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Google Puts Product Ads Above Organic Search Results

Searching Google for product information, whether over holiday periods or otherwise, used to yield organic search results in order of relevancy. But now, Google has populated that high-end virtual real estate with a variety of ad formats thanks to its vigorous Product Listing Ads (PLA) ministrations.

In a recent conversation, Merkle/RKG head of research Mark Ballard told EcommerceBytes how this placement has shifted from 2013’s holiday shopping season to 2014’s.

Calling the placement of PLAs above the organic listing in the center column of the search results in that time the biggest change, Ballard said the testing Google did in 2013 led to them officially adopting the practice in early 2014.

“Similarly, Google was testing the yellow ad icon for desktop ads in late 2013,” he said of another Google change that became a regular feature in 2014. “We think the yellow ad icon may have improved some ad click-through rates on the order of 10-15 percent.”

Recent months has seen Google offer various callout extensions for ads, allowing sellers to highlight key features of their offers. While it isn’t apparent if any particular one or combination of extensions matter more than others, Ballard said, “Google is choosing which extensions and combinations of extensions it thinks will work best for any given search, so the important thing for advertisers to do is provide Google with a full complement of relevant options.”

PLA Performs Better for Certain Categories 
With the competition for top of page placement intense, the importance of PLAs for any given retail sub-industry varies. While consumer electronics sees 64 percent of non-brand Google clicks come from PLA, apparel retailers see 31 percent according to Ballard.

“This speaks to how consumers search for different types of products,” he said, noting how people are more likely to search for a particular TV model than a dress. “PLAs are a more appropriate ad format for those more specific queries.”

Extensions Matter for PLA Ads 
As Google makes more features like extensions available in its PLAs for advertisers, it could be beneficial for ecommerce pros to implement them as soon as possible. “They will have an advantage in the auction because Google uses the expected impact of ad extensions in its Ad Rank logic,” Ballard said.

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.