Last month, Google made the controversial decision to remove Google+ author photos from search results. Now, new research suggest that the move has substantially boosted clicks on AdWords ads as users are less inclined to click on organic ads without photos.
— Larry Kim (@larrykim) July 10, 2014
In June 2014, Google dropped profile photos and Google+ circle counts from its search listings, as the search giant appeared to be dialling back on its social media strategy.
The move, announced by John Mueller, a webmaster trends analyst at Google, said that the “click-through behaviour on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.”
“We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results,” Mueller wrote in a post on Google+, “in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices.
This new design for authorship in the search results rolled out to both desktop and mobile results.
However, many in the industry believed at the time that the move was only implemented because Google Author photos were cannibalising clicks from Google AdWords, and new research could back up these claims.
48% higher click through rate for search ads
The study, from Larry Kim, CEO of WordStream, suggests that when there are less photos in the search results pages, then users click more on Google AdWords ads.
In a WordStream blog post, Larry Kim showed research that he claims proves that the removal of Google Authorship photos “was based on authorship photos’ impact on the CTR of paid search ads”.
Kim “examined the CTR of the ad above both before and after Google’s announcement. We found hard evidence that the CTR of the ad improved significantly when author photos were no longer being displayed in the SERP.”
In the research, the CTR of an ad after the removal of author photos from the SERPs is much higher.
Kim states: “In fact, the CTR of the ad is 44.8% higher than beforehand within this ad group. We tested this data rigorously, and the difference we observed is statistically significant with 99% confidence due to the high number of daily ad impressions (thousands) for this keyword.”
A move away from Google+?
For many publishers, the authorship features are a key reason to be on Google+, as it was thought a presence on the internet giant’s social network boost visibility on its search results and the number of clicks.
Google+ currently has over a billion registered users, and almost 350m monthly active putting it between Facebook and Twitter in size, but doubts remain over how engaged these users really are, they are simply using Google’s other services (such as Gmail and YouTube) which are integrated into the social network.
The service was notably absent from its recent Google’s I/O keynote, where the company lays out its plans for the next year to developers from around the world.
Read the WordStream article here