Last week, Google rolled out a change to how paid adverts are displayed on Search Results pages; an evolution that will have a significant impact on AdWords advertisers both in the short and long-term.
What are the changes?
In summary, Google have removed all text ads from the right-hand side of their desktop search results page. It's a change that was done with little advance notice, but one that does create more alignment with their mobile and tablet page results.
Further to this, on highly commercial searches (such as “hotels” or “insurance”), Google has added an additional paid ad at the top of the page above the organic results. The exception to this rule is Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which will be unaffected and continue to show down the right hand side or above the search results and ads within the knowledge panel.
Right hand side ads have not moved for years
Why have Google made this change?
There are plenty of rumours and theories about why Google have made this worldwide change. It has been suggested that Google have been experimenting with it since 2010, in a drive to improve user experience. The official line is that it has been made to align desktop page results with mobile and tablet searches, although the cynics amongst us will believe it is to drive higher advertising revenues to line their pockets.
What should I do?
Google certainly won't take any steps to reduce advertising spend regardless of their stance on improving users' experience. After all, AdWords is their single biggest revenue stream and reportedly already brings in $100m per day!
Firstly, don't panic. Across all the accounts we manage, the best click-through-rates (CTRs) are always for the 'top' positions. It not unusual for the same keyword to achieve a 10% CTR in position 1-3 but a <1% CTR for other positions on the same page.
That said, there are now fewer PPC spots available per page, so it's logical that reduced 'supply' will lead to higher prices assuming demand remains constant.
If your overall marketing strategy relies heavily on PPC (in particular if you rely on appearing outside the top 3), you should brace yourself for increased cost-per-click (CPC) and overall cost-per-aquisition (CPA). Unless, of course, you take the necessary steps to improve Quality Score to counter these changes.
For particularly competitive markets, it would be wise to research what other options you might have for an equivalent budget, such as AdWords display network advertising or remarketing, SEO, social media marketing, and so on.
No marketing strategy should too heavily on a single channel for traffic or revenue
For users / customers
We're a little concerned that reducing the 'competition' for PPC places might actually result in a lesser user experience, where only advertisers with deep pockets are able to present their offering on page 1.
Perhaps that will lead to better-targeted advert copy? Or more specific keyword selections? Or maybe even advertisers investing more in improving their websites and landing pages. All of which are a good thing.
Time will tell...
Want to talk about it?
If you're concerned about the changes, or just want to sanity check your own AdWords campaigns, get in touch with me and I'll happily take a look with you.