Google's New Paid Search Layouts

7 Burning Questions Around Google's New Paid Search Layouts

By Brian Allen on February 24, 2016 in Digital Marketing

If you have done any searches on Google in the past week or two, you may have noticed that some things look a bit different. Specifically, you may have noticed that there are now four (not three) paid results above the organic listings and all of the paid listings that were on the right side of the page are now gone. Only product listing ads and the Google knowledge panel will show on the right. In addition, if you were one of the few people who ventured to the very bottom of the search engine results page, you may have noticed that there are now three paid listings hanging out down there as well. So if you have followed the math in that, we have gone from 11 down to 7 total ads spots on a search engine results page.

Let's take a quick look at what we are talking about. Using the image below around "auto insurance" we can see that there are now four ads above the organic search listings and the right side is blank.

Google Search Screenshot

So what does this all mean? If you are an everyday, casual user this may not mean much to you at all. However, if you are an advertiser this could have some implications. While the verdict may be out for a bit on this, we will break down some of the things that we will be keeping an eye on for our PPC clients.

What is the biggest gain of this?

The biggest benefit that we see is the fact that we get an additional ad slot in the top which is the most productive area of paid space for Google. In fact, this area gets as much as 14x the click-through rate as its sidebar counterparts. Going from three to four spots gives us a better chance to get higher visibility on our ads at the top of the page.

What will this do for my PPC budgets?

At this point, it is tough to know for sure and it will most definitely differ by industry. What we do know is that there are fewer ads on the page now which increases competition for space in general. In addition, while many would argue the effectiveness of the side ads, our expectations of the bottom ads will be even worse. So we may now be down to 4 effective spots on the page. This could increase competition for effective space which in competitive markets could increase the bids for top positions. However, some of this may be temporary turbulence as marketers experiment with new bidding strategies.

Will there always be four ads at the top?

Google tells us that there is a good chance that that there will be four ads for “highly commercial queries”. It’s tough to understand exactly what that means, but most industry experts are assuming that this will be for terms in which it would seem the intent is to purchase a product or service.

Is everyone seeing this new layout now?

It doesn’t look like it. Many users are still reporting seeing the sidebar ads on their results pages. This is pretty common for Google to do gradual rollouts on things like this. If you are not seeing this yet, you will!

Will this new layout be around for a while?

It is tough to say for sure. Google is always experimenting with certain aspects of the layout with smaller subsets of users. What we do know is that this is NOT one of those small tests. Google has confirmed that this is a permanent adjustment worldwide on both google.com and its search partners.

How can I avoid a negative impact with this?

In terms of your PPC strategies, stay the course. The fundamental aspects of the strategy are still intact. We still want to make sure that our cost-per-conversions are profitable, and we want to make sure we are getting the volume needed where it is profitable. The things that might change a bit are the specific keyword bids. Normal management of the account should account for this and take care of making needed adjustments. As stated above, we may see some short-term volatility around certain terms and we may see competition and cost rise for certain terms. That may change the keyword strategy a bit, but our battle plan is the same. Onward and upward!

Another aspect this really highlights is the importance of a solid supporting SEO strategy. If you do see some rising costs in PPC, it is important to understand the slack that is making up for in terms of weaker SEO. Focusing more on the organic can help offset the work that PPC is doing to make the overall online conversion picture more profitable. In general, a balanced PPC and SEO strategy is always encouraged.

What’s the bottom line here?

The bottom line is that this is just another example of inevitable change. We have seen this in every aspect of digital marketing beyond just Google and it is with 100% certainty that we will see it again. Stick to your core strategies and make the small pivots as needed. Companies that are smart about the changes and don’t panic can use it as an advantage over other companies who can’t (or won’t) adapt. Try and see every change as an opportunity to rise above other companies who have less appetite for change (or success). 

Do you need help managing or getting started with a PPC or SEO campaign? Reach out to us! We love nerding out about this and would love to help you get going in the right direction. Have a specific question? Hit me up on twitter at @brian_allen. I can try and help!

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