Google ads have been in the same position on the search engine pages for 15 years now, following the same basic format of 3 ads above the organic search results and various to the right of the results. They have conducted various experiments over the course of time when it comes to ad space and introduced product advertisements and tried image extensions that were found inside text ads and as time as passed the space for ads has become bigger.
However in December last year, Google had started trying a very different approach to ads by removing all ads from normal, desktop searches. Gone are the ads displayed down the right hand side. Instead, the 3 text ads above the organic search results are displayed alongside a 4th. As there are now 4 text based ads above the SERPs, it does leave the question as to why has Google done this and what does it mean for marketers?
What Has Google Done?
Before we look at why, let’s just outline briefly and clearly what Google has actually done. They have removed the ads to the side and increased the number of ads at the top of the search results page to 4 from 3. For the time being the Knowledge Graph and Shopping results/Product Listing Ads are still shown to the right of the search results for some searched for queries. However, it is unclear whether they will keep this permanent placing.
Why Has Google Changed Their Ad Format?
Google have not been secretive to the fact that they have spent the last year to year and half working on the mobile web. During 2015, mobile searches overtook desktop searches which increased their important in the search space and it is a trend that is continuing to increase. The mobile’s year has finally come and Google was ready for it, as the changes to its desktop ad format transforms the search results page into something that looks more like the mobile version to make a more similar search experience across all forms of device.
What Will The Impact Of This Be?
Although this is a seemingly very simple change to the layout, it could have a rather substantial impact on marketers who rely on searches, with both organic and paid results being affected.
Impact On Organic
On the search results pages that feature the changes, the organic links will be further down than they have been ever before. This will mean for some users at least that above the fold the screen space will only feature paid for adverts, that in turn will mean some level of change to the click-through rate from organic search results and decrease of traffic for some sites.
In time, it could mean because of a lack of right side ads, brands losing the bidding wars for paid spaces may shift their attentions to organic to compensate, particularly if they do not have a top ranking position. Marketing terms often place higher value on getting sites and pages a little higher in organic results than just spending on 4 paid ads.
Impact On Paid
The biggest impact the ad format changes have on paid results is there is less advertising space. While in the past there was space for approximately 11 ads, there is only space for 4. This will mean an increase in competition and of the CPC or cost per click and will make it harder for some marketers to get the most prominent places on the page.
There will be potential issues for brands because of the impact of less space for adverts and the moving of the organic results further down. Retailers will most likely emphasise having a good product feed pushing specific products and lines. Although their presence within the actually Shopping results pages should already be important to retailers, the changes in format make it even more crucial.
Finally, as the CPC increases, it will push some advertisers out of the picture and force them to tweak their targeting and more tactfully advertising to get the best traffic at best price.