You may have noticed visual changes recently when searching in Google. Somehow Google Ads are looking a lot like search results, differentiated only by a small “ad” mark in the beginning. Google has surreptitiously changed this little box that signals a Google AdWord from obvious yellow to sneaky green. This change makes it even more likely that you will unknowingly click on an ad. The new ads rolled out alongside other changes that put advertiser convenience before user experience.
Each year Google announce the latest changes to Adwords and Analytics through a Google Performance summit. This year’s keynote had a strong focus on the shift to Mobile and unifying the Google experience across all devices. One mobile-first change announced was to remove ads from the right-hand side and replace them with ads at the bottom of organic results. While this in itself is a valid point, it could also be seen as an excuse to shuffle things around in order to close the gap between ads and organic listings. There has also been an increase in the number of ads shown above organic listings from 3 to 4 (plus the 2 at the bottom).
Another big change is the addition of expanded text ads. This new format allows increased characters limits and double headlines. As a copywriter, this made my day. There’s no doubt this makes it easier to write ads, particularly for those product categories with longer names. This change is likely to have the opposite effect on user experience, as once again it increases the chance you will accidentally click on an ad only to find yourself on an irrelevant website. To me, this looks to be all about money, money, money, and not one bit about user experience. Google claims the changes are based on studies that show positive feedback from users and advertisers and, of course, has nothing at all to do with making more money.
Somehow, I wanted to believe that Google would be thinking more about putting relevant search result in front of users rather than just finding ways to manipulate decisions (well am I naive or what?!).
No doubt, there’s nothing wrong with making money and trying different delivery methods, but I think we were all hoping Google would stay true to their user centred culture. I guess not, and it is such a disappointment. The risk for Google in making these changes is that unsuspecting users may click on an ad, find themselves on an irrelevant site and promptly click away. Highly relevant ads and landing pages may be the only things that can save us from these wasted clicks.
|Kerryn is an Account Executive and Copywriter at Alexanders. She recently graduated with a BCom in Marketing from Canterbury University and now enjoys working with clients to deliver meaningful content.|