The Death of Google’s Sidebar Ads

Every now and then Google likes to drop a small, well-placed, bomb on the paid search industry.  In February 2013 the company behind the world’s most visited website launched “Enhanced Campaigns” changing the way advertisers were able to manage spend on different devices, and just last year Google introduced “Upgraded URLs” altering the way that 3rd party tracking needed to be applied to destination URLs in AdWords.

The latest significant change for advertisers appears to be the death of right sidebar ads on Google’s search engine results pages.  This change, as reported by Search Engine Land, will see text ads on the right hand side of the search results become defunct as Google looks to add an additional fourth ad to the top of the search results page for what they are calling “highly commercial queries.”

Cue the hysteria.  There are several immediate questions that spring to mind. Firstly, what does this mean with regards to CPC inflation?  With fewer results to bid on, the competition for the top places will inevitably increase and therefore bidding wars for top performing keywords are likely to become greatly intensified.  Secondly, is this the end of smaller advertisers being able to use AdWords as a channel to drive incremental revenue?  Currently advertisers with smaller budgets are able to occupy a place on right hand side of results where bigger spenders have the additional cash required to push for positions one to three.

The truth is this probably does mean CPC inflation, but what it should not mean is the end of AdWords being an important channel for smaller advertisers.  For years Google have been working to help advertisers serve even more relevant ads on the search engine results pages.  This has meant giving advertisers more control over when and where their ads are showing, allowing advertisers to overlay both first party audience data (through RLSAs) and third party data (through demographic targeting).  The fact that many advertisers still choose to ignore these features is not just to the detriment of the advertiser, but also to the user of the search engine itself.

This development should serve as the ultimate kick in the backside for paid search advertisers that are still seeing their campaigns as simply keywords and text ads.  I suspect the higher levels of keyword competition will lead to advertisers finally invoking many presently neglected AdWords features, ensuring that when paid search strategies are built greater emphasis goes into understanding how audience data can be applied to maximise return.

So yes, CPCs may go up, but if paid search advertisers are smart and start to utilise the full set of available AdWords features they will ensure that even more relevant audiences are met with their ads and therefore any inflation in CPC shouldn’t come at the detriment of return on investment.  For those of us however, that are currently utilising the full extent of AdWords features, well, it’s time to start the moaning, I suggest directing our complaints in the direction of Mountain View, Santa Clara, California.

Google Launches Black Friday & Cyber Monday Ad Extensions in the UK

Google have relaunched their Black Friday/ Cyber Monday ad extension to make more of the weekend!

The ad below is an example of this new Black Friday Paid Search ad, which was available in the US only last year. The ad allows you to add specific Black Friday and Cyber Monday attributes to your ad text. These attributes are displayed as an extra line on the ads.
Google-Black-Friday Ad Extensions UK

*Text in image has been made bold to emphasise change to ad.

The extension allows you to actively promote your offers for the Black Friday weekend and will appear in your AdWords account on 9th November. Once the extension has been set up, it will start appearing from 24th November. The extension will switch messaging automatically to Cyber Monday part way through the weekend and will stop showing on the evening of 30th November.

We recommend monitoring the percentage of time the extension shows with your ads, and testing whether ad copy also containing ‘Black Friday’ performs better or not.

We will be reporting on the results we saw when the weekend has finished, so stay tuned!

The Future is Dynamic

Google AdWords has now added Dynamic Text Ads and they’re getting great results.
This ad format allows you to retarget potential customers who have been to your website and looked at a specific product without purchasing. Of course you can already do this but what makes this unique is that it displays a small image and the details of the item they previously looked at with the use of a data feed.
These ads are incredibly smart, they display the product that was either viewed the most by the consumer or what they had in their online shopping basket.

