Google often changes how it display search results and which results will be shown for any given query. This has been a well-known fact in SEO circles for a number of years. The “Google Dance”, algorithm shift, or whatever you want to call it has been point of tough explanation for SEO consultants for many years. So much literature is devoted to this subject that I think it often overshadows the other side of the equation.
Google has also been working on the paid results it show to Google users. Quality Score, the largest sponsored ranking factor, often outshining bid, has been a hot topic in paid search circles for several years now. Google is always working very hard at making sponsored search results more attractive for their users. To Google, I imagine it goes a little something like this: if we’re your first stop on your search anyway, why not make this a paid offering?
As it stands, it’s no secret that Google makes most of its revenue from paid ads. Google knows what it’s doing, and so once Google established quality listings as a search engine (ever hear someone casually say “just Google it”?), why not also place premium messaging at a precedent for a price (most importantly, in this case, a Google-Brand safe option). Now, these days, we have Google-vetted sponsored listings – paid search results more than ever before likely to appeal to a searcher from a Google-user search perspective and more likely than ever to answer the question at hand.
What this means is that Google has gotten better at scrutinizing their advertiser base. Listings are not determined by how much someone will pay, but also determined by the quality of that advertiser’s ad (keyword + ad text + history and other factors). Through this approach, Google has achieved more optimal ads, keywords, KPI, click through rates, and revenue goals based on paid links. However, Google has not achieved its goals without its advertisers becoming more sophisticated, better at what they do, smarter at what they do, and Google has advertisers asking for more. And as a result, any given Google user should receive more polished ads that better cater to their search needs.
The real point here is that Google is a business. The business is serving ads and it will continue to become better at ad serving until ad serving becomes unprofitable.
This is not to be seen as a negative. It’s not. Let’s say you, as a Google user today happen to search through the offerings online, and happen to find the skirt, bookcase, weird cabinet fitting, chiropractor, movie tickets or dog harness you currently need through a Google paid listing then this is progress. Especially if you find what you want ASAP and without having to trudge through results that offer less relevant content or offerings.
I’m not trying to pick up the old fight of PPC vs. SEO. Both are very important. But instead I’m trying to acknowledge a shift that I’m seeing in my industry. More and more companies are seeing search become a cornerstone of their online strategy, and understanding how Google is incentivized and incentives advertisers will help each party find success.
Sometimes, other forms of advertising won’t be as timely as search. If a listing has the desired item or service, promises a price, has it in stock and ready to be shipped, then this is a win for everyone involved – the user, Google and the advertiser. For example, a new company in a competitive space will likely not have the luxury of ranking on the first page for their main keywords. If this same company innovates their vertical through a unique product or service, PPC may be the only they get the chance to bring their product to Google users (of course, they should be more than active through other mediums as well).
But similarly, from a consumer or Google user perspective, we know that paid listings are not inflated in their ranking due to link farms and other nefarious SEO tactics (though these practices are seeing the light of day more and more over the past couple of years). Through paid ads, advertisers are allowed to circumvent the traditional organic search sequence and rise to the top by staking out their bet – the bet that they can better serve a customer than the other listings, including those found organically.
As consumers, we likely know a few more things about a paid search listing before even clicking on a link:
- The item is in stock or the service is available. Webmasters and marketers are usually pretty good about removing paid listings when something is no longer available.
- The company is in business and ready to provide a product or service. There are many companies that will not pull down a website when they cease offering service to the public. Google won’t get this warning organically if the hosting of the site continues, but a credit card or automatic withdrawal certainly does the trick.
- The company believes in what they do so much they are willing to pay for a listing. Unlike SEO and organic listings, an advertiser has to carefully choose their keywords, ad message, landing page and bids. Advertisers have the potential to get across exactly the right message for exactly the right situation. SEO and organic results don’t offer this kind of creative marketing control by being solely ranked through Google’s search algorithm.
- Advertising is likely profitable. This is, of course, not always true. There are cases of testing, and entering a new market with a new keyword, bad keyword or ad selections, inept paid search consulting, etc. But paid listings are not cheap, and over time the market will reject bad offerings as they are not economically sustainable for a rational advertiser or an advertiser without deep pockets. If an advertiser is willing to pay a premium to get people onto their website for a given term, the likelihood of the result being of high quality goes up.
What does this mean for PPC advertisers? Well, that story is simple – give searchers what they want as quickly as is possible at a profit point that is acceptable to you. Google search does not appear to be going anywhere. The rich listings now available to PPC advertisers with Product Listing Ads, Site Link Extensions, and Call Extensions, for example, the options available to better reach your target market at a pivotal point are just increasing. The people at Google are giving advertisers more robust platforms to touch an audience in ways that organic listings are simply lacking. So take advantage of what Google is offering and keep trying to deliver the best results possible to your customer.
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