No More Right-Side Google Ads: What It Means For You

March 30, 2016

google ads

A month ago, Google removed the right side ads from search engine result pages (SERPs) and said it may add a 4th ad at the top of the page for “highly commercial queries.” The changes caused quite a stir throughout the search engine community — some predicted massive repercussions for advertisers, while others recommended keeping calm. But what does all of this mean for you?

The changes aren’t completely unexpected. Google has been testing different formats since 2010, and the updates align the desktop experience more closely with the mobile experience. This also means more room for product listing ads (PLAs), which will still show on the right side.

Now that the dust has settled a little, we can get a better look at the impact. WordStream shared metrics shortly after the changes. Performance improved the most for 3rd position ads and PLAs, while positions 5-7 lost considerable reach and positions 8-11 don’t even show on the first SERP. Paid search traffic and cost-per-clicks (CPCs) were relatively steady.

The biggest loser here is actually the organic results. With the potential 4th ad spot, organic results may now be pushed completely below the fold.

So what does this all mean for you? Two things:

  1. If you’re running paid search ads on Google, the strategy is the same. Focus on quality score by improving relevance of keywords, ads, and landing pages. Keep an eye on your average position. If your ads fall below the top 3 spots, consider increasing your bids.
  2. Dedicate more resources to search engine optimization. Only the top organic result will be above the fold, if the 4th ad doesn’t show. Strengthen your content marketing with tips from our team and build your social media presence, including your Google+ business page.

Despite the initial anxiety surrounding these changes, paid search inventory hasn’t plummeted and CPCs haven’t skyrocketed. Here at Brand Driven Digital, we haven’t seen significant performance changes in our clients’ campaigns, either. While we do have to consider the new formats when evaluating paid search campaign performance, the biggest impact is to organic search results.

What do you think about the changes Google made?

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.