You can access Dynamic Text Ads through Google’s Display Network (GDN) and they are purchased on a standard CPC basis. As not all sites on the GDN allow image ads, the Dynamic Text Ad has the ability to cover the gaps on these sites.
Even if you don’t have a live Display campaign, by running the Dynamic Text Ads alongside your standard PPC there is a strong likelihood ROI will increase because of the visual and relevant nature of the ad format.
We implemented this new Dynamic Text Ad for one of our clients and saw a very profitable conversion rate. To build the campaign, we used a double Ad Group strategy. One Ad Group specifically targeted consumers who left items in their shopping cart and the other for viewers of a product. The messaging could then be targeted and made more relevant to where the consumer is within their path to purchase.
Net Media Planet Analyst, Leonie Tamkin, explains, “Dynamic Text Ads create an opportunity to capture that user again. The product image helps to trigger the memory of what we know that person is already interested in.”
We are seeing an upsurge in the demand for dynamic and personalised digital advertising solutions. This new Dynamic Text Ad format is just one of the items we will see between now and the upcoming year that will help advertisers to create highly relevant ads with the use of product data feeds.

Google Tests Black Friday PPC Ad in the U.S.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone in such a whirlwind many of us are still recouping from the shopping fury. But did any of you notice Google’s been testing a special Black Friday AdWords ad format in the US?
The ad below is an example of this new Black Friday Paid Search ad. The ad allows you to add specific Black Friday and Cyber Monday attributes to your ad text. These attributes are displayed as an extra line on the ads.

Google Black Friday PPC Addition


*Text in image has been made bold to emphasise change to ad.

The theory is that by calling attention to specific Black Friday or Cyber Monday special offers the CTR will increase. With a greater CTR we would hope to see an increase in the conversion rate as well.
Right now we have more questions than answers about this new product. Only time will tell how affective this extra line of text was.

More Updates to Google Shopping, What Does this Mean for you?

Last week Google released several new updates to Google Shopping campaigns, formally known as Product Listing Ads or PLAs, just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We chatted with Net Media Planet Analyst, James Pendleton, to discuss what these changes are and how you can expect them to affect your PLA campaigns in the upcoming month.

1) Addition of PLA Auction Insights

Google Shopping data metrics now include Impression Share, Overlap Rate, and Outranking Share at Campaign and Ad group level.
With the original Google Shopping transition came the first competitive metrics for shopping. These included benchmark CTRs, CPCs and impression shares. They are important metrics to look at for optimisation, however; with these new insights users can compare their metrics to the competition benchmark. For instance, Overlap Rate now allows users to view key competitors who appear in Shopping Search results at the same time as their ads appear. This will help retailers to stay on top of competition by viewing trends and strategic opportunities.

Furthermore, all of these new insight metrics can be further segmented by device and time. This gives advertisers the ability to compare themselves against competitors with even greater detail. As mobile becomes a more valuable space this information will be critical to success.

2) Improved Search Impression Share

PLA impression share will no longer be calculated from campaign level but from customer ID level. Incidentally, this is how Google Search currently calculates Impression Share.
Google is making an effort to align Google Shopping features to those of text ads. Besides the one-time change in impression share when comparing October and November there should be no impact on how you manage the campaign. This will be useful when making optimisation decisions as there will be consistency between text ads and PLAs during data analysis.

3) New Columns for Predictive Bid Simulator Metrics

The Predictive Bid Simulator allows you to estimate how bid changes can impact your impressions. Google’s update allows users to download predictive information into a standardised report.
Although, currently this update will not have much of an effect on the overall product, the information produced by the Bid Simulator is a useful basis from which to start forecasting on optimisation scenarios.

4) Ability to Sort Product Groups by Performance

Impression Share percentage and other columns can now be sorted from product group data.
This is another function that will not greatly affect Google Shopping campaigns but it will help to give advertisers a better overview of product group performance by sorting important benchmark columns quickly.

5) New Diagnostics Tab in the Merchant Center

Within AdWords, The Data Quality tab has been replaced by the new Diagnostics Tab.
The work involved in troubleshooting and comparing AdWords performance to ProductFeed content is cumbersome. The new Diagnostics Tab will save time with the ability to download a report of issues with the feed at the ID-level from AdWords.

6) Merchant Promotions for non-US Advertisers

This is the most visual update made by Google. It enables retailers to show promotions within their PLAs on search results and Google Shopping.

