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The Death Of Google Right-Hand Ads: What It Means for Marketers & Businesses

Posted by: In: Google Ads, PPC, SEO 04 Apr 2016 Comments: 0 Tags: , ,

If you’ve gone onto Google recently, you may have noticed a significant change. If you are a business or marketer who deals in PPC advertising, you will certainly have noticed the right hand ads have disappeared. Top of the page paid for ads and those at the bottom remain. All this has led to some heavy speculation amongst those who care about such things.

  • Is it going to become too competitive and expensive to advertise on PPC in the future?
  • Is organic search going to drop down the first page of listings?
  • How are consumers going to react to this all?
  • Just as importantly, how are marketers, advertisers and businesses going to react?

After the change, a search such as ‘London Hotels’ comes up with four top line pay per click ads, and there are organic search engine results below. Most are sure that Google’s change here is for purely commercial reasons but we could see a situation where the whole SERP is taken up with PPC and you won’t see organic results until you get to the second page.

Is this just a commercial change or are there other reasons?

First of all, this isn’t Google’s first attempt to get rid of right hand side PPC ads. These ads perform less well than top line ones – something that hasn’t escaped Google or marketers who are trying to promote businesses through PPC. Many people tend to see top of the page ads as part of the organic search results and so are more likely to click on them, which undoubtedly makes them more valuable.

This could indeed be the first move for Google to entirely populate page one of the SERP with ads and make a lot more revenue in the process. But it may not be, and probably isn’t, the only reason. More of us are using mobile devices such as smartphones that don’t have right hand ads anyway and moving to a more uniform approach across desktop and mobile is understandable.

The effect on organic SEO and what site owners now need to do

Most industry experts believe this change is going to have an impact on SEO. It already does. When you perform a search the top fold is taken up by advertising and you have to scroll down to see the organic results. However, this doesn’t change what many businesses are already doing to optimise their rankings – including meta descriptions, making sure they rank as highly as possible for industry keywords and produce engaging content.

Premium spots on the PPC search are going to perhaps cost more and many businesses won’t be able to afford this, particularly if you believe the doom mongers. That could also mean more of us putting greater effort into developing better brand awareness and pushing engagement such as social media with greater effectiveness.

You could also combine this approach by simply taking a lower cost PPC position (rather than ranking top) which may bring you enough traffic to maintain a good return on investment. It’s something that the most adaptable digital marketing teams will no doubt succeed at and are already starting to do.

Many experts suggest that businesses should raise their game, aiming for top three positions in organic search to off-set any changes that may come from increased top level ads. Below those prime positions, drop off for click through is dramatic.

What about the user?

How is the average user going to respond to ad lists appearing more and more on the opening page of searches? Are they going to stop using search engines altogether? Are they simply going to click onto page two and get the organic results they want? Well, a lot is going to depend on the PPC algorithm and how it fulfils their expectations. If users start getting good results from clicking on ads then they aren’t going to be too fussed about the change.

The new, cleaner layout, Google hope, will provide a better experience for the user, no matter how much organic SEO specialists would like it to be different. It’s going to take a while though before we see what real impact of this change.

If the adverts are poor and don’t fulfil the user experience, then you can expect to see prompt changes from the guys at Google. The other thing to consider, of course, is that Google doesn’t have major competition. Other search engines have their own ad and PPC provisions in place and users aren’t likely to run away unless there is a viable alternative. Which there isn’t.

Is there really a problem?

Internet marketing guru Larry Kim crunched some of the numbers recently and came up with some interesting points. While many advertisers and SEO specialists are already mourning the demise of Google as an effective marketing tool for those on limited budgets, Kim was a little more philosophical.

First of all, when you’re looking at total click volume for both right hand and bottom ads we find that these account for only 14.6% of the total click through action. In essence, you aren’t going to lose much in PPC activity by getting rid of the right hand ads, a reduction, yes, but not a catastrophic one.

Secondly, most of the time you put in a search term (in fact, nearly 80% of the time) the SERP has just four top line ads. That means there shouldn’t be the huge impact on organic search results that many anticipate. While organic search does miss out because it doesn’t appear above the fold, Kim believes there will be little or no effect on PPC and the overall dynamics of Adwords, including costs.

There may even be a good few benefits for advertisers because top line ads come with benefits such as call out and location extensions. Ads also appear as part of the organic search which should bring more click throughs than if they were on the right hand side.

On the whole, the jury is still out concerning what effect this change on Google will bring and much will depend on how it develops in the coming months. The low click through for right hand ads probably means that it won’t have as big an impact on pricing and competition as many think. The one area where it may cause problems is the potential to increase in top line ads and the consequent effect on organic search.

Epilogue

Search never sleeps and we are crunching data to see what impact the changes are having. Whilst it is still early days we can see that although there is a clear drop in overall impressions, there hasn’t been a marked change in impression share at all. You would expect to see this but it’s not happened so we will continue to look at this metric.

Another change we noticed is that the average position 3 has actually seen an impressions growth which is quite interesting although not totally unexpected as bidders abandon lower positions and clamber/ fight it out for 3rd.

A final early change we have seen is that whilst the CPCs are rising for position 3, they have actually lowered for the 4th position which again shows the movement of people from 4th focusing on 3rd putting less people in the 4th slot auction.

I think the above can be put down to early day anomalies which is essentially fallout from knee jerk account changes. As the dust settles and the buzz about the right hand column dies down, the majority of accounts will settle back in poor routines/ management and slippage and the real long term impact will start to rise from the water.

Watch this space.

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