After reports from many sources, Google has confirmed that search results pages on desktop will no longer show text ads in the right side bar. This means that there will now be up to four text ads displayed above the organic listings and three text ads will show at the bottom of the page.
This rollout is global and will bring the desktop experience close to the mobile experience which is continually dominating how people search today.
According to The Media Image, the reason for this change may well be because “Google has determined the average click-through-rate for Right Hand Side Ads is poor across verticals, and the expected CPC inflation from this major change is projected to more profitable in the long run.”
What does this mean for marketers and users?
Users may not notice a huge difference as the right hand space will still be used for product listing ads (PLAs) as well as knowledge graph boxes. However the continual pushing down of organic listings will be an issue for many SEOs.
For businesses, the organic space is even more valued and will lead to an increase in SEO efforts.
Where it gets really interesting is the effect this will have on paid search advertisers. The new rollout will see the average CPCs increased as the competition also increases for those prized top spots.
This is an interesting move by Google and in my opinion goes further down the route of monetising the Search Results Page as the bidding war for the top 4 places will intensify. The main victims of this are likely to be smaller businesses who simply don’t have the budget to compete. The kind of businesses who whilst weren’t getting amazing CTRs in 5th, 6th or 7th position were at least getting a certain level of exposure they simply won’t get anymore.
It raises the question of how long before 4 ads turns into 5 and 5 turns into 6 and also raises the question of how damaging it could be to the CTRs of the Organic Results as they are pushed down further.
I also wonder could it lead to attempts to manipulate the knowledge graph as that now becomes prime real estate within the SERPs.
To sum up I see it as a slightly cynical move by Google however it will be interesting to monitor the change in statistics over the following weeks and months. As with any change to the SERPs there will be winners and losers it just seems like the winners in this situation will be those with the most cash to burn!
Paul Gregory, Search Specialist, Provoke