Google removes right-hand side paid search ads on SERPs

The big development this week came from Google who removed all paid search ads from the right-hand side of the search engine results page (SERP).

Previously, paid search ads were always displayed in the same format – three ads above organic search results and a number of ads down the right-hand side of the page.

Google’s changes now mean there are now 2-4 paid search results at the top and bottom of the SERPs – so depending on the search query, the entire above the fold space could now be filled entirely with paid advertising.

Solar Centre SERP

This means that for visibility within the SERPs, it’s even more important to be in positions 1-3 and top-of-the-page paid search ads will become even more competitive and expensive. On a positive note, we expect that search relevance will increase over time as the ROI on not relevant ads will become unsustainable due to increased cost-per-clicks. Brands that have a smaller click budget will see limited returns from more generic, head term and prospecting keywords that would previously generally be aimed at lower ad positions.

Google has been doing significant testing around site links, positions and ad text and this development shows how they are becoming increasingly focused on mobile as mobile searches beginning to overtake desktop searches. This change makes for a similar user experience across both desktop and mobile.

How will this impact paid search campaigns?

According to our Senior Paid Search Consultant, Matt Martin, “Ads seem to drop out of search results in favour of organic after just a few unsuccessful searches. This could increase click-through-rate and increase the effectiveness of time-sensitive messages. We have also seen an instant drop in impressions and return for non-brand and generic keywords.

What this means going forward is that we may need to move to longer-tail, less competitive keywords as those with larger budgets change strategies – presumably looking to own the generic space.”

“It may be that those with smaller budgets or more stringent targets now need to pick their battles more carefully for non-brand terms and more focus should be placed on driving better quality advertising going forward. It seems that we are moving towards a state where appearing in the perfect place in Google and at the perfect time can bring substantial returns but the risks are higher if you get it wrong. Owning your Brand space and having user-centric copy, relevant landing pages and a well-structured account becomes ever more important.”

For retailers, Shopping will become a crucial part of most revenue generating strategies. Therefore having a working, correct and optimised feed is more important than ever before in order to allow greater ownership of the space above the fold.

We’re also interested to see how this change affects Bing, as they have a great opportunity to capitalise on this change. Bing is becoming increasingly viable for marketers with the launch of Shopping – they just need to get the search and ecommerce volumes!

Natural search impact

In terms of natural search, our Website Optimisation Manager, Suze, said “The main impact of the having four paid search ads at the top of the SERPs will push organic listings down further in the page. Both for desktop and mobile, organic listings will now likely fall below the fold of the page.

This means that it’s even more important to ensure you have very targeted, useful content on your site to try and maximise top organic positions. It is also becoming more important for sites take full advantage of other ways to get organic visibility, for example: local listings, html markup to encourage rich snippets or knowledge graph cards etc.

By providing useful user-centric content on your site will help your site appear for more conversational, long-tail question-based queries that are less likely to be occupied with aggressive paid search ads. Brand building is also more crucial in order to drive people to search for less competitive brand related terms.

Please do feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about the impact of this change.

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