Rumors have been aswirl for months regarding the possibility of Google removing the paid search ads found on the right side of the SERP (search engine results page). The SERP has remained relatively unchanged for years and this change is one of the biggest from a search engine marketing standpoint in awhile.
Effective today, February 22, Google has removed the side bar ads for paid search. Google is constantly seeking ways to improve the user experience, and this transition is no exception. Click-through-rates have been historically low for the side bar ads (or any position below 3), and a result, conversion rates tend to be lower for those placements as well.
On mobile devices, the paid search ads take up more than 50% of the screen.
This shift on desktop and tablets will near replicate the experience on mobile, with paid search ads primarily occurring above the organic listings. Google will also be adding a potential fourth paid listing, which will push organic listings further down the page. Paid search ads will also appear at the very bottom of the SERP, potentially unseen to many.
So what does this change mean for businesses doing paid search?
- Cost-per-click will undoubtedly increase as competition to remain top of page reaches a new high
- Organic listings will be pushed further down the SERP, so the real estate for paid search ads will become even more valuable and important
- Impressions will decrease with higher competition for fewer spots
It will be crucial to evaluate campaign performance and focus budget on the highest performing keywords. Despite potential higher costs, utilizing paid search will become even more of an asset to remain visible on the SERP. Campaigns that have historically strong performance and have maintained high quality scores will struggle less with this change. Google always rewards advertisers who strive to create the best user experience, and this redesign of the SERP is another big move to continue this goal.