Google made a major change mid-February that many people may not have noticed …. they removed the right-hand ads from the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) on the desktop version of Google.
While they were never top-performing ad locations, they did make up a sizable chunk of available inventory to paying companies.
Before: The Google SERP traditionally housed ads in three locations on the first page – above, below, and to the right of the organic (free) search results. Going into effect on February 19th, Google enacted a “global and permanent” change that removed the right hand ads completely.
After: The ad layout now contains up to four ads at the top of the organic search results, and three below. Google has stated that the top ads will be limited to three, unless the search is associated with “highly commercial queries,” in which case the fourth ad placement will appear. Essentially, this means users won’t get the extra ad unless Google associates the search keywords with commerce.
The ultimate motivator for this change was most likely that it brings desktop more in line with the mobile experience. Google has taken a mobile-first approach for some time, which makes sense since mobile queries surpassed desktop last year.
Why You Need To Care:
Though only two months into this change, it is still far too early to tell what the long-term impact will be for Google advertising, there are plenty of areas that will be impacted that small businesses who want to be found on Google need to be aware of:
SEO will see an impact. Though Google says organic traffic won’t be affected, but with organic results getting pushed lower and in some cases not visible until you scroll down the page (“below the fold”), there is a decent chance that this will be the case. Data shows that the lower a result is on the SERP, the fewer clicks it gets. (And who goes to page two anymore?) On the flip side, since there will be less organic results available higher up the page, this could put a premium on strong SEO since businesses will want to be sure they inhabit those limited spots.
Traffic for the top four ad placements will increase. It is no secret the organic results received more traffic than the ad locations, but this new ad layout ensures these ads will be the first delivered in the user’s natural view of “organic list” results, and any clicks the previous ad layout was also getting will now be funneled into these top four locations.
The “top four” positions will get more expensive. The logic behind this prediction is that the typical ad placements have officially been cut in half, therefore as with any other commodity, when supply is greatly reduced, yet demand remains the same or increases, costs soar.
Re-targeting will become more popular. Because this technique is clear of any impact through the recent changes on the Google layout, this could provide the desired results. Similar increases on other channels and tactics could also produce desired results and could become more popular.
Ad campaign duration will now be greatly impacted. Since marketers generally have a set budget, the ads resting above the organic results could very well be priced out of many marketers’ monthly click budgets, resulting in ads running for only a number of days before the budget is exhausted, rather than running all month.