#Organic Search - SEO #Paid Search - PPC #Digital Marketing

Google Tests Closer Alignment of Paid and Organic Formats

Google is constantly testing and experimenting with new features, ad formats and tools to enhance the user experience as well as the relevancy and usefulness of the ads. Since the introduction of Extended Text Ads, Google has been eager to test different ad and extension formats to improve user experience without affecting the advertiser's intent.

Recently, Google has started testing different ad headline formats and introduced "piping" to separate the two headlines. This new ad aspect appeared in the USA and UK on 18th January, but as Google hasn’t made an official announcement yet, it is unclear to which other countries the test has been expanded to.

Below is an example of the new ad format:

PPC Advert 

For more than a year, Google has also been showing the domain before the first headline separated by a dash. Under the new ad changes, the dash has been substituted for a pipe too, making the ad resemble an organic result as can be seen in the screenshot below:

PPC Advert 2  

iProspect.com organic listing

This alignment between paid and organic listings seems to be the main reason for initiating a new test to enhance the user’s experience. For advertisers, that should be good news as the CTR should improve. Looking at client figures comparing 11th - 17th Jan and 18th - 24th Jan, there seems to be a slight increase in CTR, more prominently in some industries than others. The results below are across a number of iProspect clients with minimal changes to the campaign during this time period, resulting in a stable test environment:

PPC Advert 3 

The average increase in CTR across all clients above was 10.6%.

However, even though this is not common, the pipe or vertical line is a delimiter, emphasizing a full stop. This will affect the way the ad is being read by the user and impact on performance. For SEO, the pipeline is used as best practice as it takes less pixels than the dash, avoiding any truncated content.

Unfortunately, there is no way to definitively measure the impact of this formatting change as it is not an available segment within AdWords. The best guide would be to review overall CTR pre- and post-18th January. It is also an option to manually construct the formatting and conduct an A/B ad copy test.

As Google continues to test a variety of new formats, the introduction of piping to paid search adverts, to align more closely with organic, appears to be one of the widest roll-outs in recent months. Although we cannot directly control the appearance of this new format, it highlights the importance of advertisers keeping a keen eye on live search engine results pages to identify new tests and attribute them to changes in performance. Ad copy testing, as always, will remain a key component of the paid search optimisation feedback loop but advertisers need to maintain a holistic view of all variables to ensure effective development of their accounts.