If you performed a desktop Google search this week, you would have noticed a significant change to how results are displayed.
As of Friday, February 19, 2016, Google will no longer show text ads in the right sidebar. In their place, there will only be 3 text ads showing above the organic listings and 3 ads displayed at the bottom of each SERP. For highly commercial queries (e.g., searches where people express their deep interest to buy), Google may choose to display up to 4 text ads above the fold. That means the total number of text ads appearing on SERPs will shrink from 11 to a maximum of 7.
In place of right ads, product listing ad blocks and Knowledge Panels (sometimes with ads, as tests continue in these spaces) will be shown in the right rail on relevant queries.
The changes will be global and affect all languages on Google.com and some search partners.
After The Change:
Why the sudden shift?
While the confirmation that Google would no longer show text ads in the sidebar on desktop came as a shock to many, it’s been simmering for quite some time.
Google has been testing several different themes for a numbers of years now. The first time Google started testing four ads above the organic results was in 2010; on mortgage queries. In late 2015, many users began seeing the four ads appear on other queries, with no ads in the sidebar.
Why is Google doing this? It clearly makes their desktop search results more in line with their mobile search results. But it can also be argued that Google has tested this new layout thoroughly and likely improves performance for advertisements.
What does this mean for Internet Advertising and Online Marketing customers?
The first thing that comes to mind when reading such Search Engine Marketing news is that CPC (Cost per Click) will skyrocket due to supply and demand and SEO will cease to exist. Unfortunately, it is too soon to tell, but the basic principles of supply and demand lead us to predict an increase in costs where PPC advertising is concerned.
With less ad inventory available, it may only seem logical that the competition for that inventory will increase and drive the bids up. And while it’s true that the click-through rates on right-hand side ads are much lower than the top ad placements, they still got clicked on and cost less money.
This change will also have a quantifiable impact on smaller companies. The bids are considerably lower than the top placements and allow new advertisers, or those with smaller budgets, to appear alongside their more well-known and better funded competitors. So while they get less clicks, they still provided the added benefit of impressions for these advertisers. This is now out of the question.
SEO has certainly been affected with this change. The top organic search result will no longer be visible above the fold on many desktop devices. But, again, this isn’t shocking news because Google has been gradually and determinedly making it more difficult to manipulate search engine rankings without spending advertising money with them. Ultimately, however, this only favours professional and competent SEO agencies. More and more, what really counts in order to achieve organically high rankings with Google is quality content that is engaging and gets read. keep in mind, though, that even high quality, engaging content will rank below the top 4 paid results.
What should PPC Advertisers be doing?
Overall, the community is mixed about this change but it seems most are still just trying to absorb the news. One thing is for sure, when you’re dealing with Google, nothing should surprise you; especially with all the algorithm updates being unleashed in the past 3 years.
PPC advertisers will need to modify Adwords campaigns immediately. That alone may cause your campaigns and their exposure to fluctuate for a period as other advertisers react to your adjustments.
As with every Google change, it is important to maintain a close watch on the effects it will have on current Adwords campaigns and organic search rankings. Keep a watchful daily eye on existing Adwords campaigns. If you are organically ranking for commercially-meaningful keywords that bring in lots of leads and website traffic, do everything in your power to stand out. That means – adjust your metatags, re-examine your link building strategies, optimize landing pages and perhaps do a website audit maximizing the website user experience.