Not Your Father’s AdWords: The New Google Ad Formats

Moderator Matt Van Wagner, president of Find Me Faster, introduces the panel who will focus on new ad formats in search.


Nicholas Fox, Business Product Management Director, AdWords, Google Inc.
Cory Nielsen, Performance Marketing Evangelist, Mercent Corporation
David Szetela, Owner and CEO, Clix Marketing

Nicholas of Google is going to start us off strong. Nicholas’ team is in charge of details of text ads in search results pages. Over the years Google’s search ads haven’t changed that much. Meanwhile Google’s organic results have exploded with variety and content. Universal search is being responded to well because they serve the right content at the right time. So they’re taking that same philosophy and extending it to ads.

They started by asking what the user is trying to do. Advertisers are also going to be helped when the user knows as much as possible because it will improve the chances of the click going somewhere.

Nicholas will be doing demos of new platforms:

Ad extensions: appending additional info to AdWords ads. Same pricing model as traditional PPC.

New ad model: fundamental changes to the format, pricing model, and targeting model

Four Demos:

  • Ad Sitelinks
  • Product ads
  • Local ads
  • Comparison ads

Sitelinks: If the searcher knows the right site, search can help by directing the searcher to the right page. Sitelinks bring users to a specific page on a site. They’re typically seeing 30-40 percent increase in click-through rates with solid conversion rates as well when advertisers adopt Sitelinks.

Product advertising: By expanding a plus box, individual products can be listed in an ad, including images, product name and price. It’s a little like a virtual storefront and searchers will have an idea of the offerings a site has. This is implemented through a Google Merchant account. It’s an ad extension. From a user’s perspective, ad units are grouped based on products, making the comparison experience much easier.

Local ads: There are two kinds of businesses that are working this space, chains and not chains. A business’s name, address, phone number, directions and a map are all served to a searcher. For chains, when an ad is displayed, it will include a map with all the locations around the area. By dragging around the map, the area seen will update with locations. This feature launched about a week ago.

Comparison ads: For some searches, an ad will come up with a button to compare. Here’s an example:

Clicking on “compare rates” brings the user to a page where they can add filters to their search and contact different advertisers.

They want to align what the advertisers and users want with an appropriate pricing model. They expect to be experimenting a lot in 2010.

Matt asks the audience who is from an agency and who is doing it for their own business. It’s about half and half. After hearing from Nicholas about what advertisers can do, the rest of the presentations will be on what PPC advertisers should do.

David is next. He says that after his presentation, you should also check out and… for more info. He’s going to look at Sitelinks, product extensions and product listings in this presentation. Sitelinks, he says, is like displaying more than one ad, with more opportunities to add persuasive language. They saw an average uplift of 60 percent click-through rates during the holidays.


  • Up to four links below ad
  • Ads must meet “certain quality criteria” (i.e., position #1)
  • Appears automatically for qualified campaigns
  • Google claims “30% average increase in click-through rate”

When it comes to click-through rates and Quality Score and Sitelinks, keep doing what you’re doing. Exceptional click-through rates and Quality Score is needed. You’ll know you’re eligible if the Sitelinks option shows up in your campaign settings, under ad extensions.

Product Extensions

  • Not in beta any longer
  • Must submit product feed via Google Merchant Center (formerly Google Base)
  • Google chooses which products are shown

An advertiser doesn’t pay for clicks, just for conversions.

Tracking New Ad Formats

For product extensions you’ll receive more data than you’ll ever need. Several new data points to help you optimize. For Sitelinks, he doesn’t know of any intrinsic reporting.

Next up is Cory, who will be speaking about retail-focused ad formats. Getting the consumer closer to the conversion is what everyone wants. 40 percent of in-store purchases start online. 25 percent of consumers that use Google for their product search

What should I know about these new product ad types? Yes, they’re easy to launch, but it can create a bit of a mess.

1 Feed & 3 Ad Networks

Google Merchant Center feeds to:

Google Affiliate Network > Product Listing Ads (CPA)

Google AdWords > Product Extensions (CPC)

Google Product Search > Product Search One Box (Free)

Shared Responsibility

  • Paid search marketing team
  • Affiliate marketing team
  • Shopping feed marketer
  • Focus on where the talent is. Each ad type needs to be implemented correctly across networks.

Performance Attribution

Product listing ads: Uses GAN to track performance. Supports unique product URLs / tracking variables

Product extensions: Cost is tracked to AdWords. Sales are tracked to GPS.

So is it worth doing? Yes, and here’s why. Let’s focus on Product Listing Ads (PLA)

Adwords Slide 1

Adwords slide 2

Will PLA affect my other ads on Google? From what they’re seeing, there’s been no effect.

  • 30-50 percent year over year increase in revenue from Google Product Search.
  • Product Listing Ads produced additional growth over that
  • With PLA you can dominate a SERP
  • PLA: set category level commissions in GAN to compete effectively and control costs
  • Product extensions: adding keywords increases CTR by 1.7 times
  • GPS OneBox: 80 percent of traffic from GPS is generated from the SERP OneBox.


Nicholas: Sitelinks is pretty well adopted, but the other ad options are in early days, so there’s a lot of opportunity for advertisers now. Advertisers can reach out to their customer service reps if they want to get in on the early beta.

To learn more about sitelinks and how to win more clicks, read What Are Sitelinks? Best Practices for Google Sitelinks.

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (11)
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11 Replies to “Not Your Father’s AdWords: The New Google Ad Formats”

Very nice of you to provide such good notes about the sessions — thanks :-)

Virginia Nussey

You’re very welcome, Andy! And thanks for saying so! I’m so glad to know when something on the blog is being found useful. :)

Any changes to the QS algo? We’ve been using hyper-relevant keyword, ad, and landing page combos, producing high click through and still see QS plummeting.

