On Friday, February 19, 2016, Google confirmed that desktop search results pages will no longer show right sidebar text ads. In its place will be as many as four text ads displayed above the organic listings, and three text ads at the bottom of the page.
The addition of the fourth ad in the mainline area above the organic listings will be applied to all “Highly Commercial Queries.” Google defines highly commercial queries as those with an intent to purchase. Examples provided by Google include “hotels in New York City” or “car insurance.”
What do we know so far?
- Text ads on the right rail of the search results have already disappeared on desktop.
- Four text ads instead of three will be placed in the main area above the organic listings for said “highly commercial queries.”
- Three additional text ads will show at the bottom of the page, below the organic links.
- The maximum number of text ads that can appear on any results page will be seven.
- The only ads that are not affected are:
- Product listing ad blocks
- Knowledge Panels
- This is a world wide, permanent change
What will the new layout look like?
See below for an example of Google’s new layout. At the top of the search results are four text ads. Followed by these ads is the Google Map. The organic results will now fall below the fold, causing users to scroll down in order to see them. At the bottom of the page will be three additional text ads.
How will this affect Paid Search?
At Launch, our strategy is typically to achieve an average position three or above, this is where we normally see the best results. Most of our accounts have adopted this strategy, so we do not have an immediate danger of ads not being visible in the top four spots.
We do anticipate an increase of cost per click over the coming months as companies become more aggressive over the top four spots. With less visible ads viewable at the top, there will be more competition for the top spots driving up the cost per click.
On the other side of this debate we have a fourth ad in the main section now, so moving down slightly in ad position may not have as big of an affect as it once did. That could potentially reduce cost per click even with the increased competition.
To gain a thorough understanding of these huge changes, we will be gathering data and completing multiple tests to determine the outcomes of this change including the effect on cost per click, click through rates, and average position strategies.
A potential result that may come out of this change is a decrease in organic traffic. Google is now showing four ads at the top of the results page. Depending on the search, these ads have the potential to encompass the entire area above the fold as demonstrated above. Building upon this, the total organic space on the results page will decrease. This means maintaining a strong SEO strategy will be imperative to be present on the first page.
How to stay ahead?
Focus on your AdWords Quality Score. This is a combined rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords, PPC ads, click through rate and much more. This determines your cost per click and is multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process. Review your landing pages to optimize user experience, including relevancy and transparency, as it relates to your ad.