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CTR Impact from Recent Google Ad Label Change Still Unclear

In late May, Google formally announced the transition from a green ad label to a black ad label on mobile devices, simultaneously rolling out a new favicon feature to show alongside organic listings. As with most Google changes along these lines, most assumed it would positively boost the rate at which searchers interact with paid ad units, with a corresponding decline in the rate at which searchers interact with organic listings.

While that’s probably a safe assumption, the early data doesn’t point to a decisive shift in paid search performance following the change.

Daily CTR and Conversion Rates Rocky, but Holding Relatively Steady

The first metric we look to is click-through-rate, which we find has remained roughly steady for both brand and non-brand Google text ads since the update. As the change has only been rolled out to mobile devices, the chart below is isolated for traffic from phones.

Google Phone Text Ad CTR

There are certainly some days following the announcement when CTR was elevated relative to the weeks prior, but all in all not so out of line with previous performance to indicate a significant change.

If the update were indeed pulling in additional ad clicks from searchers that would have otherwise avoided clicking on an ad (assuming the old green design did indeed make ad labeling more apparent), we might expect some impact on conversion rate as well. However, that’s also held steady over the past few weeks.

Google Phone Text Ad Conversion Rate

The lack of a clear and decisive shift in these metrics might be at least partially tied to the fact that Google started testing the new look at least as far back as mid-March. With no way to quantify what share of mobile impressions featured the new look over the past few months, it’s hard to say how significant the announcement was in May.

Conclusion

CTR can be a fickle metric impacted by shifts in search results layout, the addition or subtraction of search partner traffic, changes in advertiser offers in ad copy, and more. As such, it’s always been tough to definitively quantify the impact of changes like the update from the green to black ad label.

Still, the early numbers suggest advertisers haven’t seen a meaningful shift in performance just yet, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the true impact is fairly minor. This would be in line with the results from similar changes in the past, such as the update from a yellow to green ad label back in 2016. The impact of such changes is typically just too small to register outside of Google, where the mountains of data almost surely point to some positive outcome for the search giant.

A popular argument is that the placement of the ‘Ad’ label and the new favicons for organic links further blur the distinction between the two, but I’m not so sure, given the favicons do provide a nice qualifying accessory to organic and can look very different than the ad label depending on the brand depicted. If anything, I felt like the green ad label running right next to the green URL (which still exists in desktop results) was tougher to spot from a search standpoint, but maybe that’s just me.

Google’s Gallery Ads format, formally released at Google Marketing Live a few weeks ago, would seem to be more of a game-changer in terms of pulling searchers to click on ads, with a rich carousel of images taking up some serious real estate at the top of mobile search results. If they perform well, it might not be long until these are eligible to show in more ad slots than just the top placement on mobile, where they’re currently confined to. Unlike the black ad label, advertisers do need to take action in order to test out Gallery ads now.

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