Blank Space

“Cause we’re young and we’re reckless
We’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless
Or with a nasty scar
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
But I got a blank space baby
And I’ll write your name”

I’ve joked for many years that every time I take a holiday Google make a major change that means I have to learn my job when I return. I’ll forever associate Enhanced Campaigns with my honeymoon in the Maldives, for instance (#humblebrag).

A couple of weeks since, we were tipped the wink that Big G were changing the way they presented ads on desktop. I was, amazingly, in the office, although obviously I had the following week booked off, which gave me a bit of time, in between trips to IKEA, to think about the ramifications.

There will be variations in CPC and CTR, some advertisers will win, some will find it more challenging. Google will be alright. But what of the space? That’s some prime real estate right there. Since Barcelona gave over their shirts to Qatar, about the only spaces that eschew the advertising dollar to the same degree of wantonness are Google’s own home page and the entire BBC (although I’d love an ad blocker preventing the BBC from hawking their own wares in their properties).

How dare Google just take this off the table! What other publishers would give for more space to sell ads! What the hell are they going to do with it? Let me offer some options.

A dirty great big, flash-heavy skyscraper ad

Think of the CPMs! The targeting options! It’s on desktop only, so you can merrily serve ads without the spectre of everyone blocking them because they’re sapping their data (don’t get me started on this), and track a lengthy post impression window to claim as many conversions as possible. Search is getting way too complicated, and the text ads are so static and boring. I’m sure buyers across the West End would leap at the opportunity to whack a gaudy, headache-inducing ad in the space on a long tenancy. A great option for those who pine for the mid-noughties.

An enhanced Knowledge Graph

Google have been pretty consistent in trying to get to a place where if they reasonably know the answer, they will present it without you having to click again. The Knowledge Graph, which launched in May 2012 (I think I was in Spain but I’ll check with the wife), does a rich job of this for an increasing range of queries, and has crept further and further down the right hand side. There has also been testing on monetising parts of this (links to buy or download music, films or books, for example), so expect to see opportunities for brands and resellers in that space.

Corrections and clarifications

I’m firmly of the opinion that Google have been given too much responsibility in the eyes of the authorities in Europe in particular for the content they surface in search results. The right to be forgotten farrago is the most extreme example of this (that we know of), and Google are dealing with an enormous volume of requests to ignore published material that sites containing it have no obligation to do anything with.

Why not take a playful view and publish clarifications and corrections like you get tucked away in the inner column of newspapers? That way Google can remove all references to a public figure’s indiscretion but publish details of exactly what they’ve removed alongside it. I think we’d all like Google to be a bit more cussed.

They could also help newspapers by publishing retractions alongside searches for the newspaper. I’m sure they’d think twice about some of their less substantiated pieces if they knew it would directly impact their credibility for a period.

The Twitter Killer

After a period of abstinence, Google is now back to pulling in Twitter results for certain searches. At the same time, even for heavily commercial searches like car insurance, Google makes space for news-related results. They are also making it easier for brands, celebrities and businesses to post directly into search results – could the natural home for this type of stream be the vacant space on the right hand side?

Doing this would create a native, relevant news stream in the best traditions of Twitter’s core use for many of following news and live events. It could be a(nother) storm cloud over Twitter, or could pull in relevant tweets and give it a boost.

An abstract concept of infinite possibility

I’m not an artist, but I wouldn’t put it past Shia Lebeouf to claim this as his latest installation.

More Google Shopping

The growth of available inventory, clicks and conversions through PLAs and then Google Shopping has been an under-rated success story for Google over the last couple of years. Advertisers who are equipped with a decent feed and a savvy agency ( if you want to talk) are seeing effectively a whole new channel evolve.

Google Shopping has largely stolen traffic from natural search and arguably creating additional traffic as it defends the search engine against the increasing number of purchase journeys that were starting on Amazon specifically or within retailer or aggregator apps and sites more generally.

Shopping results are creeping into the Knowledge Graph (search iPhone 6s and look at the blue links in the box – they’re PLAs), and the four or five results across the top of the main section are already up to eight results on the right hand side, and there’s now literally nothing stopping them going all the way down. It’s a strong visual experience and brings more choice to the user, and more advertisers to the first page.

What white space?

They could just spread the central section wider, make the text bigger, and basically just close it up. Spoilsports.


Disclaimer: This blog post is in no way endorsed by or affiliated with Taylor Swift. She couldn’t care less about the Google change. She’s had a blank space, baby, for ages.


March 10, 2016|

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