Just a few days ago Google announced that they are removing the right hand side ads for majority of cases of desktop searches (Product Listing Ads [PLAs] will still be shown on the right as will ads in the Knowledge Panel).
This means that for most searches, only 3 paid results will be shown at the top of the page with another 3 paid results shown at the bottom of the search results. For highly competitive verticals (Google has given the example of car insurance and hotels) they will show 4 paid results at the top of the page, followed by 3 paid results at the bottom of the page.
Search Results as they now appear.
Of course, this hasn’t just come out of nowhere. Google indicated that they have been testing this since 2010, progressively rolling it out across certain queries in locations over the last 6 years. The primary reason Google has done this is to bring the desktop search experience in-line with other devices, so their search results have a consistent look and experience no matter what device you are using. The smoother the experience for the user, the more time they spend on Google and the more time they spend on Google, the more likely they will click on Google ads, making more money for Google.
What Does This Mean For Paid Search Advertisers?
At this stage it is hard to know exactly what implication this will have on paid search advertisers. My feeling is that as there is less at space available above the fold, that CPC’s will increase. This will be even more apparent in competitive niches, where there used to be more places for ads (11 total, now down to 6/7).
In lower competition niches, the top 3 spots will still be highly competitive, however the bottom three may be less attractive, bringing with them lower CPC’s. The reason I think the bottom three results will result in lower CPC’s is that advertisers who are used to getting reasonable click through rates and therefore reasonable conversions will see their click through rates drop, thus their conversions will lower and they will start to look at other forms of PPC, including Facebook, Bing and YT.
What’s The Downside
One of the biggest downsides to this change is that in a lot of instances, the organic search results won’t be shown above the fold. The above the fold section will contain the 3 or 4 paid ads, followed by local map results where applicable, then the organic results (as you can see in the image above). This means that organic results may see a slight dip in click through rates, although it probably won’t be statistically relevant to matter.
What’s The Upside
The upside is quite easy to see. If you have solid campaigns, with a good quality scores and strong bids you should see more clicks through to your ad. Afterall there is now less competition both above the fold and across the whole first page in terms of ads, and if your ad is front and center in the top 3 paid spots you will no doubt see the benefit w of that reduced competition through an increase in your click through rate.
What’s Next For Google?
Google will continue to fine tune the number of paid results it shows as more data is available to them, aiming to simultaneously increase their revenue while providing a consistent search experience for users across multiple devices.