Google's Little Blue Arrow and AdWords

by Motionlab

In the last few weeks, various search professionals have been blogging and tweeting about Google's 'little blue arrow' and speculating as to the effect of it.

If you are not already aware of it, the 'little blue arrow' is a small arrow (see image below) that starts by pointing out the 1st result within Google SERP's. Its purpose is to allow the navigation of all paid and organic search results via the keyboard arrows. The enter/return key is also used to 'select/click' the AdWords advert or organic result it points to. Additionally, an extended hold or a 'double tab' press of the enter key, post typing search, will select the first result and direct the user to that page.

Google SERP with little Blue Arrow

Given that the first result is often a paid AdWords advert, the 'extended press/double tap' effect appears from our stats to be resulting in increased clicks. The obvious downside to this effect is that unnecessary clicks are being driven by the sites. This results in a higher bounce rate which will also affect your CPC due to a potentially lower Quality Score, costing the advertiser more in the process.

Below is an example from one of our client's whose bounce rate (stable for many months) has suddenly shot up as a result of the 'little blue arrow'.

Now some may argue that the simple remedy to this is to not bid for position one. While this may be 'best practice' for the industry as often positions 3-5 result in the best ROI from paid search, it is not always suitable. Take for example brand protection where your competitors are always bidding on your brand name or verticals where traffic is low so a high position is more suitable or necessary.

Whether the keyboard navigation of Google SERP's turns out to be purely a testing phase for Google which will be improved or a permanent feature is still to be seen, but what is clear is that the 'extended press/double tap' has a negative effect for advertisers. The potential of more high priced clicks (whether relevant or irrelevant) which are too tempting for Google to resist will prove the most worrying prospect for PPC professionals. Although if this feature does take affect it could conversely result in a devaluing of CPC bid's for the number 1 position for paid adverts in AdWords.

Whether or not Google keeps this feature in its current format, it is clear that if Google continues to roll out features such as these we may have to start thinking differently about the number one position within paid search.