Google Rolls out Financial Services Comparison Ad-Unit in Search Results
On Monday afternoon Google rolled out an update in the US and the UK which changed the way in which comparison ad units were being displayed in the search results. The story appeared to break first on Money.co.uk, but I wanted to sit back and wait to see what else came out about this following the launch. Little has at this stage.
Back in 2010 I blogged about Google entering the credit card comparison search space, but this update and modification sees a new type of ad-unit integrate smoothly within the Google search results. I think it looks great, but it isn’t going to slot in without an impact on the search space. It is worth pointing out too that at the moment this is only being triggered though desktop and laptop devices, so tablet and mobile devices aren’t impacted (yet).
A new type of ad
This isn’t PPC or Natural Search listings being displayed differently – it is a new, third type of ad unit now being displayed in Google’s competitive search results. It isn’t currently appearing for all credit card, savings and current account queries, but we would clearly expect this to be the case as the initial launch is extended to cover more marketplaces for each of these three products.
In the past Google has always been very keen to stress that their search results represent ‘unbiased and objective’ results, but this sponsored comparison ad unit clearly presents advertisers with an opportunity to pay for inclusion of their products. More paid for real estate in the search results. This is undoubtedly the first real change in the SERPs evident since the Google acquisition of Beat that quote back in Q1 2011. We knew it would come, but didn’t really know when.
In the screenshot above, we can see that Barclaycard now have a very strong double listing in the paid and comparison spaces combined. This is a new opportunity for advertisers undoubtedly, but from a search engine marketing perspective – it presents an even greater challenge to those running PPC adverts and those looking to optimise their content to rank naturally for these product queries.
How have the Search Results changed?
- There are now only 2 traditional PPC listings at the top of the results for these queries
- The third is replaced by the comparison ad units
- The fold in the page on a smaller laptop display only displays a single organic listing (moneysupermarket.com)
How might this influence your search campaign performance?
- PPC click through rate (CTR) could be negatively impacted by users being drawn to the new ad units
- Price comparison websites might become more aggressive via PPC to capture or compete with this, pushing up CPCs from this perspective
- A poorer CTR in higher positions could negatively impact quality score (although this could be relative and apply to the whole marketplace)
- If PPC advertisers drop their presence and focus on these new ad units – average CPCs could decline, presenting an opportunity for some to be more aggressive than they have been historically, mixing it with the big boys
- If you don’t have a PPC or natural search listing which has been enhanced by PPC ad extensions or seller reviews, then overall campaign performance, CTR and volume could well suffer
- Organic CTR from natural results is also going to be skewed, given that organic results have been pushed further down the page, predominantly below the fold
- If you are occupying an aggressive position in the PPC listings, you might consider looking at a strategy to double face using this new ad-unit
- Desktop only
What about your wider campaign strategy?
- A traditional heavy reliance on the price comparison websites which deliver consistent volume for these products m might now change considerably once this rolls out fully
- Will this force some price comparison sites to review how much they are charging for business volume?
- If your product is able to stack up against the competition in this space – then you might consider reallocation of spend to this area, or away from traditional PPC
- The traditional benchmark indicators for product competitiveness become all the more important here:
- 0% Balance transfers
- 0% on Purchases
- Representative APR
If you don’t want to compete in this space, you might well avoid some of the so called “rate tarts” in the marketplace, but ultimately a new channel has emerged here – and your likely to want to be part of it rather than miss out on that volume to your competitors.
Is it an abuse of Google’s position as the dominant channel in search? This isn’t a channel open to all in a fair manner – it eliminates the price comparisons websites ability to compete. Maybe it is unfair, to them… but a Barclaycard might disagree!
More to come on this, no doubt.
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