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Over the past few months Google has been testing increasing the size of Headlines for absolute top ads slots in Search. We also saw versions of the test where all of the ads in the top ad slots (position 1-4), including absolute top, had the same test running. At the time, we notified the PPC community via Twitter and this led to lots of chitter chatter on Search Engine Land and #PPCchat. Today, we also noticed that Google has been testing the font of search results too. What do the tests look like and what does this mean for you? We’ll give you our point of view and share as much actionable insight as possible!


What have Google been testing?

Around the end of July, we notified the PPC community that we were seeing some interesting tests on Google Search for ads in the absolute top and top ad slots.

  1. All Top Ad Slots: Test showing all headline 1’s in absolute top and top ad slots (P1 – P4) much larger than the 2nd headline. The same test was not running on the bottom of page ads for the same search query. This was also not running for the organic links underneath the ads.
  2. Absolute Top Ad Slot Only: The test was the same as the above, however it was only present for the absolute top ad slot.

https://twitter.com/ppchubbub/status/1288779136706711553

Recently we’ve also noticed that Google has been playing with the type of font for Google Search results; moving from Arial to Google Sans for both organic and paid ads.

https://twitter.com/ppchubbub/status/1313126106749382656


What does this mean?

Google is always testing to get the best outcome for everyone

This isn’t new. Google is always testing and we’ve reported first on many of these other tests. They will always play around with both organic and paid ad search results to find the best balance between ad revenue for Google, performance for advertisers, and experience for users. Whether that is changing the colour of the Ad Labels to the size of the font, all of these micro tests are aimed at delivering the best outcome for everyone involved.

Further increases the appeal of Absolute Top & Top Ad slots

Of course, tests where the size of the search results at the absolute top and top are bigger are naturally going to lead to a higher percentage of click through rates. They increase the lucrativeness for advertisers to reach the top of the search results to capture more potential customers. This in turn increases the ad revenue for Google which is something they really need to claw back from any lost revenue in 2020.


What do you need to do?

At the time of writing, this test doesn’t look to be anything more than that. But we can look deeper…

Google will continue these tests across different markets and we’ll no doubt see more changes to the way that the search results pages look in the future. Going into Q4, the impact of COVID-19 and with the likelihood of the peak shopping season being earlier than ever this year, I don’t foresee any significant changes happening between now and the end of the year.

With regards to the attractiveness of the top ads slots, this will always be an aim for Google to increase their ad revenue. This test helps them reaffirm that top is best, however I believe that it’s more important to find the right people, at the right time, in the right place. This requires much more thinking, use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to make these decisions beyond just the top of the search results page. Those advertisers who utilise more signals beyond the search query and look at propensity modelling will be able to better understand the user context & intent. By predicting the likelihood that the user will ‘do something you want them to do’, you’ll be able to target that user at the top of the page. This will reduce the wastage in campaigns, deliver a more relevant experience for the user, and ultimately better performance for the advertiser.

Dan Roberts
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