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Google makes big changes to AdWords Search Campaigns

Google seldom announces changes to their core search feature in advance, instead preferring to launch quietly and let the search engine press put the pieces together. In this case, their release of a brand-new strategy for dealing with AdWords Search Campaigns was immediately noticeable. In this post, we’ll review the recent changes made by the world’s foremost search engine, and discuss how they impact the campaigns of 5 Fold clients.

What are Search Campaigns in AdWords?

A Search Campaign in Google Adwords is an advertisement that appears on most Google searches, associated with a keyword or keyword phrase. For instance, a search for “Internet Marketing” yields four paid advertisements, below which the top search results (also known as “organic” results) are displayed.

Each time a search is placed on Google, there is an auction that occurs factoring in many variables. Once the auction is finished, the person searching sees the ads positioned 1-4 or below the search results. The advertiser only pays when an ad is clicked.

AdWords differs from organic search in many ways. Organic search is dependent on both the quality of the site and how well it matches what the person is searching for. It’s not a pay-to-play system. Often, geography and search history informs the order of what appears in an organic search—for instance, in the graphic above, Google knows that I work in Chandler, Arizona, and automatically narrows the search to that area.

So, what’s changed?

As recently as last month, a Google search on a desktop computer yielded advertising results both above the organic search content and to the right of it.

On February 19, Google eliminated those sidebar advertisements, instead adding a fourth advertisement to the area above the organic search results (there used to be three spaces) and three spaces below the organic search results. Overall, this resulted in a net loss of four possible ads on the most in-demand searches: previously, there was room for 11 ads, and now there are seven slots total.

Why has Google made this change?

There’s been a lot of speculation on that subject. One of the reasons that most agree on is that this represents Google moving in the direction that many users are: away from desktop searching to on-the-go mobile searches from smartphones. Mobile searches on Google did not have the sidebar advertisements, so this brings Google’s search platforms on mobile and desktop into alignment.

Of course, a secondary benefit for Google is that eliminating four advertising spaces pushes the going rate for the remaining spots. Add in the fact that the experts also agree that the three spaces below the organic results are not very effective places to advertise, and that means that advertisers using AdWords are fighting—and bidding—over just four primary spaces.

What does this mean for my 5 Fold campaign?

How does this impact pay-per-click advertising?

We’re still figuring that out. The people who study PPC advertising for a living are divided on what the impact of lessened advertising space will be. Odds are, the impact will differ from search-to-search, with high-demand searches seeing the most inflation in cost. We’ll keep you posted.

How does this impact SEO?

This does have an impact on your organic search results, as the organic search results are pushed even further down the page. In some cases, organic results may not even appear “above the fold,” requiring users to scroll down to find them. Good content, positioned well, still matters. We’ll continue to optimize your webpages so that they work for both readers and search engines.

Who can I follow up with if I have further questions about this?

Do you have more questions about AdWords, or your company’s PPC campaign in general? Chat with your 5 Fold representative, we’d love to hear from you.