We keep talking about different ways that paid search results (aka pay-per-click or PPC) keep taking up more and more real estate on Google’s search engine results pages. Now we’re seeing the trend expand beyond regular web searches. Google’s latest updates have made paid results more prominent on image search and maps. What’s this all about, and what could it mean for your business? Keep reading!
Shopping Invades Image Search
Google Image Search had actually been, to this point, one of the last preserves of pure organic search results. It’s great if you’re looking for a picture of just about anything, but it’s not making Google any income. Starting mid May, that’s changing—Google now shows Google Shopping results as the top row of search results for some image searches. The change was first rolled out on mobile, but now it’s on desktops, too.
Google’s pitch is that this makes image search more useful for consumers. Their research found that people who research purchases and shop directly from smartphones rely on product images the most (other options were reviews, product videos, etc.). By placing Shopping ads at the top of image search, Google argues that they are helping consumers use Image Search to do something they’re already using it to do—shop. They also argue that this is helpful for small businesses and for local bricks-and-mortar outposts of chains, because many people who are searching on mobile are interested in actually making their purchases offline.
Google Shopping ads appear following keyword searches with “high commercial intent,” meaning results will only show up when a web user searches for something like “buy ipod nano.” However, in our experiments searching for just about any product—without using brand or trade names or including the word “buy”—Google’s new Image Search results included Google Shopping ads. Here’s a search for “widescreen tv.”
As on (almost) all image searches, the top bar includes colorful boxes with keywords that commonly accompany the search or that can be used to narrow the results. The bigger thing to notice, though, is how much space the Google Shopping results (which are demarcated with the word “Sponsored” in gray) stand out. Instead of “floating” like the organic image results do, they’re set off on white with vertical rules between each result, and give you the price and store for each item. That means users actually shopping via Image Search are highly likely to click on these paid results rather than organic—not only are they more visually prominent, they have more information already displayed on the page. It’s also easy to view additional shopping results without even scrolling down the page—these results display horizontally, and a tap or a click takes you to the next batch.
If you’ve got an image that sends your site strong organic traffic (and some sites definitely do), it’s possible that this change could cause you to lose some of that traffic. Between the suggested terms and the Shopping results, organic Image Search results only get about half the screen space they used to on a desktop. Of course, if you want to list your products on Google Shopping, this change could be a win—especially if mobile users in your area are searching for what you sell, you’re more likely to show up in their results.
A Little Moolah Gets You on the Map
Another recent change that’s also oriented to web users searching on mobile devices: assuming your phone or tablet’s settings enable your browser to know your location (which is usually the case), Google mobile SERPs now display PPC map results at the top of the page. This isn’t just when a web user is searching within Google Maps, or even searching “near me” or with a town or city name. Here’s an example of a mobile search where the only keyword we entered was “chiropractors.”
Paid results take up more or less the entire screen—you can just see a sliver of the map, and organic map results display below the map (followed, eventually, by organic web results). Though if there were fewer relevant PPC ads these would take up less screen real estate, these aren’t just prominent—they also bear a strong resemblance to organic results. Instead of denoting each listing as an ad, these results have a heading that says “Ads” in green followed by “nearby businesses” in gray. At Higher Power SEO, this is what we do all day, and at least two of our team members did not realize that these new listings were paid results—they look organic.
To get your PPC ads in the running for this space, it’s important that local extensions are enabled on your AdWords account, and that all of your Google My Business listing info is up-to-date. Google tends to show businesses that are open whenever possible (if your search result shows up after hours, it will say “closed right now”). If your hours aren’t listed, it’s the luck of the draw (well, the bid). Especially if you count on foot traffic for business, it’s important to keep your hours accurate.
Your PPC campaigns may need a bit of tinkering to ensure you’ve got a shot at showing up in these results. Keywords that relate to your location may be helpful, as are targeting specific locations and setting your bids by location (that way, you bid more for web users who are actually “near you”). It’s also worth noting that with these ads, you’re paying a standard cost-per-click not just for the usual clicking on your link, but for other actions including local details, directions, and click-to-call.
Could your PPC use a revamp? If you’re not getting the ROI you had hoped for from your pay-per-click campaigns, Higher Power SEO can perform a PPC audit to help you see what’s working and where your budget could be better spent. Call us at 760-881-4736 to learn more.