10 ways Google is trying to beat the credit crunch

Across the globe, companies are looking at ways of making savings and increasing revenue due to the world economic slowdown.  Despite their unrelenting growth in the past decade, even the might of search giant Google have not been unaffected by the problems in the global economy.  Online spend by advertisers is still growing (both PPC and SEO), but at a slower rate than it has in previous years.

The bulk of Google’s income comes from sponsored links, the eminent Adwords program.  It is not an understatement to say that Google Adwords has revolutionised not just online marketing, but marketing in general.  So it is to be expected that Google would focus on Adwords as a way on increasing revenues during a time of recession.  The advertising revenue is generated from charging advertiser’s each time they’re ads are clicked on by users, known as a Cost Per Click or CPC based advertising.  Therefore the quickest way to increase revenue would be to increase the cost of the clicks.

However from the research I have done it seems this has not been the case for the simple reason that this would encourage users to spend even LESS on Adwords.  Moreover some keywords have become cheaper as less people advertise on them, for example “100% mortgages” which have disappeared from high street banks.   Instead Google have implemented other methods of encouraging, cajoling some would say forcing advertisers into spending more on PPC.

1. Reintroducing sponsored advertising for gambling Ads

In October of last year Google reintroduced gambling related keyterms into Adwords. Search agency Greenlight confidently predicted that this could net Google £100 million in additional revenue. This was then amended to include gambling affiliate websites.  Any lingering feelings that Google had a moral compass were well and truly destroyed by this move.

2. Google news results in the main SERPS

Universal search has been a hot topic for discussion as Google look to blend other search channels such as Images, Videos, News and blog results.  However, it seems like they have been a little over keen to drop in news results where they are not appropriate or relevant.  The idea is to push the organic links down, encouraging those below the page fold to pay for PPC advertising.

3. PPC Ads in Google images

What’s the quickest way to find a simple image on the web, Google image search of course! Earlier this year some SEO experts noticed that Google was implementing PPC Ads into the image search results.  Of all the initiatives Google has come up with for increasing revenue, this would seem one the most beneficial in terms of user experience.  If I Google “Android G2″, it would also be useful to see where I can buy one from?

4. Promoting Display Advertising

Around one third of Google revenue comes from Adsense, that is advertising that is placed on publisher websites as opposed to the Google SERPS. Aside from Adsense ads, which are most often the same format as traditional Google search ads (a 70 character text ad), Google have been making it easier to create other forms of ad format, such as larger image and flash video Ads…much like traditional display advertising.  This makes it much easier for Adwords advertisers to venture into display advertising.

5. Google Suggest

Google suggest is a method Google uses to suggest related search terms so that the user does not have to keep refining their search to find what they are looking for.  Well, that’s the Google line anyway.  Others see it as a way to increase PPC traffic on generic search terms, as instead of typing out longer tail, cheaper search phrases, users will select the top phrase as they know it will display relevant search results.

For example “Gas and Electricity Price Compare” has 278,00 results on Google.com, whereas “Gas and Electricity Prices” has 7,090,000 and is the top result from the suggested queries.  The user will know that they both will display relevant results and will be tempted to choose the one that is higher on the suggest list.

6. Local Business Results

Over the past year I have seen a marked increase in the use of Google local business results.  These, in most cases, enhance the user experience by offering local results, more tailored to the user’s search query.  Ostensibly this is what Google will have been aiming to achieve, but it has also had the consequence of pushing natural search results further down the page.  On some searches within 1024 x 768 resolution, you can only see the first non-local organic result above the screen fold, whereas before you could see several.  What does this mean?  Less traffic for those who have been pushed down and a greater need to do PPC.

7. Google Automatic Match

Google’s Automatic match, similar to Google expanded broad match, matches your search query to relevant queries that you might not have included in your PPC campaign and then adds them, to your account  For example you bid on “Mobile phone” Google in theory could add the search term “Cell phone” to your account.  More importantly, Google has automatically been opting some Adwords users into this feature.  Results have been mixed, but one thing is for sure, it will have been increasing Google’s ad revenue.

8. Product Images in PPC ads

Google have been testing some PPC ads that have a drop down function showing a selection of products from that advertiser.  The drop down menu takes up a substantial amount of the page, meaning that for those advertisers lower down or without a drop down function, there is the potential for a lower levels or traffic.  What does this mean?  More advertisers will be clambering for the top three positions in hope of gaining the drop down box.

9. Google Suggest with PPC ads

Adwords ads appear on the SERPS when a user queries a search.  However in their eagerness to display an ad, Google are now displaying ads BEFORE a query has been completed.  They have done this through Google suggest, with the search giant picking up on what the user has queried and then matching it to relevant advertisers ads.  Google say that..

This is another example of search becoming more dynamic and Google getting users to the correct results as fast as possible,”

You can make your own mind up on this one!

10. Directing publisher traffic onto Google SERPs

As mentioned Google adsense makes up about a third of Google’s overall revenue. However Adsense clicks are of less monetary value than clicks from Google search results. This considered, Google have conceived a clever method of getting publisher visitors onto the SERP’s.  Look at this image of an Adsense banner, it has a search box encouraging users to query a search for “credit cards”.  The user will then land on the Google SERPS, where the much more lucrative Google search ads will display.

Simon Rattray - PPC Consultant