Side Out – Google Changes Selected Paid Search – Interview with Gary Ware, Covario

Side Out – Google Changes Selected Paid Search Results by Eliminating Side Bar Ads

What Is the Side Out Format?

Interview with Gary Ware,

For certain query types, Google is going to replace the listings traditionally that show up on the right side bar and place them at the bottom of the page. An example of this new layout is shown on the Google Blog.

Like a volleyball player on the beaches of Southern California, Google is calling “Side Out”! In addition to the new “recency” algorithm changes that are impacting SEO results, Google announced a phased rollout of a new paid search format that changes where paid search listings appear on desktop and mobile search results pages. The rollout is slow—searchers may or may not see the changes during their casual perusal of their favorite phrases. But it is coming, or at least, being tested. The new format will impact CTRs, pricing, and effectiveness of paid search programs. The point of this POV is to describe our views on what the importance of this change is.

Note, advertisers (and their agencies) will not be able to directly control this. Much like all ads on Google, bottom ads will be placed based on bid strategy and Quality Score—but not for a targeted bid position. The appearance of Google Maps on particular queries may impact placement, but it is unclear exactly how this will play out on an impression-byimpression basis at this point. So a strategy to bid on position “4” in the past may result in Side or Bottom ads.

Why is Google Making This Change?

There are two reasons for this change—one technical and one tactical. The technical reason is that Google is aligning the way the search results pages work for desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. This format for results has been used on mobile in the past. Due to the spacing and usability of mobile phone screens, Side ads are not desirable or renderable in many cases. The tactical reason is that Google indicates click through rates for listings at the bottom of the page actually are better
than those at the side of the page.

Google offers a capability to evaluate CTRs based on page placement within AdWords. The system traditionally allowed users of AdWords to see the comparative CTRs of Top versus Side ads. Google indicated that the bottom of the page ads will be listed as “Other” in the system, where Other will include both Side and Bottom ads, so the specific effectiveness of the new format will be hard to test. The only way this can be done is if it is know that certain keywords consistently are showing up in the bottom listing. AdWords is not providing that information now.
When asked about this, the Google team that works with Covario indicated that Google “may” be updated in the future as this change is rolled out more widely, but there is no commitment on timeframe.

What Does This Mean?
There are a number of ramifications to this change—most of which depend on whether Google’s statement that CTRs at the bottom of the page perform better than Side ads. So that is the critical factor.

First, this all comes down to CTRs. We did a quick study to see the difference between Top and Side ads for a numberof keywords. The average desktop CTR on Google Search (no partners) for Top ads is 3.3%. The CTR for Side (or Other) ads is .16%. No big surprise there—the value of being in the prime real estate is well known. So the question
is whether the Bottom ads will beat an average .16% CTR. As stated above, testing this appears to be harder than it
needs to be, since AdWords is not breaking out Side vs. Bottom ads in AdWords. However, if an advertiser (or theiragency) can identify a set of keywords where the ads consistently are being served at the bottom of the page, then this can be tested, albeit manually.

If the CTRs are better than .16% (or the appropriate equivalent for a particular advertiser) on the first page, then the
question comes down to CPC, and whether there will be a non-linear impact on CPCs. This is also unknown at this
time, and Google makes no comment, believing that the market is rationale and that advertisers will bid commensurate with the value delivered—a fair assumption.

More significantly, if the CTRs are over .16% on average, advertisers should embrace this change. It will create
standardization between the device types, a more consistent way to evaluate PPC, and in the end, better ways to target PPC for response. Google has made it clear that dominating mobile advertising and operability is its most critical strategic objective, and this is part of that strategy. As we stated, there are two drivers for this change to PPC: trying to drive better CPCs on desktop through placement of PPC ads at the bottom of the page, and the more strategic issue of alignment of results pages across all device types. If successful, the Side ad is toast. Even Karch Kiraly will not be able to dig it out of the sand. Google is going to wean advertisers off of this ad format in order to make the desktop perform like mobile—not the other way around.

Marketing B2B via Facebook: The Most Common Mistake You’re Probably Making

Interview with Dennis Yu, CEO of of Portland. Ore.

Let’s say you run a business making websites for dentists. You might buy the keywords “dentist”, “dental marketing” and “dental websites” on Google. In between the consumers who are looking to get some cosmetic dentistry, teeth cleaning, or other procedures done, there is a sprinkling of dentists who are looking for marketing help.

Depending on the term, it could be 90%+ of these searches not being relevant, and at $5-10 a click, that’s a lot of irrelevant clicks to pay for to find a winner, even if that winner will pay you $10,000 for a new website.

The biggest problem with B2B is that when someone types in “dentist”, you don’t know if they are a dentist or if they are looking for a dentist.

The die-hard PPC folks will argue that you’re just not choosing the right keywords (go for more specific terms), don’t have enough negative keywords (exclude anyone searching with city terms—since these are likely consumers), or you’re not writing specific enough ad copy (supposedly, consumer won’t click on your ad if your title is “Hey Dentists!”) While these comebacks are true, they are missing the big point.

In B2B marketing, you must target WHO the user is, not WHAT they are searching on.

In search, you don’t know who the user is, but you have a clue by the nature of their search terms. In social, you know WHO the user is and you’re catching them before they search.

STEP 1: Isolate the Target

So while you can get a ton of consumer traffic by targeting “dentist” in Google, when you interest target “dentist” on Facebook, you’re targeting by job title and profession. Try it. In fact, try a number of job titles and see just how many chiropractors, teachers, plumbers, administrative assistants, and marketing managers there are out there.

