Google's New SERP Layout: How it Affects Paid Search

Director of SEO & Insights
Published 2/29/16
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A Timely Update on Google Ad Layout Changes

Google recently completed the full rollout of a new search engine results page (SERP) layout for desktop. This update eliminated text ads in the right sidebar of desktop search results; instead, as many as four text ads will display above the organic listings (depending on the popularity of the query), and three text ads will show at the bottom of the page. This means that the total number of text ads that can appear on a SERP will shrink from as many as 11 to a maximum of seven.

But don’t panic:

• From a paid search perspective, we don’t feel there is reason for concern for our clients, particularly those whose campaigns Miles manages. Our paid search strategy is typically to maintain an average ad position of 3 or better, which means ads were rarely showing in the right column anyway.  

• Industry research indicates that ads outside the top positions only accounted for 14% of all paid search clicks. With half of search traffic or more now on mobile (which already has no right hand ads), and the fact there are still three ads at the bottom of the page, potentially even less than 14% of all clicks are impacted by this change. (Source: Search Engine Land) 

• There is still speculation as to whether this move will drive up CPCs for the top positions, or whether the addition of the fourth ad position (which only shows if demand is high enough for that keyword, about 25% of searches) will balance out the pricing. We’ll be keeping an eye on this in our accounts, but early data indicates little to no flux.

• The biggest loser in this change is the organic listings, which are now pushed down the length of one more ad position (with full ad extensions) in the most popular search queries. So, for example, the #3 organic result is now located on the page were #4 or 5 was previously. Continued work to improve position within Page 1 results and visibility in Local 3 pack results (for hotels) will be an important SEO focus following this update.

This Search Engine Land article provides additional background and details on the research done so far on this update. And, of course, our team is available for any follow-up questions.