No more right-hand side ads - what do the Google changes mean for me?

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Over the past month Google has changed the way Adwords is displayed on desktop search results. Have you noticed the difference yet? Here's how the changes may affect your business.

What changed?

Empty Right Hand Side Google Adwords

  1. No more text ads shown on the right-hand side.
  2. Up to four ads are now shown above organic (natural) search results – when previously the maximum was three.
  3. Three ads are also now shown at the bottom of the page.
  4. This means the number of maximum text ads has been reduced to seven whereas before there could be 11.

Why did it change?

Many people will say the answer is money, but by removing the ads on the right, Google has created a cleaner user experience that is more consistent with how mobile search is displayed. The right-hand space is also now used for other purposes, such as knowledge panels:

Google Search Result with Knowledge Panel

What does this mean for my Adwords?

Prior to the changes we would have stressed the importance of being shown in the top three results as studies showed click through rate (CTR) was next to nothing after this point. After the changes, with no ads on the right-hand side, this is even more important.

The (narrow) silver lining is we at least now have four top positions to work with instead of three. Depending on the keyword, position four’s average CTR is bound to have greatly increased since the changes.

Unfortunately with fewer ads on one page of search results, keywords may become more competitive, which could inevitably drive bids up. Businesses with lower budgets will see more keywords fall onto page two and their ad performance will fall with it. It makes one feel particularly sorry for small accommodation businesses that already have to compete with the big boys like, Trivago, Expedia and so on (just search "Auckland hotel" to see). The most competitive keywords may become not worth the effort and smaller operators will be forced to purely target long tail keywords (ones with more words).

Lastly, with all of the ads now on the left-hand side, there’s more opportunity to make use of Ad Extensions, which were never displayed on the right-hand side. In simple terms, these are extra snippets of text displayed under your ad which make it bigger (bigger ad = more eye-catching), like so:

Google Adwords Extensions

What does this mean for my website’s SEO?

Unfortunately organic search does seem to be the biggest loser with the changes, with natural search results shoved down the page even further. Somewhere between 30-50% of us don’t actually realise the difference between ads and natural results, even with the square yellow box that says “Ad”. This means click through rates for organic search results are likely to take a hit.

Nevertheless, you could argue that with fewer ads overall on the page, it’s not all bad news for organic search. Time will tell...

Worried about how the changes will affect your business? Get in touch with our digital marketing team.

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