Let’s jump right in. Last week we were made aware that Google is changing the layout and number of ads on the search results page. Search Engine Land reported on Friday that the change was in effect, but we didn't see any differences until this morning.
What’s the specific change?
There will no longer be paid ads running down the right side of the search results. In the past a search would return up to three ads at the top and up to eight ads on the right side. The middle of a search page was, and still is, reserved for organic, video, and local listings.
Now there will be three or four ads shown at the top of the page. According to Google, the fourth ad will only serve in more “transactional” searches (think “flatscreen televisions for sale”), but this morning’s search tests shows us that isn’t always true. "aed," “HVAC repair nashville,” “tractor parts,” and “pizza franchise” searches all returned four top-of-page results. (see below)
Here's what we know:
- The sidebar ads are gone.
- Bottom of the page ads are in effect.
- Total maximum number of available ad spots has dropped from eleven to seven.
- Some keyword searches will show results with four ads at the top of the page instead of the traditional three-ad limit.
- Product Listing Ads (PLAs) will still see top right visibility…but those are only available to eCommerce companies.
- Knowledge Panel will still have some right side visibility.
What does this mean for you?
A higher level of AdWords management and strategy must be employed. As with many changes that Google makes, it also means that you will likely start to see a hit to your pocket book. (There’s debate over this point, but we say it’s inevitable.) The number of impressions for any given query will not change. The less ad slots available, the more competitive the auction will become, and thus your costs for each click will rise. Simple supply and demand.
Zach Vinson recently wrote about how having ads at the top of the page, versus the side bar, was showing dramatic differences in click-thru-rates and conversion rates for our clients. But a key to our research was that there were sidebar ads for other advertisers to use…the competition was lower for top-of-page spots. The sidebar meant a company could bid lower and still have an ad in the game.
This change also means there is more real estate to scroll through before a searcher sees non-paid listings. If you haven’t been running PPC ads, now might be the time to consider dipping your toes in the water.
Time to change.
Paid search is about way more than picking keywords and writing ads. Keywords and bids have to be in lock step with the ads, and your landing pages have to be as relevant as possible. Quality Score (Google’s system for determining what you pay for clicks) has been of ever-increasing importance, but now it’s mission critical. No more landing pages with slow load time or missing keywords. No more ads that don’t include keywords. No more ads with poor messaging and low relevance. It’s time to re-evaluate how you’re doing Paid Search on Google.
PPC management is where we excel. If you’re concerned about the performance of your AdWords account, we can help. If your costs are rising and returns are falling, let us step in to give you assistance. It’s what we do.