Google Bottom Ad Placements Eroding CTR

By , President at Hanapin Marketing

275 SHARES

I wrote a post last week about the new Google ad placements. It took a while for me to spot an instance of an ad at the bottom of search results, but I finally did. And when I did, it concerned me.

What I saw wasn’t cases of the top placements being full and what would be on the side being at the bottom. The only instances I saw of bottom ads were where sponsored links could only be seen at the bottom of the page.

Here’s what the bottom ad for “Canadian Club Soda” looked like for me:

 

Google Bottom Ad Placements

 

Based on about 50 queries, what appears to be happening to me is, low competition queries are showing ads in the new placement and high competition queries appear in the old, top/side format.

Google’s revenue is tied to me getting clicks, so I always start by thinking they know something (maybe a lot) that I don’t. So I pulled some stats by using the “Top Vs Other” segment on the campaign tab. Here’s what I saw for one account:

The 3-days prior to the ad placement change:

Google Search CTR = .3

The 3-days since the ad placement change:

Google Search CTR = .23

That represents a 23% decrease in CTR! (Granted the sample here is small, but it’s what we have.)

More than one account has seen similar issues since the change. One account’s CTR is down by nearly 50%. In Google’s defense, their changes often have a short-term adverse effect but eventually pay off. And cutting CTR will kill their revenue so I am hoping that’s what will happen with this placement change.

 

What are you guys seeing? Any change for better or worse? Is this a short-term bump?

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  • Evgeny

    Perhaps Google noticed that people scroll down without looking at the sides. Probably some user behaviour tests were performed to see where users look when searching on Google. 
    You are right in suggesting that Google wouldn’t want to hurt their main source of revenue. Hence, the bottom ads should receive a higher CTR as opposed to the side ads. Another thing is that Top ads will be treated differently once there aren’t side ads in the picture, and will be looked at more often, receiving a higher CTR. Advertisers will push more to appear in the top, and, hence, increase CPC bids and drive click prices up.

    It is either that the total number of clicks, and costs, in the bottom AND top will increase due to the change, or that the bottom ads will perform by themselves better than the side ads. I believe the former will occur as the lack of side ads will affect positively the top ads in terms of CTR. Google must have both top ads and bottom ads in regard with this change. 

    • Jeff Allen

      I agree that Top ad CTR should improve, and I have seen a slight improvement there. Probably some automatic rules are in order to keep my ads running in position 3+!

  • guest

    Are you saying that by showing more ads, google is hurting its revenue?
    Sure, if you show more ads your CTR will go down but that doesn’t mean it is revenue negative.

    • Jeff Allen

      Google isn’t showing more ads, yet. They are showing ads on bottom that would normally be on the side. So it’s the same number of ads, with a lower CTR.

  • http://twitter.com/Eloi_Casali Eloi Casali

    The thing they must have measured is that the race to get premium positions now will outweight the clicks the got on the right hand side.

    Premium positions will be very sought after – imagine finance sector, for every sector.

    Google always wins when they make changes to their products, you gotta reverse think to understand why they make a change ;) 
    Changes to AdWords have never been to improve searcher experience – they are always made to increase revenue. That is the job of the AdWords team.

  • Anya

    Having a low CTR is more profitable for Adwords. Low CTR means your quality score will dop and you’ll have to pay more to retain your position and the same amount of clicks.

    • haukur

      You’re right but ad copy displayed below the fold are not as visible as ad copy above the fold. Maybe users tend to disregard the ads on the side and scroll down, maybe not.

  • http://twitter.com/SEOSEM Jeff Selig

    I asked our Google paid search team for insight on this subject of bottom ad placement months ago and never got anywhere, as they said at the time, no research existed on their end. Thanks for providing some insights and confirming our suspicions.