Ever since Google launched AdWords in 2000, we have become used to seeing paid results at the top of the SERPs as well as down the right side of the page.
Well, that’s just changed. Just like that, the side ads have gone. And for anyone involved in PPC advertising, this is clearly a big deal.
At LeapGo, we’re already well on top of the changes, and we’re analyzing the changes closely as well as following any official info from Google to make sure our clients’ campaigns don’t suffer any negative effects. But to keep you fully informed, here is what you need to know about a tumultuous week in the world of paid search.
What We Know So Far
The idea of getting rid of side ads has come as a bolt from the blue for many advertisers. However, this is something that Google has been testing for a while, and it has now decided to roll it out across the globe.
The change came into effect on Friday 19th February, and Wordstream and various other sources started reporting on the changes as soon as it was clear that something was up.
Now we have a clearer picture of what is going on, so here’s what we know.
- From now on, paid ads will only display at the top and bottom of the SERPs
- At the bottom, below the organic results, three text ads will show
- An extra fourth paid spot has also been added above the organic results (there used to be three)
This fourth ad may or may not show up depending on the search. Google has stated that the fourth spot will show for “highly commercial” search queries.
Here is Google’s official statement on this, as quoted in Search Engine Land:
“We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”
What exactly are “highly commercial queries?” These are essentially searches that are made with an intent to purchase. So, something like “men’s shoes New York” could be considered a commercial query, and indeed, the search results show four ads at the top:
In some searchers, you may see no ads at all at the top of the SERP. The SEM Post recently reported that for some searches ads are only appearing at the bottom, so this is another change, or it might just be something that Google is experimenting with.
What Will Display on the Right?
If all the ads are going from the right of the page, what will go in their place? In most searches, nothing at all.
However, on some searches, you will now see Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which might show when you search for a product. You might also see Knowledge Graph Boxes when you search for a brand or institution, like this search for MoMA:
What This Means for You
With a change this big, we will undoubtedly see an effect on CPC, impressions, and CTRs in the short term. However, it’s not time to panic.
At LeapGo, we’re analyzing our clients’ PPC campaigns very closely, and we’ll be making sure there are no negative impacts. We already understand that the majority of clicks on paid ads have always been on the top ads rather than the side ads, and target accordingly. According to Wordstream’s data, about 85% of clicks were on the top ads prior to the changes.
The addition of a new fourth ad at the top is also good news for advertisers. This could easily make up for the loss of side ads because it takes up yet more prime real estate in the SERPs.
Another benefit is that you can use ad extensions with the fourth ad, whereas you could not with the side ads. Ad extensions can be an effective way to improve results in your AdWords campaign. (Check out our recent blog on how to get more from ad extensions.)
Also, remember that many clicks on PPC ads in Google search now occur in mobile search, where there have been no changes.
CPCs: What’s Going to Happen?
One of the big fears around the changes is that CPC is going to shoot up as a result as many advertisers target “top of the page” positioning. However, it’s still too soon to tell what the implications will be. It’s easy to see how fewer ads on the page could result in higher prices, but it is unlikely to be as simple as this and there are many other issues to consider. For example, will advertisers bid as much for ads at the bottom of the page compared to the right side? And if top ads get more impressions, this could help to keep CPCs lower.
Roll with the Changes
We have to look at the data for a definitive answer when it comes to how the changes will affect your campaign. We’re expecting to see some fluctuation over the coming weeks, and we’ll be working closely with our clients to monitor their campaigns and ensure we stay on top of everything.
This is a big and bold move on Google’s part, but don’t worry. Once the dust settles, you may find that it has a positive effect on your campaigns, opening up new opportunities to get better results from paid search.
For more information, or if you’ve got a PPC account you’d like us to review please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.