Until now this option has only been available within the US market but Google has opened Merchant Promotions to United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia and India just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This feature will be incredibly beneficial to retailers who take advantage of it, as it highlights the benefit of purchasing from a retail website at the moment consumers are deciding where to shop. It makes the offer more enticing to the consumer with its visual icon.


Overall, we are seeing major alignments between Google Shopping and AdWords reporting, which will ultimately increase optimisation efficiencies between the two. With the Christmas peak just around the corner you can take a couple of these updates and implement them straight away to help improve your campaign performance. We recommend implementing the Merchant Promotions, as such a visual statement can give you a competitive advantage when consumers are ready to buy. Also, make sure you take advantage of the competitive insights now available when considering bid prices. These simple updates can have a large impact on your campaign when implemented correctly.
If you are interesting in implementing a Google Shopping campaign for your company and would like our help, please don’t hesitate to contact us via our website.

A Look Back at Net Media Planet’s Executive Breakfast Seminar

Yesterday, Net Media Planet hosted our bi-annual Digital Breakfast Seminar at the Soho Hotel in London entitled “The Personalised Path to Purchase.” The day began with a riviting presentation from renown digital marketing specialist Matt Bush from Google. Doubleclick’s Rick Jones and Matt Bennathan from eXelate gave thought-provoking sessions ahead of Net Media Planet’s very own, insightful Sri Sharma.


The ensuing client panel, “Leveraging the Omni-Channel Consumer,” consisted of retail industry experts James Dunford from Cotswold Outdoor and Gordon Newman from Life Style Sports, who were joined by Matt Bush and Sri Sharma.


The event focused on how the changing consumer path-to-purchase will demand that brands embrace new personalised advertising strategies and technologies across Paid Search and Performance Display advertising. We explored topics such as, consumer search trends and innovations; new 1st and 3rd party data practices; advanced audience profiling; personalised relevance; cross channel continuity and how to tackle the omni-channel challenge.


From a marketing perspective, we view personalisation as the use of data to deliver a relevant and engaging experience to a consumer across digital channels and engagement points.Through this strategy we can provide a more effective form of advertising. In fact, according to Forrester’s research, campaigns that are personalised have a 19% increase in sales.


“The Personalised Path to Purchase” Speakers


Matt Bush (Google)  –


  • Think Digital – “52% of those who clicked on an online ad in the last 3 months purchased as a result of an ad click.”
  • Think Mobile -“Location based ads led 32% to visit stores/make purchases and 19% to make unplanned visits/purchases.”
  • Think Engagement – “PLA’s to drive 33% of 2014 retail traffic”


Rick Jones (Doubleclick) –

“We don’t want to be in our comfort zone.” If we stay in our comfort zones we are missing the future opportunities on offer. We need to keep pushing the boundaries and trying new things as technology continues to advance exponentially.


Matt Bennathan (eXelate)

“Data is the fuel that runs the engine, which drives the car.” “Combine 1st and 3rd party data for relevant and effective digital advertising.”


Sri Sharma

“Serve the heart, as the rational mind is easy to achieve.” Rational marketing such as price, availability, delivery and support, are easily duplicated by competition. Whereas it is winning the heart that secures long term customer loyalty. That is something that we can achieve by knowing your consumer, reaching them and being personal.


Below, are copies of each of our speaker’s presentations. Follow us on twitter @netmediaplanet to keep up-to-date on future events and seminars, plus we will soon be posting the video of our seminar. Don’t miss out.


Download Matt Bush’s Presentation “Search and Find”



Download Rick Jone’s Presentation “Prepare for the Future”



Download Matt Bennathan’s Presentation “1+3=5”



Download Sri Sharma’s Presentation “Winning Hearts”

Net Media Planet Wins The Best Agency-led Performance Marketing Campaign Award

We are delighted to be the winner of the Best Agency-led Performance Marketing Campaign award at the Performance Marketing Awards 2014.

We are proud to have been recognised as leaders amongst the 8 nominated agencies by the performance marketing industry’s best minds for our innovative Paid Search and TV integration campaign with national retailer, Superdrug.


