Paid Search (PPC)
Owen Gill

Head of PPC with experience in PPC and SEO

Based on results recently seen by a variety of PPC Managers, Google appears to be testing their adverts' tab colours again. We look at the potential Google ad changes that could cause a return to yellow tabs, instead of the current green ones.

Over a year ago now, Google started rolling out their new green advert tabs, replacing the yellow ones previously used to indicate which links are paid for. However, on 30th August 2016, advertisers were suggesting that Google is testing the yellow version again, after they were spotted on Search Engine Research Pages (SERPs).

It’s not often changes are made to how Google ads appear in SERPs, only to be reversed 12 months later, hence the intensive testing period Google goes through. So, if Google is trialling the yellow tab again, what could have prompted them to do this?

Increased Traffic for Paid Ads

When this change was originally rolled out, it was clear that Google’s aim was to make ads blend in naturally with the organic listings. By doing this, users who had previously avoided ads, may now have clicked on them without initially realising they were ads. This way, Google would generate additional revenue, and as the search engine prides itself on delivering the most relevant results for each user, they’d be confident the ads served up would be what the user’s looking for, right?

One possible reason for the potential return of the yellow tab is that the green version may not have increased traffic as planned. Or, if it has, the possible effects on user experience may have caused a re-think of recent previous Google ad changes.

Google shows adverts with a green tab

Changes to User Behaviour?

Despite Google constantly improving its results in terms of relevancy for both paid and organic listings, paid results can still appear for most terms as long as you pay enough. So, Google’s high-relevancy advantage is flawed in some cases.

With this in mind, has the potential increase in traffic to ads led to a drop in performance for user behaviour? If this is the case, it’s possible that lower quality traffic has been generated. The last thing Google wants to see, is your ads returning a poor Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). After all, advertisers will only spend so much if targets are missed before giving up.

Too Many Changes?

Another possibility is that Google has made too many changes to how it displays adverts over the past year, to really understand the effects each of them has had on performance. Not only has there been the change in the tab’s colour, but we’ve also seen the right hand ad panel being removed, as well as the introduction of a fourth ad in the main body.

Of these three changes, it would be easy to revert the tab colours back as this was only a cosmetic change and not structural like the others.

How Google used to show its adverts

Yellow or Green?

Personally, as a user, I prefer the yellow tabbed ads as it allows you to easily glance down the SERP and avoid them if you wish to. As an advertiser, while the green ads have increase traffic levels slightly, some for the case studies I’ve seen suggest that conversion volumes haven’t necessarily seen a parallel increase and this has led to higher Costs Per Action (CPAs). So, my vote goes to bringing back the yellow tab!

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