Last week I discussed the new Google Instant search results and the potential ramifications for our incoming search engine traffic. Astute readers will have noticed something else, however, which is that alongside each set of results which flashes past as you type, is a complete set of Google AdWords ads. So if I’m searching for “widgets”, when I type “w” I fleetingly see the “predictive” search results for “weather” and that includes their related AdWords ads. A fraction of a second later, as I type the “i” of “widgets”, I see the search results for “Wikipedia” and a completely different set of AdWords ads. By the time I’ve typed in the whole word “widgets”, if I get that far, I’m on my seventh set of search results and completely different ads.
As an AdWords advertiser then, you can expect your adverts to show several times as often as before, but mainly for fractions of a second. Will this completely wreck all the carefully-considered statistics we’ve been amassing on our campaigns over the years? Google suggests we shouldn’t be worried, but I’d beg to differ. It says that the ad will only be counted as having been shown (an “impression”) if the searcher hits return and stops on a set of results, or clicks on a link, or pauses for three seconds. So those ads flashing past won’t be counted as impressions, even though there’s plenty of time for people to see them. Anyway, you only pay for clickthroughs, not impressions, so it won’t cost any more.
While that’s true, if you’re studying clickthrough rate from your AdWords ads, things inevitably have changed. You need to think much more carefully about what the statistics mean, and if a particular ad has really been shown as many times as has been reported. I expect a very busy few weeks as we try to assess the implications for the many clients whose Google AdWords campaigns we’re running. If you’re outsourcing AdWords to an agency, do make a point of asking them what they think the impact of Google Instant search will be. If they’re bemused or non-committal, well, you know where we are.