Google has recently changed its search results to remove ads from the right hand sidebar. This has been a widely talked about change and will likely have an impact on ad campaigns moving forward. As the right sidebar ads have played a key function in PPC advertising, many are wondering how it will effect Google search results and what advertising strategies will be best moving forward.
Google previously displayed 1-3 ads at the top of each search query. The right sidebar would have ads 4-8, while the bottom displayed 9-11. Now, Google will generally have 3 ads at the beginning of the search results. For “highly commercial queries,” Google will likely have 4 ads at the top of the page. Examples of these types of searches include those for car insurance and hotels. The remaining ads for the page, ads 5-7, will be located on the bottom of the page. This means the total ads on each page is less than it was previously.
Of course, increased revenue is likely to be a big factor in Google’s decision to eliminate sidebar ads. With fewer ads per page, it is likely that PPC rates for ad campaigns will go up because of competition to get on the first page of results. While many are concerned by the removal of the ads, it is well documented that click-through rates for the sidebar ads are fairly low. In fact, the sidebar ads have the lowest rates of any of the ads on the page, including bottom ads. Another factor is the increased use of mobile devices for searching. In 2015, for the first time ever, more searches were conducted on a mobile device than on a desktop, a trend that will likely continue. A mobile search has less room for ads. Removing sidebar ads creates a similar experience for desktop and mobile users.
With less ads per page, there will be more competition for top spots on the first page. Companies may need to pay more to ensure that their ads get top billing. For those advertisers that have smaller budgets for their PPC ad campaigns or are bidding for popular search terms, they may have a harder time getting on the first page. However, it is important to know that sidebar ads, as mentioned before, have a relatively low click-through rate. Bottom and sidebar ads combined only account for about 14% of total clicks. And it is only desktop searches that are affected by the change, which are less than half of all queries, making the impacted clicks drop to 7%, and that still includes bottom ad clicks. If those are removed from the equation, sidebar clicks actually account for a very small fraction of total clicks. Therefore, clicks per page should not change dramatically with their removal. In fact, while the change will affect the number of ads per page, it may actually make the ads that are displayed more efficient and a better value.
Companies that rely on organic search results in their ad campaigns will see their results pushed further down on the page. Of real concern is that, on some screens and with some searches, all organic results may be pushed below the fold, meaning that users will have to scroll down before they can view any non-ad results. This could mean lower click-through rates, although true effects remain the be seen. Google is also adding more organic results per page, up to nine. Many industry experts estimate that these adjustments will not create any large scale change in the long-term. Others, however, are saying that the only real loser with the removal of sidebar ads is the organic search.
Top results on the first page can be expensive and prices may go up with the removal of ads on the sidebar. Advertisers will need to determine if the PPC for their ad campaigns is worth the price. In the end, companies should stress the importance of better quality ads. This includes developing an understanding of customer needs to direct users to relevant and high quality landing pages, create ad copy that is user-centric and target search terms.
If your ad campaigns rely on organic results, you will continue to compete against PPC ads. Ads will continue to evolve, becoming more interactive to capture user interest. Site owners and companies that use SEOs must continue to strive for high ranking results through meaningful keywords. In addition, they will need to stand out among other listings using specific tools that are the right fit for their site, their company and their users.
Ultimately, the impact of the removal of Google’s right hand sidebar ads on advertisers is still unknown. What is known is that Google’s aim is to streamline the user’s experience while continuing its successful PPC advertising. The success will be determined by the algorithms for AdWords and the organic search. Advertisers can use tracking tools to determine how to better their search rankings.