Voila! Now you’ve pinpointed all the dentists, dental assistants, students studying to be dentists, retired dentists, and folks who have a dentist fetish—all of them on Facebook. Now narrow down to the specific target you want by age, location or even specialty—maybe you want to talk to just cosmetic dentists in California.

Add in lateral targets—magazines they read, associations they’re a part of, and so forth. You can read more about micro-targeting here.

STEP 2: Get Your Testimonials and Trust Signals

You probably thought I’d next talk about ads, which is what most people do. Nope, in social people don’t search—they are interrupted with banner ads. You can focus on ad copy in Google PPC because people are actively looking. In Facebook, you have to gently nudge people to take a look at you and momentarily distract them from spying on their friends, or whatever they happen to be doing on Facebook.

So you need distraction-worthy content, which comes in the form of what their friends are doing. If that potential dentist client of yours is perusing through what her friends did yesterday, she might be persuaded to click on news where those very friends are talking about your business—maybe how they used your software to get more traffic to their website, streamline billing operations, etc.

When you have a TON of testimonials (across Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on), paired with content that you’ve published in major outlets, paired with positive things that other reputable organizations have said about you—then it’s more likely they are coming to you versus you coming to them. Some people call this “inbound” or “pull” marketing because you’re leveraging that prospective friends to do the selling for you. Because, despite your Harvard MBA and years of business experience; sorry Charlie, they trust what their friends have to say more.

Ideally, get this content to live on your website or Facebook page, although this is not completely necessary. Let’s say that you wrote some compelling article in an industry journal. Send ad traffic directly to that site so you can leverage their trust. If you wrote your article correctly, the by-line (about the author piece at the end) will have a line or two about what you do. And if you did a good job creating real value in that article, as opposed to selling, they’ll contact you. No need to scream at them or place popup windows in their path—they’ll find you.

Step 3: Turn Your Ads On

You wouldn’t have a grand opening party without first making sure your place has plenty of food and drinks, right? In the same way, make sure you have the compelling content from Step 2 before you start advertising. Otherwise, you’re just wasting money.

Take the interest targets that you set up in Step 1 and pair it against the content you have in Step 2. Think about WHO you are talking to, not WHAT they might be searching on. For example, if they are a dental hygienist, what content is most compelling to them? What if they are a receptionist—what might they find interesting? You’ll find that you might not have super relevant content for everyone. That’s okay—you’re just testing at this stage. Later you can mix and match what combinations work best.

Note that this is NOT landing page optimization, which is more superficially about elements that comprise the landing page—the image, the size of the button, the headline, and so forth. We’re talking about the whole lead gen. lifecycle—creating a clear path between the targets, what we say to them, and what we want them to do. That last piece is the landing page—to get them to call the phone number, fill out the form, watch the video, etc.

Step 4: Run the Math

Set your Facebook campaign budgets low, perhaps $10 a day. Use the default CPC bids, since you don’t need to get into the nuances of how bidding works—this is not Google. What you care about is your Cost Per Click and conversion rates. CPC divided by conversion rate is your cost per lead, by the way. We created a calculator for your use, in case you are rusty on first semester statistics:

This is B2B, so your cost per lead could be over $100. Maybe you’re at $2 a click and 1 in 50 clicks results in a phone call. Maybe it’s a lot more because you’re selling something that costs thousands, so that a hundred dollars is an acceptable price. Or maybe you’re competing in New York City, where the price is exorbitant from all the advertisers that overlap one another from poor targeting.

Whatever the case, if you’re doing this on Facebook, you have to be prepared for seemingly negative ROI for the first few months. Why? Because we are catching people well before they are searching, so it could be months before they want that new website, CEREC machine, billing system, or whatever it is you’re advertising. With Google, the conversion timeframe might be that same visit. This is unlikely in your case, unless your product is an impulse buy and also under $100.

Some final thoughts:

We are often asked a common set of questions, so let’s address some of them here:

How big should my interest target be? You don’t need a thousand ads—just a handful that target just the people that you want to hit. If your interest target is over 10,000 people, then either you’re doing something wrong or your audience is nationwide.

Do I need new landing pages for Facebook? Probably. Video is what converts nowadays, so you probably need to fix your other landing pages while you’re at it. Camera shy? They aren’t choosing you for your good looks, so get your Flip video, some good lighting, and film a 2 minute intro. Say what you’d say if that dentist was sitting right in your office—don’t be “fake” or talk like a newscaster.

Will BlitzLocal do this for me? Sure, if you have at least $10k to spend in fees, not counting advertising budget. If you’re a dentist, we require only $2k a month in total (labor plus ad spend), since we’re targeting just one region and because our dental campaigns can be replicated. If we have to build something that is not reusable across many clients, then we have to charge more for it. We are not the cheapest game in town.

Do you offer free articles and training? I would love to use your service, but cannot afford it. Sure. Send a note to and we’ll send you some of our internal training materials. You can also post a question at, where others can see and benefit from what you ask.

About the Author:

Dennis Yu is Chief Executive Officer of BlitzLocal, a Webtrends partner that builds social media dashboards to measure brand engagement and ROI, specializing in the intersection of Facebook and local advertising. You can reach him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, his blog, or good old-fashioned email at BlitzLocal is a leader in social and local advertising and analytics, creating mass micro-targeted campaigns. Mr. Yu is an internationally sought-after speaker and author on all things Facebook, and has been featured in National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Entrepreneur Magazine, CBS Evening News, and other venues.

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