After a subtle test that started all the way back in 2010, Google has ushered a global removal of the right side ads that once appeared in desktop search results. With the exception of Product Listing Ads (PLAs), all adds will now be served at the top of the Google Search Engine Results Page, or SERP. Google has also increased the number of ads that may appear at the top of the results. If the search query a user types is “highly commercial”, Google can serve up to four ads before the organic listings begin.
1 – “Highly Commercial” falls under searches like hotel rooms for rent and travel.
Why Did Google Make The Change?
The exact reason why Google has made this sweeping change to paid advertising can’t be known for sure, but it seems we can point to three culprits; user engagement, revenue, and mobile.
In what is known as the “Golden Triangle”, it was discovered through Google studies that users tend to only look at the top left corner of the SERP when conducting Google searches. This means that the first three results get plenty of attention; but that attention was rarely going to the right hand side ads or to results below the first three to four listings. With such poor engagement, Google was bound to make a change.
Another reason Google has opted to remove these ad placements is that Google is making a push to unify the desktop and mobile search experience. Right hand side ads traditionally did not appear on mobile searches, so uniting the two was a logical step.
From a revenue perspective, it’s no mystery. More engagement on advertisements and more cutthroat placement bidding means more money for the search engine. But what does it mean for website owners and advertisers?
Change For PPC Spells Change For SEO
The ads on the right are gone; but what does this mean for you? The impact is still being observed, but with only three to four ad slots to compete for we may see large bid increases on the horizon. Along with the worldwide removal of the ad spots, Google introduced the “Target Search Page Location” bid strategy. This strategy gives users the option to shoot for the top of the first page, or to choose “anywhere on the first page.”
The real loser in this new change is SEO – and it is time for optimizers to brace for a drop in organic traffic across their accounts. With the possibility of four ads per SERP, what used to be the coveted first spot is now paid. In many cases, organic results don’t even show above the fold; a worrying development for those looking to compete with paid.
2 – No Organic Above Fold On Most Monitors
While PPC managers will need to keep an eye on bid strategy and costs per click, SEO professionals are going to need to form new strategies to keep their ranks and organic traffic moving upwards. With paid more competitive than ever, holding on to your commercially valuable keywords should be the focus moving forward.