Online Marketing Blog

How Safe is Your CTR With AdWords? – Not Very! – Google Sheds the Bold

Have you done a Google search lately?

If you work on AdWords, probably not. We tend to work on the UI or in Editor and too often we miss the forest for the trees. Go on, do a search for a competitive product like ‘car insurance’ or ‘cheap flights.’ Notice anything different? None of your keywords are bolded in the headline anymore. If only Renée’s look had changed so inconspicuously. Google quietly removed bolding a couple of weeks back and initial relative CTR metrics across all accounts that we manage indicate that this isn’t a minor change and if you don’t act now, you’re in for some heartache shortly. With the holidays fast approaching, addressing this now could mean your best holiday season ever.

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google-bold-3While search query bolding in the headline has been removed like the mole on Cindy Crawford’s face, bolding is still in effect in both description lines and the display URL.

If you believe, like millions of Cindy’s adoring fans, that the mole made her sexy, you probably see this change in AdWord’s headlines as an affront to eye-catching, advertising sex appeal – and you might be right. The lack of bold in the headline does flatten the page, but that might just be because no one who is writing ad text has caught on and made the adjustments necessary to make the rest of the ad pop.

What the Hell is Google Up To?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when the Google geniuses are on to something or just screwing the pooch, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s face it search query infected headlines are as boring as a Google blog. Eye catching? Maybe. Interesting, creative, innovative? Never. And as repetitive as a two year old – almost every headline is the same – especially if every advertiser is using dynamic keyword insertion – and therein may lie the reasoning behind this oh so subtle face lift.

So maybe Google has realised that in order to foster a bit more creative freedom, they needed to release us from the shackles of bolded headlines.

On the other hand, if this is the brainchild of the newest zit faced tween hired from Stanford who hasn’t a clue how AdWords serves the advertising world, this may cost a lot of high performing campaigns as CTRs wane and conversion rates suffer.

One thing is obvious; this change allows organic results to blend more with paid advertising – and that means game on for the SEO/PPC world cup. While both SEO and PPC mechanisms and strategies mature, one thing is clear: copy is still king and it will be those who can create great tag lines that will win this competition with searchers.

What Does This Mean for Ad Formatting in AdWords?

For those of us who toil in ad copy R&D, this change creates some interesting options with which to play.

Enhanced headlines will either give you a lot more space to play or they might become less useful. If you have a great tag line, use the keyword phrase in the second description line for maximum affect. If the keyword only works in the first description line, you’ll get the eye catching bold if you don’t use the title enhancement. The trick will be in understanding which use will have the best draw on the eye of the searcher.

Dynamic keyword insertion in the title no longer matters. (Can I get a ‘Hallelujah!’) Keywords matter more in the display URL than in the headline now so move your dynamic {KeyWord :Insertion} accordingly.

Encouraging us copy hacks to use keywords in the descriptions actually makes sense now that callout extensions are in play. If your client or business offers ‘free shipping for orders over $50,’ don’t waste space in the description lines, use callout extensions – and now that callout extensions are available at the account, campaign and ad group level, you can callout special offers on specific products and services while saving precious space in the description lines to do exactly that – describe the product/service.

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What might be the most intriguing part of this change is that Google has yet to announce it. It makes sense that Google doesn’t want the public to notice the change, a good facelift should always be invisible, but why they haven’t informed the advertising community is a bit baffling -unless we’re giving them too much credit for having reasons for the change.

Take Advantage

Now is your chance to differentiate your ads, improve your CTR and improve your Quality Score. There’s some great books that can help improve your short form ad copy writing. You can also join in the conversation over on the official AdWords forum. Finally, it’s important to remember how your ad copy impacts on your ROAS. The (newer) version of the AdWords auction overview should be required viewing for any AdWords advertiser.

Get the Flash Player to see this Google AdWords tutorial about building your keyword list.


  1. Ashley Says:
    November 24th, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Interesting yet subtle change. I wonder how many people even noticed that the bolding was there, outside of the SEO/marketing world. But you are right, it does leave the door open to some change, and a chance for the right people to take advantage of.
    Nice catch
    ashley

  2. Aaron Harris Says:
    November 26th, 2014 at 9:08 am

    This is a very good read. Good job!

  3. Aoife Says:
    December 2nd, 2014 at 12:46 am

    Super stuff Steph. I really think we’re going to have to tailor our message with greater care from here on out. I think that the increasing prigramification of text ads has caused a mass exodus of talented short copy writers and now that role is all of a sudden more important than ever. If anything, this gives the advantage firmly back to the smaller, more agile and nimble business that can take the time to craft something that stands out. This is a good thing for us smaller advertisers.

  4. Search Engine Authority Says:
    August 9th, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Hit the nail on the head. Dynamic keyword insertion is dead. Loving the fact that REAL content is king now and the days of spamming are over. Bring it on!