Google’s Removal of Right-Hand Side Ads: What It Means for Marketers and Consumers

Recently, Google implemented a major change in their SERPs in regards to ad placement. Initial speculation came as early as February 18th from The Media Image, but the official rollout didn’t take place until February 22nd.

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All PPC ads have now been removed from the right-hand side of search results, with these ads now being incorporated into the top and bottom of the general search listings. Depending upon the search query, and its commercial marketability, further slots are now available for ads (including an added top slot) that before were occupied by organic results.

These changes will mean different things for marketers and the average user, so let’s dig in and find out what we can expect.

Reason for the Change

The major reason for the change comes from Google looking to increase revenue. Users focus much more on the content delivered in the left/center of the page, largely ignoring the right of the screen, as confirmed by this eye-tracking study.

By shifting more AdWords ads to the main area of the page, Google is banking on users paying greater attention to them and therefore clicking on them more.

A secondary concern for Google appears to be streamlining search results so they are tailored closer to the mobile experience.

Effect on Marketers

This change means a number of things for marketers, including potentially affecting:

  • CPC rates
  • Organic traffic
  • Account strategies

CPC Rates

With a greater number of advertising slots appearing in normal search results (and some searches generating a higher number than others), the CPC rates for these ads will more than likely rise as competitors scramble to gain prominent placement.

Organic Traffic

Some analysts believe organic search results through SEO tactics will be more important now since more ads are taking up page space and pushing down organic results. The organic result placement is even more competitive, and vital, than ever.

While this is certainly possible, it overlooks that there are now nine organic search results wedged between the ads, and that studies have shown the fear of “below the fold” placement is largely a myth.

It will take some time, and some close readings of analytics, to see the ultimate result of these changes for SEO, but there’s no reason to think the sky is falling just yet.

Account Strategies

With both AdWords and SEO seeing changes from this new rollout, how marketers utilize these approaches might certainly change soon.

One thing to remember, though, is since a larger number of eyeballs are going to be focused on ads that now occupy the left/center of the page, instead of ignoring right-hand ads, a higher ROI might be possible for PPC campaigns.

This of course comes down to how much of a rate change companies are to see for CPC, but as an influx of clicks might be coming, it may be worth experimenting early with a PPC campaign.

Effect on Consumers

While marketers struggle to determine the best ways to adapt to these changes from Google, the average user more than likely won’t notice anything different.

The right-hand portion of the page will still be utilized for product listing ads and knowledge graph boxes, so users won’t suddenly be met with a distractingly blank column.

As for ad interaction? If a user is someone who skips over ads out of habit, it’s unlikely this change will convert them. But for those more open to seeking out ad content, Google’s alterations might be enough to coerce them more often.

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