Thomas Coppen

Google Ad Layout Changes – What You Need to Know

You may have recently heard about some Google ad layout changes on the search engine results page (SERP). It’s true, Google has removed ads from the right hand side of the results page on desktop, and they now have four, not three, ads showing at the top of the page for what they call “highly commercial queries”. Additionally, three further ads will be shown at the bottom of the page, with the maximum number of ads showing on one results page falling from eleven to seven.

Google have been looking at this for a long time, and have finally made the changes based on the lower click through rate (CTR) that the right hand ads were achieving. Of course, there’s also an argument that if there are four ads at the top of the page, and fewer when you scroll down, then it will inflate the cost per clicks (CPCs) with the rush to the top of the page, but we’ll come to that.

Here we can see the drop off in right hand ads for a major retailer from a great blog by Merkle RKG, with the ad impressions suddenly falling off on the 17th February 2016.

So what do the Google Ad Layout Changes mean for my ads?

First of all, let’s look at the big losers in this: Organic results and SEO. Paid ads are now taking up more of the SERP, and squeezing the organic results listings into fewer numbers. Before, your PPC campaign had to compete against other ads as well as these organic listings, but you now have less competition and more traffic that may click on your ad.

Will this affect my Google Shopping ads?

Not at all. Google will always have an area to the right of the four top ads reserved for Google Shopping ads and the “Knowledge Panel” (Think Wikipedia snippets and social media links). So for now, there’s nothing to worry about!

Are my CPCs going to shoot up?

Not necessarily. First of all, there are four ads at the top of the page now, which makes it 25% easier to show in a prime position. Also, the new top ads have much more space for content than before, which means that if you are utilising your ad extensions properly, a fourth placed ad could be much more attractive to a user than one in first. Just take a look at the SERP above, with positions two, three and four all showing much more content than the expensive position one.

What you need to make sure of is that your campaigns are not set to a bid-to-position strategy, as this could make your click costs increase while other advertisers try and rush to the top of the page. A good PPC agency will still be able to get you to show in these top positions while also keeping your click costs down, with daily bid adjustments and regular account optimisation.

Will users scroll down to see ads at the bottom of the page?

So far, yes. Initial data over the past month saw traffic increasing for the top four ads, but traffic increasing considerably more for the ads under the organic listings.  If you look at the Merkle RKG table below, the traffic that was seen from the right hand ads has just shifted over to the bottom ads. Yes, there are fewer spots to fight for, but Google has refined the number of ads that are showing, with ad relevance now becoming more important than ever to get that all important click.

Google Ad Layout Changes - Stats

So all in all, the Google ad layout changes won’t have the big impact on your results that some users may have feared. If anything, it’s a good time to move towards a more targeted PPC campaign, and stop relying so much on your SEO. Leave any ideas or your thoughts on the AdWords changes in the comments below!

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