Intrepid searchers have been spotting click counts displaying under certain AdWords ads on Google.com, and the search giant has confirmed it’s doing a small experiment.
Both Vinny O’Hare and Steven Weldler spotted the user interface test, in which a click count was displayed underneath the URL portion of the ad. In one implementation, the text simply said the number of clicks followed by “clicks.” In the other, the text said “clicks for this advertiser,” seeming to indicate that the clicks are not for that single creative, but for the advertiser overall.
A Google spokesperson confirmed that the display of clicks was part of a very small experiment on the look and feel of search results pages. It’s not clear exactly how clicks were calculated — are they on that particular ad creative or on every ad featuring that landing page URL, or on every ad placed by that advertiser? Why are they displayed on some ads, but not on others? Is it clicks for that query or clicks overall? Google typically has lots of experiments going on at once, and doesn’t comment in detail about new features until they’re rolled out.
One would suspect that a click count might encourage users to click on ads that others had previously clicked on. In some ways, displaying a click count just reinforces that relevance (as measured in clicks) is one of the signals Google uses for ranking.
How might advertisers like to have the clicks on their ads displayed publicly? I suppose it would depend on how the display effects performance. One could imagine some interesting conversations occurring within agencies, and between agencies and clients. Google assured me that the display of clicks is being done in such a way that is consistent with AdWords advertisers’ terms of service with Google. Still, it’s not clear whether advertisers are aware that they’ve agreed to allow public display of what most likely consider proprietary information.