Earlier this month we examined the effect of Google eliminating paid search text ads from the right rail of its results page on Retail keywords. Today we look at how Google’s change has affected Travel keywords to date.
To do so, we examined changes in the number of advertisers, cost per click and clickthrough rate on 20 top non-branded Travel keywords from February 1 through February 18 compared to the period from February 19 (the day we started seeing significant changes on Google’s right rail) through March 28.
Number of Advertisers
With less opportunities to appear on the results page, the number of advertisers on the 20 Travel keywords we examined decreased by an average of 15.4%, from an average of 38 advertisers per keyword from February 1-18 to an average of 32. The keywords with the largest post-right rail drop in advertisers were the term ‘best all inclusive resorts’, which decreased by nearly 47%, and the less-specific term ‘travel’, which decreased by 40%. However, some keywords saw very little change in the number of advertisers, including ‘car rentals’, ‘cancun all inclusive’ and ‘machu picchu’, which all decreased by around 3%. Competition on the term ‘myrtle beach hotels’ remained consistent, with 29 advertisers sponsoring the term during both periods.
Cost Per Click
As we saw with Retail keywords, so far fears that Google’s Cost Per Click would rise significantly in the post-right rail era have been unfounded. The average Cost Per Click for the 20 Travel keywords did increase after February 18 but by an average of just 5.21% or 3 cents, rising from average of $2.65 to $2.68. Some keywords did see more substantial increases in CPC such as ‘cancun all inclusive’ (35%) and ‘car rentals’ (34%). However, Cost Per Click also dropped significantly for other keywords in the group, including ‘machu picchu’ (-40%) and ‘myrtle beach hotels’ (-20%).
Although it seems most of the predictions about the elimination of right rail ads were negative, early evidence shows there may actually be a positive aspect to the change. That is, a boost in Clickthrough Rates, as CTRs increased by an average of 10.07% across all 20 Travel keywords after February 18.
Again, there was great variation between different keywords. However, only one keyword saw a decline in Clickthrough Rate, ‘river cruises’ (-3.33%), while two others saw no change in CTR (‘cheapest flights’ and ‘las vegas hotels’). Otherwise, the remaining 17 terms in the group experienced Clickthrough Rate increases ranging from 3.57% (‘caribbean cruise’) to 19.05% (‘all inclusive vacations’). In total, eleven of the 20 keywords saw double digit increases in Clickthrough Rate.
Of course, Clickthrough Rates are only one part of the equation in Paid Search. And while most advertisers would likely welcome significant increases in their Clickthrough Rates such as these, their enthusiasm may be tempered by accompanying changes to their Cost Per Click.
For instance, the term ‘cancun all inclusive’ experienced a 19% increase in CTR after February 18, along with a 35% increase in Cost Per Click, which could be problematic for some advertisers without the budget to adjust. On the flip side, the change was more favorable for other terms such as ‘cruise deals’, which saw close to a 19% increase in Clickthrough Rate with only a 2.4% increase in Cost Per Click after right rail ads were eliminated.