Virginia Nussey

Hi Gyi,

There was nothing mentioned at this session or around the conference (from what I heard, anyway) about changes to Quality Score calculations. So, I asked one of our PPC analysts, James, what he thought might be at play here. The following is his response:

Without looking at this account and the way it is set-up it would be difficult to see if there are other factors affecting the QS. They can make an assessment of each individual keywords by hovering their mouse over the over the “talk bubble” next to each keyword in Adwords. If there are no problems under the QS section of the info, then all they can do is wait. They have to remember that it takes time to build a quality house, but it can be destroyed in an instant.

Even when it seems relevant to us, Google may see relevancy differently. As an example you can have a good (7-10) QS for “red shoes” but have a poor (2-4) QS for “red shoe” at the same time. You must optimize your Adwords for each keyword or pause the keyword that does not perform well. Also, the history of poor performing keywords tends to stay with you even it is paused. It becomes a part of the account history. Content history has no relevance to QS and will not affect it any way.

There is another factor that they may have no control over. Google actually takes the overall history of a keyword with Adwords into account when assessing a keyword. This is the history that this specific advertiser had no control over at all. Say that the keyword is “red shoes”, and the advertiser has had good success with “red shoes”, but historically all other advertisers had horrible results with “red shoes” then Google will penalize that keyword’s QS no matter who’s account it goes into. The penalty might not be huge, but it may be enough to see a difference. Over time, as more good data is produced for that keyword, the overall QS will improve. It just takes time.

To answer the original question, “any changes to the QS algo?” Not that I have heard, but Google is not known to make quick announcement when it comes to their algorithms. The factors above or testing out new strategies are what should be looked at until they make an announcement of change.

James said he’d be happy to answer any other questions, as well. You can find him on Twitter, @jckimPPC, or I can give you his e-mail if you’re interested. Hope that helps!

Virginia, I love you. Thank you for liveblogging.

I do have such an issue with the description of paid sitelinks from the Google Rep. I wasn’t there so I can’t really post a rant, so you guys get it.

“If the searcher knows the right site, search can help by directing the searcher to the right page. Sitelinks bring users to a specific page on a site. They’re typically seeing 30-40 percent increase in click-through rates with solid conversion rates as well when advertisers adopt Sitelinks.”

So if the user already knows they want my site and what they are going for … I don’t want to pay to get them there. I know some PPC ppl will debate with me on this, but your site should be ranking for it’s name. So why pay to direct them somewhere?

I guess if they just know your name and you don’t have normal site links yet … just seems like a waste of money to me the way it was described.

Roger Sikes

Do Sitelinks only pop up on ads displaying for a company’s name?

If not, it creates a competitive advantage for the company that holds the #1 position on certain words.

If it’s only for the company name, then I’m creating a company that resells my product, and the company name will be whatever my most effective keyword is.

Heck, I might create a few spin-off companies. ;)

(Thinking out loud, but I’d love to get Kate and Virginia’s thoughts)

Hey Roger,

No, from what I understand, they show for any ad your account is running if you have them. I still don’t see the option under all my accounts so I am assuming that it’s still in beta. Check out this SEL post:

It’s only for “high quality” accounts. But there is nothing about it just being for company names. So no … that tactic wouldn’t work. And if I know AdWords well enough by now, that would even get you banned if they were able to connect the accounts. That’s what has gotten tons of affiliates banned recently.

I think the rep was just using a company name search as an example, but it was a bad one in my opinion. In the comments of this PPC hero post, Matt Umbro has an awesome example using Nike of a good use of AdWords sitelinks.

Hope that clarifies things. :)

Roger Sikes

Kate – thanks for the links!

That makes total sense, and I think that SiteLinks are definitely a benefit for eligible advertisers. These new formats really favor the big guys – that can be a little discouraging to the SMBs trying to compete in the same space… not to mention that these formats take up more space on the actual page.

I’ve had plenty of experience competing with affiliates, and I think in a lot of cases, being banned is not something they always concern themselves with much.

It will be interesting to see how Google handles organic Sitelinks going forward if this proves to be an effective format.

Virginia – I always start thinking of how things can be exploited when these things roll out. More often than not, they are things that have already been addressed, but it doesn’t hurt to look at it from that angle in anticipation of how competitors or affiliates might use it.



The option to use sitelinks is available to all advertisers and will be offered if you qualify by the number of conversions in your history for your campaign as well as position of the keywords. The sitelinks are set at the campaign level, so it will appear with ads in that campaign.

Since the sitelinks only appear when you are positioned above the organic listing if you want to use sitelinks, you will have to bid for positions 1-3, with a leaning towards positions 1. Some seem to think that you have to be in position 1 only, but I have noticed the sitelinks appearing in position 2 and 3 as long as they were above the organic listings.

Also, you can list up to 10 sitelinks, but only 4 will show with the ad. So far I haven’t seen any of my 5-10 listings appearing in my tests, so you may want to list your top 4 preferences first.

Hope this helps.

Virginia Nussey

Roger, now that’s clever! ;)

Virginia Nussey

Hi Kate! From what I know, it’s pretty tough to get organic Sitelinks. And if you can get a searcher right to the page they’re most likely to convert, seems like a good thing. The Ad Sitelinks only display on *navigational searches*, so it seems like not a bad thing to get them where they’re trying to go with a navigational search. Oh, and as for paying for an ad where the searcher already knows where they’re going, isn’t it similar to buying an ad for your brand name even though your organic result is number one? A safe search practice that insures, somehow, they’ll get to you.


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