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Google Instant AdWords Trouble

So Google rolls out Instant Search and there are screams and cries that SEO is Dead, but hello did anybody think about the impact on commercial side of search? The sponsored results or Google AdWords?

Being that paid results are taking up more and more of the space on Google’s results page, you need to start to think about how this might be changing people’s search behaviours, traffic patterns and potentially opening up new opportunities for your business via AdWords.

Plural Preferences?

There also seems to be an early preference for the use of plural version as the top suggested result but it doesn’t seem to be related to search volume as Google advises the Instant algorithm is built around. Compare the two keywords Hotels vs Hotel and you will see that even when the plural version has significantly less search volume.

Also looking at how the higher likely traffic impacts on Google Instant results show that the new algorithm gives preference to showing Hotels as the first suggested result. So if you are buying AdWords traffic on the exact phrase “Hotel” you might now be missing out on being showed as the users will likely pick the “Hotels” phrase as it is shown first.

SEO vs AdWords on Instant

It is likely that search optimisation projects will have to be having to spend a reasonable amount of time examining their existing projects and revising current link building plans as it can make or break the companies organic strategy depending on how they approach the idea of targeting the plural versus the singular version of their primary keyword.

You can see the impact of such a decision below to chose target Job rather than Jobs means that NY Job Source was showing #6 for the search term “Jobs” near the bottom of the page out of sight, looking for jobs just got easier for consumers but harder for business at least in organic results.

(Click to enlarge)

For AdWords campaign it might require just a few tweaks to split off a new campaign that seeks to target just the singular version or maybe start experimenting with broad match terms, no need to tweak or adjust backlink profile, so at a basic level AdWords will gain back its importance to a number of businesses now left out in the cold because of poor or little keyword research.

Google Instant Censorship?

There are early issues around self-censorship of Instant search terms that violate Google’s autocomplete policies where it shows a blank screen which requires the searchers to hit enter or click search to see the results. No big change from what they used to do, but it may change user’s behaviour to think they are getting no results so much be doing something wrong and should stop that train of thought.

I lost my focus during writing this post as a lot of people on Twitter & Facebook started calling the new platform a potential tool for censorship of particular industries not liked by Google. I wanted to see how this might affect well known darker verticals, so if you or your clients are into any industries like porn you don’t have to worry about optimising your organic or paid results for Google Instant results because you get the blank censored screen. But interesting if you operate in the following areas you need to rethink your strategies as Google Instant works for you with the suggestions in (brackets)

  • Generic (Viagra, Yaz)
  • Blackhat (seo, atm)
  • Bit Torrent (for music, for movies, for books)
  • People Smuggling (in mexico, into Australia)
  • Anything illegal (illegal immigration, illegal drugs)
  • Hacking Anything (hacking games, hacking Facebook, hacking Netflix)
  • Selling Organs (for money, on the black market, on ebay)
  • Payday loans (online, direct lender)
  • Free (movies online, ringtones, credit report)

It seems that while Google has enabled Instant Search for a number of these verticals the difference between AdWords showing or not is based on how searches phrase the query by using or not using spacing. But if you are currently getting traffic around based around one or two key phrases via AdWords you need to start to test what possible primary terms you should consider bidding on.

Google Instantly kills long tail traffic?

It seems that a number of sites that has typically benefited from either buying cheap long tail traffic or mistyped search queries via AdWords have the most to lose with the recent update. So example one of my sites based on information about medical problems that I had planned to focus around building quality content around long tail keywords now may likely struggle as Google refines how it suggests or filters out long tail keywords.

What happened to those Sponsored Links in suggestions?

Hopefully Google Instant will not see a return of Sponsored Links in the suggested results as this would be too much for anyone but the biggest advertisers to optimise and target effectively. It would likely also overwhelm the users who are already seeing too many ads in the search results. I’m glad to see that they have vanished from Google Instant but since the new platform is AJAX based they could be easily added back in the future.


Since Instant Search has less page views does that mean fewer ads shown?

I started this post by comparing AdWords campaign data from the 7th September vs. the 8th September for a US campaign. It seems that already there has been a noticeable impact on the AdWords campaign since the launch of Google Instant. We all know that one day is not enough data to start the filling the pantry with canned goods and bottled water but it does highlight that you need to be closely watching your AdWords campaigns and even organic traffic.

Instant Campaign Clicks

It seems that initially there is an impact on the clicks compared to the previous day (without Instant) with phrase match volume dropping to 62% and exact match volume dropping to 72%. It’s very interesting to see that broad match volume didn’t change with the Instant Search update which reinforces the benefits of using broad match terms. But overall there was a 16% drop in AdWords clicks since Instant Search was launched.


Instant Campaign Impressions

It seems that initially we see both positive and negative impacts on the impressions compared to the previous day (without Instant). There has been a drop in impressions for exact match terms down to 85% of the previous day’s volume which shows the new Instant Search feature is likely already changing people’s search behaviour.

An interesting side effect seems that impressions for phrase match & broad match keywords has actually risen by around 15% since Google Instant was launched which might be due to the progressive results or people doing more searches?

Instant Campaign CTR

Looking at the campaign data showed a very interesting impact on AdWords CTR with phrase matches dropping down to 41% of the previous days CTR. But there was a 4-5% rise in CTR for exact match and broad match keywords with Google Instant but overall there was a 12% drop in CTR but a 15% increase in CPC rates.

What does this mean for your AdWords campaign?

Depending on your use of keyword match types and which lead to the most conversions, but if you are using a single type and it’s not broad match you may have to step outside your comfort zone and test others. You are likely getting more ad impressions, less clicks/visitors but can potentially gain exposure earlier in the purchase cycle but it’s going to be via broad match keywords.

The biggest benefit of Instant search seems to be towards advertisers using broad match terms which are typically the larger advertisers who have money to burn. I would also guess that modified broad match is going to be the only possible way that many advertisers can reasonably expect to target the new Instant results via AdWords.

You really need to closely examine the conversion rates and cost per conversions stats once you have at least few days of data to see if there is a consistent trend but don’t panic just yet. The very early data I examined showed that there was a slight 4% drop in cost per conversion and a significant 21% uplift in conversion rate with the new Google Instant results. You need to be planning if this data stays consistent how it might affect your budgets and revenue over the next financial quarter. Remember a lot of tweaks and testing will be going on with both users and by Google so expect some interesting weeks ahead.

Category News
David Iwanow Global Search & Traffic Manager at Travel Network

Starting in 2019 I’m now based back in Amsterdam working for Danone Early Life Nutrition as Global Search & Traffic ...

Google Instant AdWords Trouble

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