Earlier this month, Google said it would start displaying some sponsored results at the bottom of search results pages. The search team at online ad buying powerhouse GroupM worries the change could be bad for brands.
"The shift in ad placements to the bottom of the page raises concern about the impact it will have on the cost efficiency of paid search campaigns for brands," noted the WPP-owned company in its Reading Room blog.
GroupM's search team worries that the shift from the right rail to page bottom will result in decreased ad inventory. While up to seven ads fit on the right side of a Google search results page, the agency argues, "the ad placement shift to the bottom diminishes those listings and creates scarcity in the marketplace by removing between 2 to 4 listings from the first page of results. As a result, brands face the same competition for fewer locations in the new format, which is certain to cause cost increases."
It's not the first time Google has been accused of making a change in the hopes of boosting ad prices. For instance, some have argued that updates to its algorithm over the years have been made in part to increase ad costs.
GroupM also described a scenario in which a zealous advertiser dead-set on landing at the top of page one spurs a bidding war. "These brands are often willing to ignore sound business decisions based on the value of position for the emotional gratification of top placement. This type of buyer is dangerous to begin with, but now that being on the top of the page on the right is no longer an alternative, they become borderline reckless to other buyers, and again - lead to cost increases," notes the company in the post.
Google's reasoning is user-centric, the company said. "In many cases, we have found that displaying ads below search results fits better into the user's flow as they scan the page from top to bottom. On average, this placement performed better than side ads in terms of click-through rate in our tests," said Google in its own blog post about the change.
While GroupM recognized Google's stated desire to make the change for the benefit of users, GroupM went on to state, "there is little doubt that these changes have the potential to have a substantial, negative impact for advertisers and the efficiency of their campaigns."
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.