The big news in the affiliate space lately has been the coming shutdown of the Google Affiliate Network and what to do as an advertiser. Every so often, Google cleans house and terminates services and functionality that they no longer see as viable. Remember Google Wave? That real-time messaging platform was all the rage when it first came out as a way to aggregate all of your email, chat, file sharing and social networking into a single wave.
Now, Google is retiring Product Extension Ads. Here’s the email I just got:
As you know, we rolled out Product Listing Ads in 2010 as a new way to provide product information. This was an effort to build on an existing format, Product Extension ads. As advertisers have engaged with these formats over time, they’ve seen better results from the more recently launched Product Listing Ads. As a result, we will retire Product Extension ads in late May. It will no longer be a separate ad extension in your AdWords campaign.
If you haven’t already, we recommend you take advantage of Product Listing Ads to capture commerce-related search and promote your products in Google and Google Shopping. For more information on how to set this up, visit www.google.com/ads/shopping or contact your sales team.
The Google AdWords Team
What does this mean for you as an advertiser? Well, if you’re not running an ecommerce business then it probably means absolutely nothing. If on the other hand you are running an ecommerce store, or are an agency or consultant to one, then it can have a significant effect on your Google Adwords campaign.
Product Listing Ads vs. Product Extension Ads
Product extensions are additional information that’s added to your PPC ads on Google, in the form of a product thumbnail, with the price and a link to the page.
Product listing ads are pulled from Google Shopping. They also include an image, price and other information. The difference is that they are not associated with a specific, hand-crafted advertisement. Remember when Google Base was free? Remember Froogle? Those days are long-since over (mostly) and now you’ve got to pay to play.
Why Would Google Do Such a Thing?
Let’s face it, there are some pretty smart cookies at Google. My guess? They probably did some A/B testing – probably a lot of it in fact, and determined that the Product Listing Ads have a significantly higher Click Thru Rate (CTR) than Product Extension Ads. It’s purely a numbers game, and every pixel of real-estate on the screen has a dollar value associated with it. Taking out these product extensions means that the product listings can appear a bit higher on the page than when they’re under an extended advertisement with that freaky skin-toned background.
Marketing 101 tells us that placement above the fold is key, and this tells me that perhaps this is a mobile play. Pretty much anyone who’s likely to spend money online carries a mobile device these days. Screens are small and real-estate is expensive. I’d venture to say that we’ll begin to see more options for mobile advertisers on Google Adwords in the near future.
For those of you who are professional PPC managers or DIY advertisers, you no doubt have experienced navigating the sometimes (oftentimes) confusing user-interface that Google provides. Culling services that don’t perform will no doubt reduce confusion and enable advertisers to find the services that work, including any new mobile or other advertising vehicles that they decide to release. Let’s be honest, people hire Adwords managers and companies like mine because it takes a lot of time to learn the ins and outs of Adwords. Eliminating confusion by minimizing options to those that work best will mean more advertisers, and more advertising dollars for Google.
This is a smart play.