Google Testing New Ad Extensions? You Beta Believe it!

Andy Darnell | August 1st 2014

When Google started including Ad Extensions alongside Quality Score and CPCs to determine Ad Rank, we knew it was only a matter of time before we started seeing some new, weird and wonderful extensions doing the rounds.

But why does Google exhaust so much time and energy on testing all these different types of extensions? Well, ask anyone at Google and you’re most likely to be informed it is all to do with making the user experience as easy, relevant and seamless as possible.

However, as all of us battle-hardened, cynical PPCers know, there may be a different reason, more closely related to good old filthy lucre! The simple answer here is that the more ads that get clicks, whether in the good old-fashioned body of the ad or on any one of the extensions available, then the more money the global search lords accrue.

Remember all the huffing and puffing from disgruntled designers in 2009 when Marissa Mayer, then Google executive and spokesperson, announced that Google was testing 41 shades of blue to see which encouraged the most clicks?

Google is in the business of providing search results to help people find what they are looking for – why shouldn’t they maximise profit? Of course, the key word in the previous sentence is “business”, and while we may all love our jobs, for most the bottom line is that we’re here to make money … so who are we to begrudge Google the same prerogative?

So here’s our round-up of a few things that have caught our eye …

Dynamic Sitelinks

These have only come about recently (in fact they’re currently only available in the US market although they’re due to be rolled out to other markets soon). They essentially (to paraphrase a well-known wood treatment) do exactly what they say on the tin … dynamically create sitelinks.

They are designed for people who are making numerous searches or click through on multiple search ads. Based upon previous activity, they allow Adwords dynamically to identify which pages within a business’s site are most relevant.

Below is an example of how one might appear underneath the main body of the ad;

PPC Dynamic Site Link Example

Of course, we PPC types can be an anal bunch of control freaks at times and many of us will have carefully selected our current sitelinks based on various historic performance factors. So fear not, we can still stay in control, as any pre-selected sitelinks will have priority over the dynamic ones.

This begs the question: if we have carefully selected our sitelinks already, why use these? Well one answer could be that they are free. Yep, you heard me right …FREE!

This, as you will be well aware, could be considered a somewhat unusual step by Google, who are not known for freebies. Well (and here comes the cynicism), we all know that sitelinks only actually get a very small proportion of the clicks. In fact in our accounts we tend to see this is being less than 4% of the time.

What we view as a sitelinks’ greatest benefit is that other factors, such as making the most of the extra characters available, not only occupy more real estate at the top of the page, but also push any other brand messaging, advertise the range available, etc.

What this boils down to is that a sitelinks’ primary concern is with helping to increase an ad’s click-through rate. So with this in mind, does this mean that these new dynamic ads are going to increase overall clicks on your ads? And if so, will it mostly be through the main body of the ad, with an increase in the cost?

If this is the case then does this mean Google has actually managed to increase the number of paid clicks for your business? It’s certainly an interesting one to watch, as if it’s used well then we could possibly all walk away from this one as winners …

PLA Ratings

With standard Product Listings fast becoming old (although highly successful!) news, along come PLA Ratings. These are another recent addition to the suite of possible extensions and are aggregated rating and review data for the product taken from multiple sources.

They are clearly a logical ‘next step’ from the hugely successful Seller Ratings seen in the standard Google results which have been around for a while now. 

PLA Ratings Example

The clear purpose here is to provide the user with even more information to aid in their purchase decision, with the obvious final goal of delivering even more qualified traffic to the website.

So what these will do is add yet another level of visual appeal to the standard PLAs, where we’ve seen some really strong results. We’ll certainly be eagerly awaiting their imminent UK launch as – sorry folks – for the time being these are only in beta in the States.

“It is important to remember that Google is a business and PPC is key to it continuing to make money. The continuing updates to paid ad formats are designed for them to increase their revenue; however, if used correctly, they are also a great way to expand your reach and increase your efficiency. Not every update is applicable to every industry, but the introduction of shopping ads and the continued refinements in these is providing great results for retail companies. The ability to occupy more of the search results page through both paid and organic results is providing great results and can help to increase brand recognition for companies that get their search strategies right.

Nikki Stasyszyn, Online Marketing Team Leader
“With each new update of the sitelink formula – and this time, dynamic sitelinks make their bow – Google suggest they have the advertiser’s best interest at heart – with less time pain-stakingly required to perfect the optimal campaign sitelink setup for your chosen business. To echo previous thoughts, it is essential to remember Google is a business, and the bottom line is and always will be their main priority. Alas, having said that, with the update of dynamic sitelinks and PLAs, comes more options for the advertiser, and more options to test is always advantageous.”

Daryl Burrows, Paid Search Executive

So where are Google going with PPC ad extensions? There is clearly value for them to continue providing businesses with better optimised ads aimed at generating additional clicks and conversions. It’s a welcome challenge from our point of view as these two targets are our main objectives on the client accounts we work on. The sneaky aspect is that with each and every extension update there is going to be more incentive for businesses to increase their account spend, perhaps even subconsciously. With extensions like the dynamic site links which appear “free” to adwords users Google are playing a slightly crafty game. However, we wait in anticipation for the next round of new extensions to play around with!