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Google Changes Top Ranked Ads Format – Welcome Purple!

Last week, some of our analysts started seeing pale purple (almost pink) promoted, “top-ranked” sponsored listings appearing above the organic listings on Google SERPs. Today, we’ve started seeing it much more regularly, some even beginning to see it exclusively.

Classic: (red box added for clarity)

New: (red box added for clarity)

Here’s an update from Google, when we asked them about the change:

Starting today and ramping up to 100% globally by the end of this week, we’ll be changing the background color for ads that appear above the search results on Google.com as well as our local domains. The ads, which currently have a pale yellow background, will change to have a pale purple background. This change is part of the ‘look and feel’ update to our color palette and logo that we made back in May of this year to keep the Google results page looking fresh and modern. This is purely an aesthetic change to our ads and won’t have any impact on the way we target or serve advertisements on Google.com.

Stay tuned! We’ll be sure to report any notable CTR changes for ads qualifying for the top-ranked ads. More information on Google AdWords’ logic behind what ads qualify for these top spots can be found here.

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  • Matthew Mierzejewski
    Matthew Mierzejewski is EVP of SEO at RKG.
  • Comments
    22 Responses to “Google Changes Top Ranked Ads Format – Welcome Purple!”
    1. Tim Barcz says:

      What’s your gut feel on this. Is this as innocuous as “to keep the Google results page looking fresh and modern” or something more?

    2. Andrew says:

      The pale purple background looks better..

    3. Cian says:

      The purple background vanishes at certain viewing angles. Must help CTR…

    4. Cian,

      Great point! I’ve seen some monitor contrast settings where the purple background IS invisible! In this case, it might appear to the user that the top ranked sponsored listings are organic! In my opinion, that would surely lift CTRs. Nifty move, Google!

    5. I wonder if this will garner more clicks away from organic ads? I was just chatting with our paid media guys and we determined that this would be difficult to test because there are just too many variables in accounts.

      I thought of possibly setting up a small independent test campaign in a controlled environment as a possible scenario but even that has many variables.

      Are you guys tracking this or have plans to? And do you have any advice on setting up testing environments for paid search?

    6. Hi Miguel,

      It is tough to measure the impact of these kinds of changes precisely. Our attribution management system does allow us to see the raw data necessary to assess whether a shift has taken place, but given that the shift is likely to be small, it may be tough to separate from the noise.

      We’ll post again if we see a shift large enough to be measured.

      George

    7. As a marketer that uses PPC (A LOT) I think it’s a good thing. On most monitors it’s almost unnoticeable. I’m guessing CTRs for 1-3 positions is going to jump noticeably.

      However! I think Google is blowing smoke about it being purely about aesthetics. For those of us that follow the industry closely we all know Google’s PPC CTR slide last quarter. They made that pretty clear on their quarterly earnings call.

    8. We did some virtual eye tracking with the old and new AdWords results and found a significant difference in the perception of the page: http://www.twoqubes.com/2010/07/adwords-violett-statt-gelb/ (German)

    9. Mark McLewee says:

      @Andrew W. – Could you please share your source for decrease in CTR? Google reported a decrease in Paid Clicks, which seems to be seasonal (similar pattern in Q2 ’07, ’08, ’09). I wonder if CTR follows the same pattern?

    10. Vee Sweeney says:

      I have seen this pale purple and it is there most of the time now, though it looks more pink on my laptop screen. I have also seen them use light blue and a light yellow, but I am guessing the blue and yellow may have been used during their testing period? I have also noticed something else personally. It does not seem as though there are as many sponsored links showing up at the top anymore since they implemented the color background. Even when searching for very popular short tail keywords, ads at the top rarely show and this does not seem right as with the keywords I am using, they used to show at the top all of the time. Could this be more marketers not paying the cost for this? It’d be interesting to find out either way.

    11. John G says:

      Right after reading some of these comments, was making adjustments to some AdWords ads where we were already getting good organic results for a specific keyword…so I dramatically lowered the maximum PPC I was willing to pay. Entered the keyword combination to see if Google would pick up the change immediately. The AdWords ad was still showing, so I hit the Refresh button. Immediately, my AdWords ad dropped out of the right hand column of ads, BUT it simultaneously showed up at the TOP of the purple — in fact, as the only purple ad for that keyword. Maybe it’s Google’s way of deterring bid reduction.

    12. Linda Bustos says:

      Looks like they’re back to yellow, at least for me :)

    13. Linda! So good of you to stop by! I’m seeing yellow again, too.

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