Every time Google makes a change in the way it ranks searches or handles ads, the marketing blogs explode in a fiery display of "This changes everything!" articles. If you're busy working in the trenches, though, you don't care about the strategic implications of Google's latest changes to how the advertisements on the results page shows up. You want to know how those changes affect your ongoing efforts. Fortunately, if you're doing things correctly, you should already be doing most of what you need to do. Here's a breakdown:
1. Keep An Eye On Performance Reports
Make sure you're getting the most out of the data collected in the performance reports. Pay close attention to the info collected under "Top vs. Other." Since you have access to records going back quite a while, look for any performance changes between now and a time prior to the changes, in early February or earlier. Ads on the right rail probably weren't responsible for a lot of your conversions or clicks. Generally speaking, impressions have probably gone down.
If anything runs contrary to the general rule of CTR trending upwards and impressions trending downwards, something is making your campaign buck the trends. Get into deeper detail and see what's really going on. If you need to really get into the nitty gritty think about hiring a SEO expert to really help you optimize your ad campaign.
2. Monitor Budgets And Bids Carefully
When you assess the cost of your current campaigns, it's important to hold yourself in diagnostic mode. Don't alter your spending until you see clear signs that you need to increase your bids. Look at how your position is holding on the Top vs. Other report. Use your current standing and your goals to set your bids; resist any temptation to go wild.
Bear in mind that there is positive news coming from the changes as well as negative, and you may need to shift your budget around to take full advantage. Position four is driving a lot more traffic than it used to, and you want to make sure your daily limit is high enough to take full advantage. Don't miss out on useful clicks because you've set your limits incorrectly!
3. Use Extensions Wisely
Top ads can make better use of extensions now; the same holds true for bottom-placed ads. Without those faithful right rail ads to help you, you need to make the most of the opportunities you have to use extensions to your best advantage. Make a full survey of what's available to you and grab onto promising extensions you're not using.
Note the subtle changes in the layout as well as the big ones. Sitelinks are generally displaying as two-line links rather than sitelinks + details. Translation? You need to have four good links that work without supporting text instead of two supported links.
Sitelinks with details aren't gone forever; you just need to stake an exclusive claim on the territory above the results. That means it's not the time to cut the details entirely; they may still drive traffic your way. Give the system plenty of choices to work with and include as many sitelinks as possible.
4. More Competition? Retarget And Regain Focus
AdWords is still an auction above all else. Depending on your niche, the latest changes may increase competition for your chosen terms. This can force your ads out of the positions you designed them for.
One possible response is to start investing in features like Customer Match or Remarketing Lists. These strategies will cost money, so make sure you're targeting a high-value audience.
5. Keep Writing Compelling Copy
While layouts and choices have changed, the way Google judges ad quality hasn't. Position on the page still plays a huge role in determining CTR projections. This is one of the biggest factors in creating strong leads. If you don't have high quality compelling copy, you really won't matter how much money you throw into your adword campaign.
The biggest part of this latest change is saying a fond farewell to our old friend, the right-rail ad. Bear in mind that this is neither the first nor the last change to the results page that we'll have to deal with. Don't spend too much time mourning for what's lost; work out what's become more effective.
By keeping a sharp eye on segmented reports, you'll see how the changes have altered the flow of traffic in your own campaigns. Adjustments, as described here, should be enough to keep things working in your favor.