Google has removed the AdWords ads located at the right side of the search engine results page (SERPs).
In December 2015 Google tested showing users four ads at the top of the page above the organic results, with no right sidebar ads. It has now become clear that this test is being rolled out in full, and will shortly affect advertisers worldwide advertising in any language.
This change could fundamentally change the way in which users interact with search results. An immediately obvious change is that organic ads have been pushed even further down below the fold:
Why Has This Happened?
At this point Google haw not confirmed much to advertisers. While this is not particularly helpful, there have been many opinions put forward as to why Google may have made this move:
- Consistency with mobile search results – Mobile results have always been above the organic listings, with no sidebar to speak of. By removing sidebar ads from tablets and desktop SERPs, Google has created consistency across all devices.
- Poor click through rates – It is well known and widely accepted among paid search advertisers that ads placed in the right sidebar have a much lower click through rate than the ads at the top of the page. Google may be moving to provide better engagement for both users and advertisers by making this move.
- A cleaner appearance – The SERPs are now much cleaner and clutter free when viewed even on smaller devices.
- Increased revenue – A controversial opinion put forward by various AdWords advertisers is that this change will result in higher revenue generated for Google through Google AdWords. Four ads on the page further pushes down the organic content, which may result in a negative impact for engagement with organic results.
It’s unclear right now whether the space that has been freed up on the right side of the results will serve any future purpose. But for now, Google has said that, where applicable, this area will contain PLAs shown through Google Shopping:
I would expect that this space will not remain empty for long and that further advertising opportunities will arise because of this. Whether it be interactive ads or an increase in product listing ads the potential use of this area will be of great interest to advertisers.
What Does This Mean for Your Business?
While the full implications of this change are still unknown, it might be necessary to prepare for a change in strategy. Unfortunately it is likely that this could impact businesses that aren’t even using AdWords advertising as source of traffic. Below are some of things we would expect to see as a result of the change:
- Boom or bust keyword targeting – It is widely accepted that it hugely important on Google AdWords to appear in the top 3 – now 4 – paid slots within the search results. The importance of this is going to increase because of this change as the ability to pick up lower levels of traffic in cheaper positions is reduced.
- Higher cost per click – Based on the first point advertisers may panic and increase bids just to appear in the results. This will naturally lead to an increase in the cost required just to maintain your position within the paid search results.
- The chance to appear in highly competitive spaces is reduced – The fundamentals of this change ensure that there is less advertising space within the SERPs. This unfortunately means that someone has to miss out, as the total impressions available within Google AdWords have been decreased.
- Organic results may suffer – As previously touched on, there is concern that this will negatively impact interaction rates with organic search results. While it is too early to comment on this conclusively it will be very interesting to monitor results moving forward.
What Can You Do about It?
As with any change there are a number of things you can do to ensure that this can result in a positive for your business rather than a negative:
- Don’t panic – Right now everyone bidding on the same keywords as you are is in the same position with this news.
- Review your keyword performance – There is never a bad time to review your keyword performance but what better time than during a major change to the AdWords platform?
- Does this have a big impact in your advertising? If you have a low percentage of impressions or clicks below the top results then there is little reason to change your current targeting. It is important to monitor this and be prepared to increase your bid should your competitors panic and raise bids to push you out
- Do you have a high relieance on impressions from lower positions? If you have a high reliance on the ads in the right side bar (with an average position of 4 or below) then it is time to make some decisions. Can you increase your bids while remaining profitable based on your current conversion rates, or is it time to look into the benefits of paid social advertising as an alternative?
If you do have concerns as to how this change could impact your business then please speak to us. We will be able to talk you through the best paid advertising solution for your business.