You may have already noticed that Google has officially started introducing a new update to the paid search layout. These changes are global and will be affecting all languages. Just when you thought you had a handle on your sites SEO and the latest changes to Google’s algorithms, something new comes along to rock the boat.
While to some this may seem like a very minor change, in reality this change will cause a lot of work for SEO specialists as the changes greatly impact many sites rankings, whether via ad or organic.
Then and Now – Changes to Googles SERP
Before this most recent change, PPC Ads were located in three places: one above the organic search results, and others in the sidebar and below the search results.
Ads that were once located on the right hand sidebar of the SERP are now the first four results on the page, and the rest of Googles organic search results are pushed to the bottom of the page. Although this decreases the total amount of ads on the SERP, it also decreases the total amount of organic search results from 11 to 7 on the first page.
With these ads no longer taking up space in the sidebar, there is simply more room for Google’s Product Listing Ads. Ads will also find home in the Knowledge panel of Google’s search results. With these changes, ads now take up the entire above the fold space.
The new changes remove the side bar ads and place three to four ads above the organic search results. According to Google’s official statement on this recent change, there will only be three ads at the top of the page unless the search query is ‘highly commercial’ (e.g. hotels, car insurance, etc.)
“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.”
Why did Google make these changes?
Unsurprisingly Google has determined that the average click-through-rate on right hand side ads is poorer than they would hope and that by moving the ads into the regular search results the CPC will be more profitable. Tests done by google indicated that no one was clicking on the side ads, and by moving them to the top of the SERP the clickthrough rate increased.
Additionally by moving the paid ads to the top of the SERP the desktop experience better aligns with the mobile one, giving it a more unified appearance throughout all platforms. In 2015, Google announced that more than half of it’s search queries were from a mobile device. The attempt at making the desktop SERP resemble the mobile may indicate that most users are mobile and therefore the SERP should be built around mobile across all platforms.
How does this affect organic search?
It’s hard to say exactly how these changes will affect organic search results. Fewer ads overall could increase organic traffic, but it’s likely that the three to four top paid positions will lower traffic due to organic results being push farther down the page. Generally the further down a result on a SERP, the lower the clickthrough rate will be.
Some users are able to distinguish ads from organic results, but many are not. The only thing distinguishing organic results from these paid advertisements are the small yellow Ad labels that are easily missed.
Ultimately, businesses are going to need to do everything in their power to achieve one of the first three organic search results spots if they want to stay competitive online but don’t want to invest in a PPC campaign.
So, what does this mean for online marketing?
Most users tend to tune out Google’s side bar ads, so by moving them to the top and bottom of the SERP the importance of google ads will increase dramatically. The organic listings will be pushed down, so without purchasing space it will be impossible to be at the ‘top’ of a google search, additionally making it to the first page of a search has become more difficult.
For site owners and SEOs little has changed, they will simply need to increase their competition against paid ads. They must do everything in their power to ensure their organic listings stand out, and should be aiming for a spot in the top three organic results. Those with a higher organic spot, or a spot in the knowledge graph, will likely have a better shot at organic clickthroughs. Another good strategy may be to push organic as well as taking a lower PPC ad position rather than a more expensive, but higher, PPC position.
Here are some strategies for online marketing through the new changes if you’re already running an AdWords campaign;
Review your current ads
If you already have a google AdWords campaign in place, it’s important to check to see how these changes affect your current standing on the SERPS.
Because the new Ad layout means less paid ads above the fold, your prime location in the side bar may have been moved to the bottom of the SERP. If this is the case, it may be prudent to consider an alternative to your current marketing strategy. You may choose pay the little extra to gain a higher spot, or chose to try to beef up your sites SEO to rank higher in the organic search results.
Review your average position
With more ads being placed above the fold, if you didn’t have a high organic listing, it’s possible you’ve been pushed down to the second page of results. It’s important to be in the first three or four results depending on the keywords, and if you find yourself lower it may be time to implement a new marketing strategy, or beef up your current one.
Additionally, as mentioned above, if you have an ad placed through AdWords it is a good idea to make sure your add places in the top 3 of the new Ad layout.
Increase your average position
The two main ways to increase your average positions on AdWords is by increasing your bid, or improving your Quality Score.
If a higher bid for your terms isn’t prudent to your CPA, then don’t do it. Your Ad campaign needs to remain profitable, or what’s the point?
Has google gone too far in sacrificing its own user experience? What do these changes mean for users?
The new changes that google has implemented appear to be entirely commercially driven, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ultimately it depends on which algorithm is better, the AdWords algorithm or the organic. Ads can help users find what they are looking for quicker as long as PPC Ads have the correct targets.
Visually speaking, the new layout seems to be a little less cluttered and may be more aesthetically pleasing to some.
For now, the jury is out. Targeted ads could increase user experience, but only time will tell.
What do you think about Google’s latest changes to the SERP?
Will it impact your PPC activity or online marketing campaign? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.