This week, Google released an update that radically changed the layout of their search results pages (SERPs). Google has eliminated the ads that ran down the right side of the page.
Over the last few years, Google has continuously been tweaking search results page layouts in an effort to test different versions for usability and profitability. Google has been running anywhere from 1 to 3 ads at the top of the page with eight ads down a separate column on the right-hand side and possibly ads at the bottom of the page. The sudden removal of all side rail ads, however, is a radical departure that goes well beyond minor layout tweaks.
Instead of a half dozen or more ads appearing “above the fold” on a SERP, the number of ads visible when the page loads is now limited to a maximum of four at the top of the page. These are often followed on local searches by Google My Business (formerly Google Places) entries.
Regardless whether your search is local or general, organic search results now appear even farther down the page than they used to.
We see the following impacts from this latest change:
- Competition in AdWords will grow fiercer because the number of ads available on page 1 has been reduced. You can’t bid for a position lower than 4th anymore and hope to get a significant stream of clicks. This has already been demonstrated on mobile platforms, where typically only two ads appear “above the fold.” Expect to bid higher and pay more per click in AdWords going forward.
- With organic listings appearing lower on the search results page, more searches will result in paid, and therefore less organic, clicks than before. This will result in more revenue for Google and less benefit from your organic search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
There is definitely a Darwinian element to this latest move from Google. The bar has been raised and we should expect to see less experienced users of Google AdWords weeded out over time.
If you have any questions about these changes, don’t hesitate to let us know.