Have you noticed anything different about the Google search results page recently?
Take a look at this results page from early February…
Now let’s look at a search for the same thing in March:
So much white space!! But what happened to those ads in the side?
Google updated the results page in mid-February and has decided to do away with those ads in the right hand side. Now, in many cases, you will see four ads at the top of the page (instead of the old three) and ads at the bottom of the results page. You still may see three ads along the top, as Google has said four will show for “highly commercial queries.” This means that the searcher appears to have the intention “to buy.”
Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and ads within the Knowledge Graph will still display on the right sidebar for appropriate queries.
Why Did Google Do This?
We may be quick to say that Google did this just to add confusion to our lives. According to Google though, this change makes mobile and desktop results look much more similar. Overall, Google has been making efforts to make the mobile and desktop experience more cohesive.
They have said that they tested this layout and that other changes may be happening in the future. It’s likely that they tested the layout and found it improves performance for advertisements. Better ad performance=happy advertisers=$$ for Google.
What Does This Mean for You?
We don’t foresee this change having that big of an effect on Google’s paid advertising. The goal had always been to have your ads in the top section and not on the sidebar, as those are the ads that have the best click-through-rate (CTR). Now, there’s an opportunity to potentially get that fourth spot at the top, which almost looks like an organic result.
You can see in this example how the fourth result can include ad extensions, which helps to improve CTR.
In general this shouldn’t cause too many changes in bidding strategy and cost of clicks. Plus, it should make reporting a bit easier since mobile and desktop statistics will be more similar.
There’s a little more uncertainty in how this will affect organic search, since there is no longer an organic result “above the fold.” In many cases that fourth ad now takes the place of the first organic result.
On the bright side, organic listings look less busy once you scroll down now. In organic search, there has been an emphasis on being in that number one spot to ensure your site is listed above the fold, but now that users have to scroll down anyways, it may place less emphasis on being number one. Call us optimistic, but we aren’t terrified by this change.
The Bottom Line
Google is going to continue to make changes to its platforms no matter what we do or say. In the meantime, we’ll be observing how this change impacts businesses. If you haven’t considered AdWords before, this may be a good time. Having your business name appear in the paid results and the organic results gives you a better chance of getting a visitor to your site.
Are you noticing any effects on your business from this change? Share in the comments!