It has been about 7 months since my previous post looking at how the PPC environment has changed over the years. I thought it might be a good time to take a look again, since there have been quite a few changes that have further changed the search landscape and blended the paid and organic listings since February 2011.
Here is a list of noted changes in the last few months:
1. Product Listing Ads are sometimes shown horizontally in top placement real estate instead of just on the right rail. These resemble the ‘Shopping results for…’ organic section below the paid ads.
Also, a few weeks ago we would occasionally see vertical PLAs labeled as "Shopping results for...", the same text as the organic product listings:
2. Six Sitelinks. The addition of 2 more visible sitelinks pushes the natural listings down the page even farther. Notice how much space the JCPenney ad is taking up in the image below, especially if you expand the Local PlusBox:
3. Landing page text pulled into copy. Talk about a marriage between SEO and SEM! Let’s see if this is rolled out on more SERPs in the future.
4. Google Offer Ads Extension. This is a beta product that features an offer extension in the top placement paid ads on both desktop and mobile devices. The offers extension not only allows for more space on the page, it can also (more importantly) help measure online to store spill-over for users that take advantage of the ‘print offer’ option in the expanded ad.
5. +1 Button in Ads. The +1 feature is shown in both organic and PPC listings now. The addition of user-recommended ads is another play to help lift a ‘preferred’ ad's CTR. (Note: As of now, +1s do not impact an ad's quality score.)
6. Display URLs are now featured below the headline, like natural listings. So, in addition to being lowercase, with ‘www.’ preceding the advertiser’s domain, the placement of the display URLs helps blend the paid and organic landscape.
7. Display Domain URL in headline. For select ads in top placements, the display URLs are featured without the ‘www.’ prefix and are separated from the ad text with a vertical bar. Even with this addition, the ad’s display URL (mentioned in point 6) is still featured below the headline.
Notice the ‘LEGO.com’ domain in the headline and the appearance of the lowercase display URL below the headline:
8. Extensions and Seller Ratings can serve together now, which should allow more ads to enjoy both the CTR advantage of extensions and CTR benefit of seller ratings. In cases where there is another ad extension, Seller Ratings will appear on the display URL line, below the headline. (See JCPenney screen shot above.) Previously, ad seller ratings and extensions were not served at the same time.
It’ll be interesting to see how the PPC ad appearance will change as we head into Q4. Google is certainly keeping us on our toes!