Google has repeatedly assured us that the recession hasn't burst its search advertising bubble, and the company's third-quarter earnings seem to bear this out. That doesn't mean Google isn't taking steps to make sure it maintains its ad sales.
The company Oct. 30 announced two changes to enhance how its algorithm calculates ad quality scores and ranks ads.
Google will soon update a portion of its quality score algorithm, which along with bid amounts helps accounts for ad position, to ensure more accurate quality scores for advertisers. This will provide "high-quality advertisers" with better ad positions and provide more relevant ads to searchers.
The second upgrade is that Google will show more ads above the search results, which will make those ads more prominent than those placed alongside the page. How is this different? Amanda Kelly of Google's Inside AdWords team wrote in a blog post:
"To appear above the search results, ads must meet a certain quality threshold. In the past, if the ad with the highest Ad Rank did not meet the quality threshold, we may not have shown any ads above the search results. With this update, we'll allow an ad that meets the quality threshold to appear above the search results even if it has to jump over other ads to do so."
So if the ad in position No. 2 on the right side of the page has a high enough Quality Score to appear above the search results, it can leapfrog the No. 1 ad and appear above the search results. This levels the playing field a bit for advertisers that place second.
These changes, which TechCrunch and Search Engine Land also discuss here, may cause "changes to your ad position, spend and performance," Kelly said. If that isn't a nice nod to Google's advertisers, I don't know what it is. Google said the changes are to come soon, in time for holiday advertising spending.
The enhancements signal that Google is thinking hard about ways to keep advertisers investing in Google's search ad programs even as ad sales are allegedly falling around us. Google is already sitting pretty; this move helps ensure that Google is helping to protect advertisers' investments.
If you need any more evidence of this, read Peter Kafka's post on AllThingsD.com, where he publishes a note from Google's AdSense sales team imploring its publishers to hang tough in the face of an increasingly chilly economic climate.