Google Eliminates Sidebar Ads But Don’t Freak Out
You’ve probably used Google once or twice in the last few weeks. We know you had to look up the recent ‘dog or food?’ photo collages that were blowing up the internet (our favorite was ‘puppy or bagel?’). But more importantly, while you were Googling, did you notice anything different?
In the past, searches for products would pull up a few paid ads in the search results page (SERP). And then on the right-hand side of the screen more paid ads were shown. Those right hand side ads are now gone. The paid product listing ads (PLAs) that once appeared in the search results are now on the right side with other relevant product matches. As many as four text ads will be displayed above the organic listings for “highly commercial queries”; three text ads show at the bottom of the SERP. And the total number of text ads that can appear in the listings has decreased from 11 to a max of seven.
Google has been testing variations of the new layout since 2010 and finally rolled it out this year, in all languages, worldwide.
Why the sudden change?
Mobile searches are beginning to overtake desktop searches and Google likely feels the need to accommodate this shift in user experience. The elimination of sidebar ads and layout changes makes for a similar experience across both mobile and desktop. It helps that sidebar ads have not, generally speaking, done so well in click-through rates (CTR). Why hold onto an element of Google that users aren’t interacting with? Plus, fewer sponsored links should improve the overall quality of the remaining links.
The benefits don’t stop there. This change actually opens up a whole new opportunity for those in the e-commerce business. For example, product placement just got simpler. With a grid of search-relevant products on the right, it’s virtual window-shopping made easy. The paid ads in the SERP haven’t changed but they’ve got a new and improved location on the right side.
Issues e-commerce companies will now have to address
In order to make the most of this new product placement, ecommerce companies need to first check their current ad strategies. Keywords are crucial and indicate to Google what you are selling; be sure to use the proper keywords so that your product ads get placed correctly and appear during searches.
For example, if you strictly sell cat hats, don’t use “dog sweater” as your keyword. This may sound a bit obvious, but too many people use as many loosely-related keywords as possible, thinking it will help drive more traffic to their site. What will happen instead is that you’ll end up with some very unhappy potential (and current) customers. Specificity and relevance are key and eliminating keywords that don’t serve your company well will help in the long run.
This is a dog sweater: This is not:
Since the overall ad space is shrinking, companies need to pay attention in order to secure a spot. Advertising companies with smaller budgets may see a need to change up their strategy if ad prices skyrocket. Bidding on short-term keywords could prove too costly of an option. Outside of spending big bucks, a smart, strong strategy will help you compete. Advertisers who are running bid-to-position or price-per-click (PPC) campaigns should make adjustments.
What we know this means for advertisers
Basically, more data is needed to provide an accurate description of the impact of these changes. So far, though, nothing drastic has happened – the SERP design changes have yet to impact PLAs and according to econsultancy.com, advertising campaigns have been faring just fine. In general, CTRs are up, impressions are down, and cost-per-clicks (CPC) have decreased. On the whole, Google’s changes haven’t produced many negative affects.
According to analysis, ads in the banner positions receive 14 times the CTR of the same ad that is located on the right-hand side. Additionally, fewer ad positions means more accurate reporting of average position. Before now, advertisers had up to 11 ads on the page. For those with high ad positions, the mean average position was skewed below the most frequent average position. This inaccuracy will decrease because now, you can only have up to seven.
However, the changes could affect CPC and fewer ads may lead to higher prices (supply and demand, folks). It’s also possible that these changes will impact PPC. With the reduced number of ads, more than half of the results are in the higher value banner slot. Auction bidding will likely increase as companies attempt to maintain impressions and fight for the top-of page position.
As with most things, there is good and bad that comes with this change. May advice? Have fun with the design changes and create new ads that are optimized to this new set up. Just don’t follow in the footsteps of these guys: