Pay-per-click (PPC) or paid search is an integral element of digital marketing, and one of these days an interesting phenomenon was noticed in Google search that just served to enlighten us about Google’s discretion in placing ads.
How a Christmas Search Returned Strange Ads
Searching for an innocent and family-friendly term like “Christmas” on November 26 returned surprising shopping ads- that weren’t exactly kid-friendly – alongside the results page.
Barry Schwartz brought this topic to light through his tweet, but, judging by the comments to Barry’s tweet, those kinds of ads in the results weren’t a global phenomenon, with people searching in countries such as Saudi Arabia and India not noticing any raunchy ads when searching “Christmas”. Instead they just found the knowledge card stating the date of Christmas and the knowledge panel having more information and photos of Christmas decorations.
Google Later Removes the Ads
But even in the United States, Google later cleaned up the results for “Christmas”.The results page now featured the search page having the knowledge card and the knowledge panel. It demonetized the search result page too for that query. Google cleaned up to the extent that the search page didn’t feature any ads at all.
Search Engine Land’s Ginny Marvin reported this to demonstrate that Google does take steps for allowing or with holding ads from appearing on the SERPs for certain kinds of queries. It can also choose when it decides to demonetize search results for queries that aren’t apparently commercial in nature. Marvin reports this could also be done for events that have trademarks, such as the “World Cup”.
Advertisers Could Perhaps Not Have Targeted the Particular Search Term
The advertisers could have been targeting this particular match query, which in this case is “Christmas”. It could also be that they did not intend their ads to show up for the exact head term “Christmas”, but for related terms. But the ads could have appeared because of close variants matching.
A Look into Ad Rank
There is also the matter of Ad Rank. The Ad Rank is important for paid marketing since it determines if your ad shows in the search results for a particular search term. It also determines the position of the ad. Ad rank thresholds were updated by Google in 2017 to accommodate the category and meaning of a query. These thresholds will be greater for non-commercial queries such as “Christmas”, “Thanksgiving”, “Olympics”, etc and also for news-related queries. Product-related or demand-related queries could have lower threshold. Examples for such queries are “Christmas gift”, “Christmas costumes”, or even “Christmas party”. The following screenshot depicts the results of a highly specialized product query, “ugly Christmas sweaters”.
(Img source: https://www.gorilla360.com.au/blog/6-ecommerce-christmas-promotional-ideas)
Google thresholds will ensure that these ads don’t usually appear in a search for just “Christmas”.
(Img source: https://technians.com/news/google-is-giving-up-adults-shopping-ads-for-christmas-searches/)