February 9, 2011
We all know that Google likes to throw us in the industry for a loop every now and then. Usually, it is nothing to be too overly concerned about, despite the PPC doomsayers having a field day every time Google even changes it’s homepage logo. It simply means that you have to adapt a bit, tweak a strategy here and there, and voila, you’re back on the cutting edge of Adwords advertising. So, with the recent changes that Google has been “testing,” of course there will be some new strategies to use to try and remain in synch with Google. Specifically, this blog post will deal with two recent changes Google has made to ad formats: the capitalization changes made to display URLs, and the recent change made to ad headlines in the top three ad spots above the organic search results. After discussing the changes that Google has made, a discussion of the possible ramifications of these changes will follow, as well as a few strategies that you as an ad writer could employ to make sure you don’t miss a beat.
Recently, Google has began to ignore capitalization in display URL domains, opting instead to show all display URLs in lowercase. Google has stated through their blog that this has actually helped ad click through rates in their tests, and that this change also enhances the overall “user experience.” In more recent news, Google has started to extend the character limit for ad headlines. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall character count for the ad itself has been extended—instead, if the ad is in the top three results, and the first description line of the ad is a sentence or has necessary punctuation, Google will combine the two lines to make a longer headline. Now, this change is only for the top three results, so if you want your ad to combine the headline and the first description line, be sure your bids/quality score are good enough to ensure a top three result. Also, be sure your first line can stand alone—as in the punctuation is correct and it doesn’t carry over into the second line of ad text. As of now, Google is “testing” these two developments, but don’t be surprised if and when Google decides that this change is here for good.
So what does this mean for us as advertisers? There are a few implications that these developments point to. First, with the new capitalization rules for display URLs, there is much more emphasis on the capitalization of subdirectories now that everything else is lowercase. So, if you are trying to show your name brand or make it stand out in the display URL of your ad, the only way to do so is with the subdirectory (strategies for this will be discussed shortly). Basically, for lesser-known brands, it will be harder for people to see your brand name in the display URL (if you capitalize the first letter to make it stand out), especially when given the short attention span of people in regards to advertising these days. As for the second change Google is testing—the longer ad headlines for the top three ads—there are a few implications. First, there could be a scramble to either raise CPC bids or quality score in order to show in the top three results. So in general, spend might go up in order to secure a spot in the top three ads. Also, this might lead to more benefit-driven ads (i.e. 20 % Off! Free Shipping! Etc.) as these are often broken up by line, and would be easier for Google to combine with the headline.
So now that we know the what and the how, now its time for some strategies in order to keep on the cutting edge of Adwords.
- If you’re client doesn’t have a well-known brand name, include the brand name in your ad’s body text. Before, in the display URL, many brand-conscious companies would capitalize their brand’s name in the domain of the display URL But due to Google’s changes, now it won’t stand out. So simply put the brand name in the body of the ad—it will still show up then and you can still promote brand awareness.
- Up your bids accordingly, or do what you can to raise quality score! This is somewhat of a no-brainer—if you want your ads to have the extended headline, do what you need to on your end to guarantee a top three spot. That is, either raise your bids or do what you need to in order to raise quality score. PPC Hero has plenty of blogs about raising your quality score—check them out!
- Think about writing more benefit-driven ad text for the first ad line. These are usually shorter in terms of sentence length, so it would better your chances of Google combining your first line and headline. Also, benefit-driven text can stand alone, and often doesn’t require the next line of ad text.
- Customize the subdirectory of your display URL. It can still be capitalized. So, try different subdirectory names based on your high-performing keywords. Try a different one per ad group. If a potential customer searches for something, and sees that in your display URL that you have a subdirectory with their keyword that they searched for, they may be more inclined to click on your ad. And, because it will be the only part of the display URL capitalized, it will stand out much more than usual.
So now that you know about these changes that Google has decided to test (and most likely implement), and have some strategies to combat any decline in productivity that your ads may face in regards to these changes, try them out and see if they work for you. And be sure to come back to PPC Hero as we keep you up to date on Google and it’s changes.