The winning campaign, entitled The Power of Now: TV-Online, utilised a bespoke tool in our proprietary technology platform to enable real-time campaign adjustments in response to signals of on-site engagement at times when TV advertising would influence website visitor behaviour.


The Performance Marketing Awards (PMAs), organised by PerformanceIn, recognise and promote excellence in the online performance marketing industry. To win the award, the campaign had to successfully pass through a comprehensive judging process and achieve very high marks in each of the judging criteria; this is an achievement that only a fraction of campaigns earn each year.


Well done team, a fantastic effort!


Finally, congratulations to all winners on the night.


Adwords Review Extensions – Good or Bad?


In October, Google announced the arrival of Review Extensions, a new feature that enables advertisers to show accolades from reputable third parties in their search ads.


As one of the first agencies to gain access to the beta, we have been putting them to the test, to better understand how influenced consumers are by positive reviews and the impact that this can have on online performance. Here we share some of our insights and learnings of this new feature.


Firstly, let’s take a look at what a Review Extension is:

This new feature from Google allows advertisers to add another line of text below the description lines of their search ad, which is based on a positive third-party review or an award the advertiser has won. An example of a Review Extension is highlighted in the red box below:



Putting Review Extensions up for review:

We carried out tests with Review Extensions with a fashion retail client and a luxury airline. Our insights and results are below:


Our test with a fashion retail client –

Working with a UK fashion retail client, we chose a review that referred positively to a specific range of coats, in this case ‘Trophy Jackets’. We added the review into ads on our campaigns containing ‘workwear’ keywords and launched the campaign. The results were impressive, with the Review Extensions contributing to a staggering +157% uplift in CTR in the first two weeks of going live.


The same Review Extension was also added to ads running in campaigns containing ‘jacket’ & ‘coat’ keywords. Following the campaign launch, CTR increased by up to 95% when the Review Extensions were shown compared to when they were not. Interestingly, even in an ad group focussed purely on coats and winter coats CTR still increased by an average of +8%.


Our test with a luxury airline –

For one of our airline clients, we added a Review Extension of an industry accolade naming them as the best airline in Asia. Interestingly, the Review Extension had much less impact on online performance than for our retail client, and also results varied strongly by user location. The campaign recorded an increase of +7% in CTR in Wales. However consumers in Greater London and Scotland clearly preferred the ads without Review Extensions as CTR decreased by 5% whenever the Review Extensions were shown.


Our top tips to maximise performance with Review Extensions:

Having tested Review Extensions with a number of different clients, we have gained some valuable insights on how to optimise their performance for your campaigns which we thought would be useful to share with you;

  • The review doesn’t have to be an exact quote, it can be a paraphrased version to help keep to character limit.
  • The character limit is 67 including the name of the source, but not including quotation marks – these are added automatically if you choose the ‘exact quote’ option.
  • You must include a link to a ‘respectable’ third-party source – the review copy cannot be hosted on your own website. Furthermore, Google will most likely have a system to check for invalid websites or sites created solely for the purpose of hosting a review, so make sure it is genuine.
  • The review should be visible above the fold on the source website.
  • Review Extensions are currently only available in English but Google is working on rolling them out globally.
  • A review cannot be older than 12 months.
  • You cannot see clicks that went through to the source landing page. Although you can segment by ‘This extension vs. Other’ this will always show 0 clicks on ‘This extension’ regardless of whether the external link has been clicked or not.


To sum up:

We believe that Review Extensions are an excellent addition to search ads, especially if a wide range of reviews/awards are available which can be added to different ad groups and updated regularly.


However, a downside is that they currently lack the reporting functionality that we would hope to see in order to adequately measure the impact of Review Extensions. For example, it is not yet possible to get an accurate measurement of how many people click on a Review Extension. In addition, the link from the Review Extension takes users directly to the third party website that hosts the review, rather than the advertiser’s website. As a result there may be potential customers who have never made it to the website even though they clicked on the ad.


