Google is always testing various ad formats, both in text ads and in PLAs. One new format that we at Merkle started to notice in January and that continues to show to this day is the replacement of product titles with the product’s brand when you click an ad within the Shopping tab. This format appears for both brand and non-brand searches.
Here you can see the top six products showing the brand in capital letters.
Not until you click the product do you see the actual product title.
Google reps responded to questions about the new layout with their standard answer that they are always testing different ad formats and that there is no way to opt out.
Google has long recommended adding as much product-specific information in the title for each SKU as possible, without keyword stuffing. Completely removing these titles, one of the three main keys to getting a click (competitive price and high quality image being the other two), may lead to a decrease in traffic to the ads.
What’s also concerning is that on each search we conducted, only one or two brands were being tested like this at a time. This means if our client’s title is being replaced with a brand, our competitor’s title could remain unchanged while possibly garnering a higher click-share. It would be nice if the test was rolled out across all advertisers showing for a particular search, though Google is probably doing this intentionally to identify which format performs better.
On the plus side, while traffic may decrease, we expect that conversion rate would not suffer and could even see a slight uptick if it attracts more brand-loyal shoppers. With this test format running only on the Shopping page, shoppers will still see the full title when the ad expands prior to clicking through to the retailer’s website.
Additionally, any shopper that clicks on the ad likely has more initial interest than the typical user on the SERP since they’re attracted by the ad without having as much information about the product itself.
While a potential increase in conversion rate is certainly appealing, we would like to see the data behind Google’s algorithm and when they decide to perform this test. As with most things within Google, this is probably a guarded secret that advertisers on the outside will simply have to speculate.
However, at the end of the day Google is looking to maximize clicks, which it sees as evidence of providing users with the most relevant results possible. Thus, CTR of this layout will ultimately determine how long and how frequently it appears for Shopping results.