2. Upon further, further examination, our initial reaction will eventually be a reality

Google is interested in getting paid clicks. Every single update that they’ve made has lead to rewarding people for clicks (Quality Score), finding new ways to charge for clicks (taking phone numbers out of the ad) or making ads more likely to get clicks (ad extensions that take up more real estate).

Paid ads have grown bigger and bigger (the rumor holds that Google is currently beta-testing adding character-space in the ad text) and Organic search has gotten pushed further and further and further down the page. That’s not a trend that’s going to go the opposite way anytime soon.

Initially, I thought that ad extensions would become a major component in Ad Rank, but I was incorrect. For how long though? I believe that Ad Rank still has major changes coming over the next 24 months or so as Google looks to squeeze juice out of paid search.

This isn’t an indictment on Ad Extensions. They often, as Google will say, enhance the search experience and help people find what they’re looking for. But for many advertisers, some extensions are still marginal decisions (not all clicks are good clicks!) as they figure out what helps searchers and what doesn’t.

3. It’s a wake up call to both advertisers and marketers to get with the program

That last paragraph. The part where I said “for many advertisers, some extensions are marginal decisions.” Remember that? The decision isn’t going to be marginal some time in the near future. It’s going to be get-clicks-or-go-bust.

If you’ve been playing around with extensions, it’s time to get educated and up your game. What was once an interesting tool (or just a fun thing to test) is soon going to be both mandatory and critically important to your campaign’s success. I imagine if someone were to compare an AdWords book written 6 months ago to one written 18 months from now, extensions would have gone from one of the last 3 chapters (“wingdings and fun stuff!”) to one of the first 3 (“Ad Extensions: be louder than everybody else”).

This is important on a macro level. It’s part of a larger trend:  Google figuring out ways to make paid results (their source of revenue) more prominent and, as a consequence, organic results less-so.

I’ve already had a couple multi-disciplinary marketers tell me that in 2014 they’re going to be focusing more on paid search. Google is signaling more and more strongly that’s the way the first page is going.

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