Although Google is yet to provide this reporting functionality, they have assured us that the CTR increase gained from Review Extensions outweighs this potential loss of customers, but this is something that remains to be seen with further testing. That said, we believe that they are definitely worth testing out now on your campaigns. We wish you the best of luck with your tests of Review Extensions. Good luck and do contact us if you would like further advice on optimising this new feature!


Google Ad Rank Calculation Update

This week Google announced a major change to its Ad Rank calculation which is used in determining the position and CPCs paid by each advertiser in the Google ad auction.


Historically Ad rank has been calculated by multiplying your Max CPC bid by your Quality Score (Google’s assessment of the relevance of your keywords, ad copies and landing pages). But with this new update Google now also factors in the expected uplift from the ad extensions and extension formats that you are using in your AdWords Campaigns. In addition Google has increased the importance of Ad Rank in determining whether your ad extensions are eligible to be displayed along with your ad. Here are the full details of the update from Google:


  • Ad extensions and formats can now influence the position of your ad on the search results page. If two competing ads have the same bid and quality, then the ad with the more positive expected impact from extensions will generally appear in a higher position than the other.
  • When estimating the expected impact of extensions and ad formats, we consider such factors as the relevance, clickthrough rates, and the prominence of the extensions or formats on the search results page.
  • Because Ad Rank is now more important in determining whether your ad is shown with extensions and formats, you might need to increase your Quality Score, bid, or both for extensions and formats to appear.
  • In each auction, we’ll generally show your highest performing and most useful combination of extensions and formats among those eligible. So there’s no need to try to guess which extensions will help improve your clickthrough rate the most.
  • You may see lower or higher average CPCs in your account. You may see lower CPCs if your extensions and formats are highly relevant, and we expect a large positive performance impact relative to other competitors in the auction. In other cases, you may see higher CPCs because of an improvement in ad position or increased competition from other ads with a high expected impact from formats.
  • For now, this update only affects search ads appearing on Google Search.


Why has Google made this change?

It has been widely known that Ad extensions typically improve CTR which means more ad clicks and more revenue for Google. By making ad extensions a key component in the Ad rank calculation this will likely further encourage advertisers to take advantage of more of these Google features within AdWords.


Also as ad extensions generally only appear for ads in the top 3 positions in the SERPs it is likely that advertisers will compete more aggressively for these top positions in order to see the additional benefits that ad extensions bring to Ad rank which would ultimately mean increasing overall market CPCs.


What does this change mean for advertisers?

The Use of ad extensions will now be more important than ever. To ensure advertisers are getting the best position and lowest CPCs for their max bid they will have to ensure they are using the most relevant combination of ad extensions for each keyword, location, device and time of day. With ad rank now being dependant on the actual performance of these extensions, not just whether they exist, this gives advertisers another element to optimise in addition to ad copies, keywords and max bids which will give an advantage to performance orientated paid search agencies.


The changes will likely have a bigger impact for clients with a high reliance on mobile activity as ad extensions on mobile devices (location extensions, call extensions as well as sitelinks) provide a method of getting mobile users the content or information they want fast. Advertisers not utilising these features will likely see a drop in average position and/or increase in CPCs as a result of the Ad Rank update.


The changes will also mean that some businesses will need to make changes to their web design in order to avoid being penalised by this update.


E.g. Small businesses that have a website with only one or two landing pages will not be able to fully use sitelinks extensions unless they create more landing pages (Google policy states each sitelink must go to a different landing page)


