Google is currently in the process of testing a new UI, in which the metasearch auction spot is now a part of the paid search ad space, replacing a paid search ad slot. Below, you can see a comparison highlighting the key differences between the previous layout and the new experimental UI. In order to see this new layout you must:
Google’s traditional UI displays paid search ads and SEO ads on the left of the webpage, while the metasearch auction space is located within the knowledge panel on the right side.
For this new test, the metasearch auction space is now mixed with other ad types. In addition, the metasearch auction space has now replaced one of the two paid search ads. All other hotel information that exists within the knowledge panel, such as hotel details & reviews, has shifted up to fill the removed auction space.
Historically, when Google is testing any sort of changes similar to this, a small percentage of the user base is affected (5-10%). As mentioned earlier, in order to trigger this new layout, the eligible users must search for a specific hotel and location, otherwise, the original layout will be displayed.
The target for these changes seems to be focused on brand loyal customers who have repeat stays at specific hotels and want to quickly rebook. This change could mean a few things for both users and advertisers. The new metasearch ad placement is more visible to users. This increased visibility could likely result in a higher click volume, which could potentially drive more bookings for advertisers. However, advertisers run the risk of paying a higher CPC than they would pay had a user clicked on a paid search ad instead. The strict requirements for this event currently limit the likelihood that this new layout will significantly alter traffic flow one way or another.
It’s also possible that this test could lead to a decreased value for the top spot in the auction. With the four spots now in the middle of the search page, the top spot may no longer attract more traffic than the previous format. This could lead to a decrease in the competitiveness of the auction. The second or third spot could potentially drive the same amount of bookings as the top spot, which could encourage bidders to save that extra CPC and invest elsewhere.
It’ll be interesting to see how much of an impact this change has on both users and advertisers alike. We have seen Google push to make more personalized results for different audiences and perhaps this test will further that initiative.
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