Google Does Away With Side Ads: How Does This Affect You?
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Google Does Away With Side Ads: How Does This Affect You?

If you haven’t noticed, Google took another step in a life-long quest to further improve its platform. If you’ve spent any time on the search engine since February 19th, you’ll notice paid ads are no longer existing on the right side of the page. This is because Google made a change of epic proportions to its paid ad positioning.

Before we get into why Google made this change and what effects it has on business owners and advertisers, let me know clear this up now: This change is a positive change if you’re using paid search ads.

Change often leaves people uncomfortable, and with the internet of things, changes happen often and swiftly. Thankfully, Google’s change to ad positioning is nothing to fear, and I’ll explain why.

Why This Is A Good Thing

Take a second and think about how you interact with a search engine after you enter your search. What is the first thing you do? What does your eyes gravitate towards first? If you are anything like me, your eyes are going to that first search result at the top level, and I represent a large pool of people who follow the same routine.

A study using WordStream customer data was done in January of 2016, the month prior to the change in ad positioning. According to results, side and bottom desktop paid clicks on the search engine results page (SERP) resulted in only 14.6% of clicks. So where are the rest of the clicks going? You guessed it! 84.5% of clicks happened on the top positions.  Also, the No. 1 position accounts for nearly 40% of clicks, and it declines from there.

So as you can see, Google is trying to help those who utilize paid search ads. By having your ads placed in the top position, it’s putting your ads right in the prime real estate of where most people do their click play.

Unfortunately, making room for paid search ads moves organic listings down the ladder. Google is lowering the amount of paid search ads — 11 to 7 — and putting 1-4 paid search ads at the top and the rest at the bottom. So this means organic listings are going to take the hit as they are completely removed from the top positions on desktop for any commercial search query.

Another Advantage For Paid Search

Prior to the change in positioning, paid search ads were shoved to the right side, almost like a cage at a zoo where they were kept safely away from the organic search results. However, not only have paid search ads broken out of their cages and claimed the top spot, but they are also replicating organic search results.

Previous to the change, paid search ads had a different appearance than that of an organic search result with the text under the title broken down into two lines. Each of those lines were limited to 35 characters per row. Now the text within the ad is a singular line with 70 characters of ad space copy. So it’s creating a more native appearance that replicates an organic search result.

So why is this an advantage?

If you take a look at the epic battle between organic search results and paid search ads, organic search ads have dominated. For every 1 click on a paid search ad, the organic results generate 8.5 clicks. This is, of course, for search results that include paid search ads. For whatever reason, whether it’s the location or people just generally don’t prefer to click on ads, organic search results are getting the most action.

By moving paid search ads to the top position and giving them a more native appearance, it’s giving paid search ads the best chance to get clicked. Also keep in mind that paid search clicks, on average, result in a 1.5X higher conversion rate. This is Google’s way of giving paying advertisers more bang for their buck.


Will This Drive Up The Prices of Cost-Per-Click (CPC)?

It’s still early in this process of rolling over to no side-bar ads, so it’s difficult to answer that question. However, I think the answer depends on the supply and demand of paid search ads. Obviously the supply of above-the-fold ad positioning is decreasing, with 1-4 paid search ad positions. However, the demand will not change, and could actually increase now that paid search ads are being placed in the hot zone for clicks. If this is the case, then CPC will probably rise.

Again, at this point, it’s difficult to predict. With so much movement, including bottom ads, there will most likely be some unexpected consequences that will have an effect on CPC.

The Overall Grand Scheme Of Things

Google has been in a constant struggle to juggle two important aspects of its search engine:

  1. Google wants to honor those who pay for ads: This is for good reason. In 2014, Google made $38.42 billon in net search ad revenue, and that number increased to $67.39 billion in 2015. This is a hefty sack of money for Google, and they want to continue to see an increase in paid advertising. So the change in position from side to top is their way of giving precedence to those who spend some money on advertising.
  2. Improve User Experience: Google is always striving to improve user experience. Will this improve user experience? That probable depends on the individual user. If someone wants to only see organic listings, this change will not work in their favor. However, if someone is only interested in finding exactly what they are searching for, regardless if it’s an ad or an organic listing, this could be very beneficial. Although, this requires advertisers to create ads with accurate descriptions and proper targeting.

On the outside, Google’s change in ad positioning might not seem like much. However, from the inside, a lot will change, and it will have a big impact on your search marketing strategy. Moving forward, I would suggest embracing the change and learning how to succeed with Google’s new layout. If you’re able to do this, you should expect to see an improvement in your overall marketing strategy.

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