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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – March 2016

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, featuring news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search marketing techniques and trends.

In our first article this month, we take a look at Google’s recent introduction of a new layout for AdWords ads in the search results. This is a significant change to the way in which the ads are being displayed and should be critical information to all businesses and search marketers that manage an AdWords account, as this is likely to have quite an impact in the future.

Our second article examines Facebook’s recent roll-out of emoji-style ‘Reactions’ and the potential value of this data for the marketing industry. Our final article describes Google Grants for non-profit organisations and the eligibility criteria required to receive Google Ad Grants to the value of $10,000 USD per month in AdWords advertising.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.

On to this month’s edition…

Google Introduces New Layout For AdWords Ads

On February 19th, in a move that could have a significant impact upon AdWords campaigns in the future, Google announced a dramatic change that removes ads from the right side of its desktop search results, and places ads only at the top and/or bottom of the page. Simultaneously, the company said it may show an additional ad (i.e. four, not three) above the search results for what it calls ‘highly commercial queries’, such as searches for “hotels in London” or “car insurance” and then place two or three text ads at the bottom of the page.

Google confirmed that the change is now rolling out to all desktop searches worldwide in all languages, following a period of testing and gradual implementation. As a result of this change, the search results page becomes a cleaner list of results with no ads appearing down the right hand column, with 2 exceptions: Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes, which show either above or to the right of search results; and ads in the Knowledge Panel for brand name or some general information searches. The removal of all right-side ads obviously makes the desktop and mobile search results more similar, although on a mobile search, Google typically shows either two or three ads at the top of the results.

The changes on desktop searches mean that the total number of text ads that can appear on a Search Engine Results Page will shrink from as many as 11 to a maximum of 7, and the top 4 positions are now the only visible ads to users without having to scroll down the page. Although this ads another place to the prime positions at the top of the search results, this change will inevitably make competition for those positions more fierce, possibly leading to an escalating cost-per-click and overall AdWords advertising costs. So it’ll be interesting to see how first page and top of page bid minimums shift.

There is also an impact on the search experience for many users, and although ads have been gaining more of the primary real estate in recent years, this move ensures that the organic search results are pushed further down the page for many searches. Since some searchers dislike the ads and prefer to rely on Google’s ‘own’ results driven by the SEO techniques of relevant websites, this may mean that some searches could become more disillusioned with the apparent commercial focus of the Google results.

So far the main reaction to this change has come from the search engine marketing community and it’s too early to tell what longer term impact this change may have, or how advertising costs may increase. We’ll be monitoring this closely over coming months and will implement and required changes to keep costs to a minimum, whilst maintaining as prominent positions as possible for our advertisers.

If you want to know more about how these changes may impact your Google AdWords campaigns, please contact us now.


Facebook Rolls Out ‘Reactions’

Following an announcement at the end of last year, Facebook has now started to roll out emoji-style Reactions for all users, which will allow you to express your feelings to a post in a more descriptive way than just a ‘like’.

Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that Reactions were now being introduced across most countries after a period of testing. The idea, according to Zuckerberg, is to add “a little bit of complexity” to something that is very simple. “When you only have a like button, if you share a sad piece of content or something that makes you angry, people may not have the tool to react to it.” So now Facebook users are being given new tools in the form of emoticons labelled “love”, “haha”, “wow”, “sad” and “angry” – or they can still just “like”.

It is likely to be advertisers who will be most impressed about this change to the way Facebook works as it will enable them to gain better levels of feedback and market reaction to content posted on the social media site. The latest results show just how much they have bought into the social network’s message that it offers a unique way to connect with consumers and learn everything about them. Now they will have a far more complex set of data available and potentially make advertising more appealing.

Simon Calvert, head of strategy at the marketing agency Lida, says if the new system accurately reflects human emotions then it will be very interesting. “The ability to build better emotional connections with consumers is something that advertisers really prize. Facebook ‘likes’ have become a somewhat devalued currency because brands collect them mindlessly”. But he sees advertisers using Reactions in a far more sophisticated way to get insights into the emotions people feel about products.

Another social media marketing expert, Kristal Ireland of Twentysixdigital, says there is always great excitement when Facebook makes a change like this. She believes there is an opportunity to learn far more about what people think of marketing messages but says the real challenge will be to make sense of the flood of new data: “You might end up with such fragmented data that you can’t make up your mind what your ad should look like.”

But what should Facebook users think about laying out their emotions for all to see? Nick Oliver urges caution – his company People.io aims to help users take control over their social media data and realise its value to advertisers. He says “from the consumer point of view they are now giving up their emotional data for advertisers to use and manipulate. People open themselves up on social media and the data is used in ways they never expect”. He argues that the rise in the use of ad blockers, which are largely ineffective on Facebook, makes this data even more valuable. “The demand for a price of people’s attention is getting higher.”

Of course, the big question for advertisers is just how honest people will be in expressing themselves via the Reactions buttons. The social media era has seen millions sharing their feelings online – but companies have also quickly learnt just how dangerous that can be. Understanding the significance of Facebook’s new Reactions will become an essential skill for anyone working in social media marketing.

If you would like more information about how Facebook advertising can help your business, contact us now.


Google Grants for Non-Profits

Google Grants is a donation program that distributes free in-kind AdWords advertising to qualifying non-profit organisations. Participating non-profit organisations are eligible to receive up to US$10,000 per month in advertising within the AdWords search engine marketing platform so it provides an excellent opportunity for charities and other non-profits to get their message out to the search market for a minimal cost.

Google says that the Grants scheme tries to make it easier for people to donate to a cause and so the easier it is for them to donate, the more likely it is that they will. The more frequently the ads appear next to Google search results, the more people will be aware of a cause and so that can translate into more donations and more volunteers, which is the lifeblood of every non-profit organisation.

Once qualifying for the Google Grants scheme, a non-profit can set up and manage a Google AdWords account like any other advertiser, and compete in the search results auction for relevant keywords. However, there are some restrictions and limitations in the way this can work, namely:

  • Advertisers can only use the Google Search network, so not Search Partners or the Display network
  • All campaigns are keyword targeted only and can only use the standard text ads
  • Maximum bid levels are limited to US$2 per keyword
  • Advertisers must actively manage the AdWords account by logging in once a month and making at least one change to the account every 90 days.
  • The ads and keywords should match the organisation’s programs and services.
  • Strictly commercial advertising is prohibited. If products or services are promoted, 100% of the proceeds must go directly to supporting the program.

Getting access to this level of ‘free’ advertising is very useful for many non-profit organisations, and very active or high spending users could achieve Grantspro status with US$40k of funded advertising per month. However, the main challenge with these campaigns is to work with the maximum CPC level, which can limit ad ranking in competitive markets and makes the achievement of good Quality Scores at the keyword level much more important, so that campaign structure is vital. Also, in a market where the local exchange rate is impacted by movements against the US$, this can also affect ad ranking positions.

If you’d like to know more about Google Grants and whether your non-profit organisation is eligible for the scheme, please contact us now for an initial review.


We hope you’ve found this month’s newsletter useful. As usual, if you have any questions or need help with any of these items, please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance.

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