Google is constantly making changes to its site. Its logo changes are fun, mobilegeddon last year had a drastic impact on businesses’ rankings, and now it’s changed its ad layout, removing advertisements from the right-hand side of desktop search engine result pages. Before this change, Google search ads showed up in three areas: at the top, the bottom, and the right of organic search results. Now, the ads above may increase from three to four for highly commercial queries, the bottom ads will not change, and the side ads have completely disappeared, although product listing ads (PLAs) may stick around on the right-hand side.
By removing these right-hand side ads, the maximum amount of ads that users will see has decreased from eleven to seven. For those who pay for Google Ads, this means fewer clicks. But what about for those who rely exclusively on organic search results? What impact will the changes to the ad layout have? And why the change?
We’re here to answer these questions.
Why Google Change Its Ad Layout
Google is constantly trying to make changes that will offer a better user experience. And this change is no different because it creates a clearer and cleaner experience for searchers. The change also creates a more cohesive experience between desktop and mobile searches, which already have fewer ad options. In addition, the large majority of paid clicks come from ads above the organic search results. The right-side ads just aren’t as effective, so they can be eliminated without much impact.
The Impact to Marketers’ Organic Search Results
It’s difficult to say right now how exactly this change will impact organic results. With fewer ads for users to choose from, website traffic from organic searches might increase; however, having a fourth ad at the top of results may also push organic results down the page, lowering the clickthrough rates they receive, and lowering overall organic traffic.
And although many search engine users are wary of ads and prefer to click on organic search results, these ads are now looking more and more like organic listings, with only the little yellow “Ad” label differentiating them.
What Advertisers Should Do
Fewer advertising spots above the fold mean that your clickthrough rate from pay-per-click ads may be reduced too. It might also increase the chances of bidding wars for now coveted top spots.
You should review your average search position for any given keywords. Depending on the keyword, you’ll now need an average position of higher than three or four to maintain clicks on your ads. If you’re lower than that, you may be pushed below organic search results or on the second page of results.
If your position isn’t where you want it to be, try to increase it. You can do this by increasing your bid vs. the competition or trying to improve your quality score, which is based on how relevant your landing page and advertisement are to the search term that triggered the results. To move your positon up quickly, do both.
It may not be worth bidding for competitive auctions anymore, though—you may want to skip those keywords altogether. Too high of a bid in an attempt to get the number one spot might increase your advertising costs to the point where your resulting clicks might still generate less profit. Make sure to use cost per acquisition (CPA) as your metric to ensure that the cost is worth the bid.
Google is always focusing on its users above all else, so this change doesn’t come as a surprise. But as Google is very deliberate in everything it does, we expect these changes to stick, so take the steps required to make sure you stay on top of search result pages.