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SERP: Out with the Old; In with the New

As a result of Google changing their search engine results page (SERP) this past March, IgnitionOne  performed an analysis to determine the impact  it has had on paid search campaign performance. The below screen shots exemplify the recent changes. Note the differences in background color, font size and ad headline underlining.

Old Version (March 12, 2014)

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New Version (March 13, 2014)

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Results: Key Takeaways

  • For keywords in position 1-3 there was a CTR increase of 6% (from 7.45% to 7.88%)
  • With that increase in CTR there was also a marginal increase in CPC of 2% (from $0.68 to $0.69)
  • For rankings 4-6 there were similar trends – increased CTR and increased CPC, but for those positions the results did not show statistical significance.

What does it all mean?

  • The results are not a surprise; the change blurs the visual lines between paid and organic results. This trend will inevitably lead to more clicks going to the results at the top of the page, resulting in higher CTR on paid ads. 
  • For paid search advertisers this means more click volume on the same ads, but there is also an observed CPC inflation that comes with the increase in volume.
  • Holistically, is the increase in traffic being taken from organic and moved to paid? Very likely, this is the case because the results as a whole did not become any more relevant than they were before March 12, The overall propensity to click on a search result has stayed the same. Thus this change shifted clicks from one channel to another.
  • Since the change impacted all of the advertisers in the same way, it is still a leveled playing field. Those in the top positions will likely benefit more since the searcher is now less likely to scroll for lower ranking results.

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