Google Ends Right-Side Ads: PPC Perspective


In a potential industry-changing move, Google has decided to stop serving ads on the right hand side of desktop search results. Moving forward, we will only see the three pack of ads appear at the top of the page, and in some cases four will be displayed for what Google is calling “highly commercial searches.” The only exception will be PLA (product listing ads) or potentially Knowledge Graph ads, which can still show up in the right side of the page. Over the years, changes have been made to the layout of search in the form of tests and the introduction of new ad types, but this move is seen as more significant. The following are thoughts on why Google has made the change and potential impacts on advertisers.

Aligning the Desktop and Mobile Search Experience

Google is likely making this switch to create an intersect between how ads are served on all devices. Smartphone users see two to three ads at the top of the results, so the change made on desktop is thought to bring these experiences more in line. For paid search advertisers, this may bring more consistency to impression and click data across device segments, and there is even a probability that CPCs will migrate closer to one another regardless of whether the search happens on desktop or mobile.

Improving Quality

This rollout is a product of many years of testing, and typically that means a mountain of data is supporting a better user experience with ads, increased relevancy and potentially more revenue for Google (let’s remember that AdWords is a business). When one considers the language “highly commercial searches,” there is an understanding that those queries are also highly competitive. By narrowing the field, Google is essentially upping the ante and ensuring that only the best ads are shown. Sophisticated advertisers that can boost ad rank by delivering relevant messaging (and are willing to pay) will be the only ones that make the cut. This approach is great for users as well as Google’s pockets.

Master the Long Tail

Regarding the competition mentioned above, there are some concerns that this change will bring a rise to CPCs overall on head terms that are commonly searched. However, the silver lining is that long tail terms will continue to be an area where advertisers can find cost-effective opportunities to drive volume. If your campaigns are reliant on just a few big keywords, this change could be an unwelcome one. For those of us managing campaigns that chase the long tail, Google’s update just requires that we do some careful balancing.

For more thoughts and perspectives on this shift, check out Search Engine Land and Search Engine Round Table. Also check back soon to read our update as we process the day-to-day impact of this major change.

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