Top Tips/ Recommendations

  • Ensure that you are eligible to use as many types of Google’s ad extension formats that are relevant for your business as possible. E.g. Sitelinks – Requires 1 unique landing page per sitelink
  • Location extensions – Include location information next to your ads via a  Google places account or by enter addresses manually in AdWords
  • Social Extensions – Does your business have a Google+ page linked to their website?
  • Call Extensions – Do you have a phone number that customers can call your business on?
  • Offer Extensions – Can you provide an exclusive offer that can be redeemed online or in store?
  • Review Extensions – Show accolades from reputable third parties below your ads
  • Analyse the historical performance of the extensions formats you are currently running to identify which formats perform the best by keyword category, device, location, time of day etc. Ensure coverage of your best performing extensions is maximised and increase relevancy where possible – E.g. Improve sitelink relevance by using ad group level sitelinks and use sitelink description lines, ensure offers and promotions are kept up to date
  • Look at which of the other available extension formats can be displayed in the SERPS in addition to your current best performing extensions and add these into your campaigns. For example call extensions, location extensions, social extensions and review extensions can all be displayed in addition to sitelinks in the SERPS so will likely have a positive impact on your Ad Rank. Google states that the ad platform will generally show your highest performing and most useful combination of extensions and formats among those eligible. So one option is to upload all extension types available and let Google pick the best ones. However how effective Google will be at picking the best extensions is yet to be seen
  •  Use device preference and scheduling on extensions to further increase relevance. E.g. scheduling call extensions for call centre opening hours, schedule offers between the start and end date
  • Look at what ad extensions and formats your competitors are using and how you can improve upon and differentiate your ad extensions to give you the advantage
  • Monitor changes in ad position and average CPC as a result of implementing different extension formats to see which are the most beneficial to Ad Rank for your activity
  • Monitor changes in ad position and average CPC as a result of implementing different extension formats to see which are the most beneficial to Ad Rank for your activity
  • Expect this to rollout across Display in the near future so start testing ad extensions and formats in Display now


This is clearly an important change from Google Adwords and brands should certainly take note.  Please get in touch if we can help .

What’s in a picture? Testing the value of image ad extensions

Google has launched a beta version of image ad extensions. This has opened up new creative possibilities over traditional text ads and gives a more visual appeal to search results pages on Google.


Image ad extensions are still fairly new, however we were fortunate enough to gain early access to the beta, and became the first to launch the feature in the UK for the airline industry.


Subsequently, we have been carrying out tests across a number of accounts in order to assess the value of an image to a campaign. Do they simply make search results easier on the eye or can they actually lead to improved performance? We share our results and insights below.


What are Image extensions?

The introduction of image ad extensions enables you to “Show” and “Tell” with images on search ads. This means you can more accurately convey the product being promoted, for example, the colour of a dress, the style of a car or a particular shade of a lipstick. Secondly this provides a great opportunity for a brand to take up more real-estate on the search engine results pages. Overall, your ads become richer, more informative and stand out in a crowded marketplace. An example ad with the image extensions feature is below:


Image Ad Extensions Screenshot


Putting them to the test:

We worked with a client, who operates in the competitive retail space to produce images that would represent the brand appropriately and complied with Google’s policies. Due to the strict compliancy guidelines we had to change the nature of the test, which had originally been designed to coincide with a major industry event taking place during the testing period. Instead, the client selected a number of its top selling products and we tested these terms with images that closely represented the chosen brand.


Following implementation across a number of ad groups, we saw click-through rates improve by +96%. CPCs on average did increase, +60% which subsequently increased campaign costs. However, CPA actually decreased (-34%) due to conversion rates increasing by a significant +135%. Overall, we were able to increase revenue at an improved ROI.


The insights gained:

These are still early days; however our test demonstrated that ads with images can achieve a higher click-through rate than ads without images. Furthermore, the increase in traffic will help to drive more conversions as a result. Certainly, for this major retail brand, image extensions have provided a way to drive additional traffic to the site while still driving a positive return.


Things to consider when implementing image extensions:

  •  Image extensions will only appear if you are at the top of the page. So we would suggest being selective with keywords and bidding more aggressively on the chosen keywords to achieve the top spot to serve an image ad
  • Images must comply with Google’s image ad extensions policies. Take time to learn the restrictions and expect a lengthy review from Google prior to the campaign going live
  • Strategically use dynamic keyword insertion for your text ads. This is due to the feature currently only allowing an advertiser to test  a select number of ad groups
  • Include more call to action images, to drive more conversions


In summary:

Image extensions have opened the door to new and creative possibilities for Search advertisers to set their ads apart from the competition. They provide a more compelling way to promote your brand and engage the consumer.