Google Instant and The Polarising of PPC

The introduction of Google Instant last Wednesday has thrown up many questions for PPC Account Managers the world over. Will my CTR plummet? And Do I need to change my whole account structure? Are just two on an ever increasing list. As we get to grips with the impact of Google Instant over the coming months those dedicated ones amongst us will quickly identify, evolve and act to increase on the KPIs we already measure ourselves by. Its in our nature, as it is with all those passionate about PPC to do so. Below are some of my thoughts on what could occur and become best practice as we move forward with Google Instant.

Death of Traditional Broad Match

The release of Modified Broad Match earlier in the year was a great addition to the PPC armoury. Those advocates of traditional broad match teamed with a lengthy, quality researched negative keyword list (which includes myself) still found rich pickings targeting niche markets and the tail. Where (session-based) broad match was applied by Google with little defence or opt out from those broad matchers amongst us, Instant Search could prove more deadly. The ability of instant search to serve new ads every three seconds makes short tail broad match laced with peril. Aside from irrelevant impressions being served along the search in real time, the application of broad match keyword usage could prove just too costly. Both in subsequent irrelevant clicks and the cost in effort involved in optimising an account to defend against an immeasurable related broad match threat.

3 Second Impressions

Google’s ‘3 second rule’ on impressions is frankly about as brutal as it could be, given their own admission that the average user takes 9 seconds to enter a search term. I’m no touch typist but certainly no slouch, however the vast majority of people can’t find the correct key to type next in three seconds, let alone know at that stage their search term before they’ve begun. Yes SEO circles may say you’re not charged by impression so why the panic but indirectly you are and the cost will be a high one. Increased irrelevant impressions harm CTR, which lowers quality score which raises CPC. As mentioned by @richardfergie on the recent @kelvinnewman podcast, these problems will affect all PPC advertisers on a level playing field so its a universal handicap. Clients the world over though will want to know why they are paying more for their orders and leads and the explanation, although valid, may not cut it.

Quality Score

The quality score algorithm has always proved a problem for those of us that see the dreaded ‘low search volume’ enter our accounts. Experienced PPC Analysts and Account Managers that target niche markets or the long tail do so for the great ROI and CPA that can be obtained, only to see poor quality scores attributed down to lack of keyword history and historical CTR data. This has been a flaw in the quality score for too long but hopefully instant search may just start to address some of the issues. Instant search already seems to be pushing the long tail, albeit through suggested search. This process of auto fill will help those of us looking for a solution to delve that bit deeper into the web for our answers and for the masses at large, condition their searches to a format that both us and Google would like them to use. Hopefully this change in the methodology of search will start to create richer history’s for niche and long tail keywords to combat current quality score issues and cement the foundations for low volume keywords to start finding favour in search.

Increases In Short Tail

In this current age of impatience people don’t like to type any longer than they have to. All of us are guilty of using Google suggest currently to get to our info that bit quicker, especially auto completing for sites we visit regularly. It’s become an intrinsic part of the search process for us all that we would surely miss it if the functionality was removed. Instead of with Google Suggest where we see the correct keyword and click this has now moved on with Google Instant to there’s what I’m looking for and click. This change will make bidding on the short tail essential especially for brands and those trying to pre-emptively rank for high CPC mid length terms.

Reduction in Mid Length Keyword Searches

Google Instant as discussed above looks to be an attempt to polarise search. For one part driving more short tail to brands and informational searches, the other to more expansive long tail. This newly conditioned way of search should suit both Google in serving more accurate content and and advertisers for getting exposure to niches and the long tail. A browse through suggested terms on Google Instant does seem to back this up. A reduction in the size of the suggest box from a 10 pack down to a new 5 pack ,although necessary so as to not dominate the SERPs results, has led to a point where Google has to cover all the bases in less space. The architecture of Google Instant has dictated this so suggested keywords featured should see an increase in traffic to the detrimental affect of those mid term keywords.

Account Architecture

One final thought on account structure. As discussed above polarising of search should make PPC account structure based on separate short tail and long tail ad groups a must. Many of us already use this technique to marriage with user intent based on an ever refining search cycle, from initial search to final conversion. Google Instant however should make user searches by intent more defined for advertisers as to better identify, analyse and target through ever more appropriate ad text.

PPC: The poorer brother in Google’s new look SERPs

Much has been made of Google’s new look SERPs, both positive and negative. No one can deny from a search point of view the new left navigation of defined mediums allows single click access to relevant materials faster than before. This has always been Google’s manifesto and key to its huge market share. Despite all this concentration on achieving more qualified SERPs, has PPC advertising been ignored in Google’s latest incarnation.

*I’ll use the Nintendo Wii as an example

A standard search currently serves up targeted and highly relevant PPC ads bidding for supremacy on single story SERPs. For those short tail keyword searchers not instantly seeing what they need, they now have the ability to easily go that level deeper in a single click.

Let’s say a searcher was after a cheats book for the Wii (as we know not everyone utilises the long tail when searching) so clicks on Books. Surely enough a new page of results appears for Wii related books. PPC ads however are left behind. All displayed ads are for the original search, not so relevant now right? Book retailers selling game guides, cheat books and walkthroughs using PPC advertising would love to target this ad space but are not given the opportunity. Not only this but due to the page refresh we now have two impressions each ad.

A click on videos again serves relevant Wii content of games, console clips and reviews. Once again though PPC ads remain static and not so relevant. Games developers, manufacturers and those using viral video would love to target this highly relevant advertising real estate but aren’t given the opportunity. Impressions are now up to three on these ads lets not forget.

This new system of 8 levels of search has left PPC advertisers that produce quality and thematic ads a new and reduced level of targeted relevancy. Much was made of the very welcomed introduction of Modified Broad Match conveniently in the days immediately after the changes. This significant, but small grace from Google, shouldn’t be lost on us in the PPC industry as a way to plug the hole left by the possible and harmful multiple impressions served up by the new left hand navigation. Not to mention the loss in traffic from Google serving less relevant ads.

Until we in the industry are given the ability to specifically target these pages, (which face it wouldn’t be a difficult to incorporate into the AdWords interface) we will risk suffering quality scores, CTRs subsequent increased costs.

Search Engine Roundtable recently undertook a survey asking if people were receiving less referrals from Google since the redesign. 80% of people said they had seen a reduction or continuity of traffic levels. I think it won’t be long before Google announces the ability to target these pages, in the meantime though it seems the loss in referrals from PPC advertising specifically is set to continue.