Google has removed paid ads from its right-hand side panel and now features ads at the top and bottom of the main search results. How will this affect search engine marketing (SEM)? Danielle Haley at Freelance SEO explains
Google has rolled out the latest of its global changes, which is the removal of paid ads from the right-hand column of the search results. The altered layout affects desktop search results only and is similar to the existing mobile search design. Google representatives have confirmed that the modification has been rolled out to all searches in all languages worldwide.
Where have the paid ad campaigns moved to?
Paid ads can now be found at the top and the bottom of the main column. Previously, there had been three ads above the organic listings, but this has been increased to four positions for competitive keywords. There are also paid ads beneath the natural search results. However, the fourth ad position is likely only going to be seen for the most popular types of keyword.
A representative of Google explains, “We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”
At present, there are no plans in place to change the paid ad listings on mobile search pages which have always used a single column, although with only three ad spaces at the top.
How will this development affect SEM?
The relocation of the paid ads to the main column is primarily a positive move for business owners who invest in SEM for the promotion of their business website.
The new position of the ads gives much better exposure for your business. Aside from the tiny orange ‘Ad’ box which appears next to the ad, the position of the listings makes them barely distinguishable from the natural listings which users tend to gravitate towards.
This means that ads that appear in the top four positions at the head of the page are more likely to experience an improvement in CTR. The organic listings are now pushed beneath the fold and may suffer as a result. However, the gains naturally go to SEM and the increased ability to get the right ads in front of an appropriate audience for their industry or niche.
Competition for top spots
Understandably though, competition is likely going to be fierce for those who wish to achieve a top four position for paid ads. There are expectations within the industry that bid rates for high volume and general terms will inflate enormously for the first few months as companies compete for those top spots with the best exposure.
However, smaller businesses shouldn’t be put off by the latest developments. It will still be possible to rank for paid ads with more niche or long-tail keywords. This is just going to create the need for a little more creative thinking from your SEM team. Make sure you work with SEM specialists who excel in paid search and are able to focus carefully on the best bidding approach. This will ensure that you rank well for great click-through terms to achieve the desired results for your business.