Google have played their hand again, and this time it’s a potentially significant change if your business relies on Google AdWords or SEO for lead generation and brand awareness. Google have announced the removal of their right-hand side adverts on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

In a nutshell?

With a strip of advertisers being removed from the results, it creates more demand for the top spots, and therefore would suggest that advertisers can expect to pay more per click than before. Since there will be less spots available, things are about to get aggressive.

Right-hand Google Google AdWords removed

Any more detail?

  • For retail/shopping and information searches, we shouldn’t notice too much difference, since the right-side will be reserved for Product Listing Adverts (PLAs). However, in time, this might start affecting organic listings.
  • This is the first roll-out and won’t be the end of the testing. It’s not the first time that Google have tested this
  • The extra spot for ads that will be for premium terms is likely to be expensive. It’s a risky game and one that requires diligent testing from your in-house or agency team. The question is whether paying high prices for cheap thrills is worth it in the long run, or whether an investment into your organic listings is where the smart money is.
  • “Sidebar and bottom ads account for 14.6% of total click volume, and with bottom ads not going anywhere, this means less than 14.6% of clicks will be impacted”, says Larry Kim, CTO at WordStream. He continues to add that “it’s a change that affects desktop searches only (and this means less than half of all searches), and we’re talking 7.3% of searches impacted (14.6% / 2)”.

What can be done?

Focus should be given to ensure your user-experience is optimised, and that particular attention is paid towards maxing out your Quality Scores to mitigate some of the cost per click increases that are likely to come from this change. If you can get more people to take action on your website, and tick all of the right boxes when it comes to matching your ads to your landing pages, then you can hopefully balance out your Cost Per Conversion over the long-term. To put simply, you need to convert more from less traffic.

It’s important to note that this only affects desktop searches.

Top vs Side Clicks

Credit: WordStream

Does this affect my organic rankings?

Organic listings are being pushed further down the pecking order, however, it’s still vitally important. Perhaps even more so now that there is a real risk of small businesses being bullied out by larger companies with bigger budgets. Making the longer-term investment into SEO work becomes even more attractive given the volatility in the Pay Per Click (PPC) arena.

It’s my opinion that SEO will always be the more stable investment. My theory here is that Google, the giant that it is, relies on providing the most valuable results for the user who is searching. Once this becomes a battle of who has the most budget, Google, in my opinion, becomes actually quite vulnerable. Google cannot prioritise short-term revenue at the risk of losing market share. It’s like picking up one of those free magazines that is literally 90% adverts, 5% advertorials, and 5% valuable content. We all know where they end up…

There will be more emphasis on SEO to attain the top spots, which will become more valuable in the same way as the top PPC ads. There are less of them and therefore aiming high is going to become even more necessary.

Who will win?

It’s hard to say at this point in time, but it feels like those businesses who invest in a blended approach of SEO, PPC, and user-experience, are likely to win this battle. Time will tell as to how much this impacts small businesses and favours those with deep pockets. On the plus side, it will make businesses think twice about scrapping their long-term SEO strategy and will benefit those businesses who test and measure their activity on a regular basis.