No More Sidebar Ads on Google

There was some big news dropped on the search engine world Friday, February 19, 2016. Google announced that they were changing up the layout of their search engine results page (SERP). This layout definitely affects PPC marketers since there are now fewer ads on the page. This layout also affected SEO marketers because organic results were pushed down…yet again (sometimes not even visible above the fold). So what changed and what does it mean? Let’s go into it.

What Actually Changed on Google

February 24, 2016 was the final day of implementation for the new SERP layout on Google. Here is what the results page looks like now.

search results no sidebar

The top ad position, which used to be three ads maximum, will now show up to four ads. Since the sidebar will no longer have text ads, up to three ads will appear below the organic search results.

As for the new sidebar, we’ve seen Shopping campaigns show up most of the time for “purchase intent” searches as well as basic queries such as “laptop” if it’s an item that can be easily purchased. The Knowledge Graph will still show for many local searches and company matching. The Knowledge Graph can still take over the top spot of information search queries such as “where did santa claus come from?” These types of searches most likely won’t have ads targeted to them so Google will show something else instead.

What Does This Mean for Your Ads

The focus on relevancy is now more important than ever. If CPCs actually do increase, having a high Quality Score to lower your average costs is going to be crucial. Take the time to make sure your target keywords are relevant to users’ actual search queries, make sure your ads are relevant to users’ search queries, and make sure your target keywords can be found on your landing pages. If your keywords cannot be found in your ads or landing pages, then you have no right to be in the top positions anyway.

quality score review

Second, I’m always segmenting my clients’ data to see where they should be positioned. For the most part, my clients need to be in the top position to get better results.

top vs other adwords

So, What’s the Outcome?

Many people are assuming that CPCs are going to skyrocket due to lower inventory. That could be true; instead of 9 – 14 ad positions on the page there will now be 7 or 8 max. With scarcity comes higher prices. But, we think the market will level itself off over the next few weeks and we’ll see marginal increases in the 10% range.

But truthfully, it’s too early to tell what impact the new layout is going to have and everyone is speculating. There’s no hard data on it yet. For the short amount of time it’s been active, we haven’t seen any impact with our client CPCs. A benefit is that we now get an extra ad in the top position so this could actually help performance of lower-positioned ads.

My final takeaway I want to give is we need time to see how this change impacts results. We’ll be keeping a close eye on all of our accounts this next month and you should also do the same if you’re a PPC manager.

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About the Author

Joe Martinez

Joe Martinez is the Director of Paid Media and Community for Granular in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is also the current and founding President of MKEsearch. His focus on marketing psychology and user experience helps his clients achieve record growths and lifetime customers. While he is hands-on in all aspects of PPC, his true passions lie in Display, Remarketing, and YouTube. In addition to being the main blogger for Granular, he is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land and has also written for PPC Hero, SEMrush, Leadpages, Optmyzr, Unbounce, WordStream and AdStage. He has hosted webinars for SEMrush, Unbounce, and Bing Ads. He regularly speaks at conferences such as SMX Advanced, SMX West, SMX East, HeroConf, Confluence Conference, Digital Olympus and more. He was named a Top 25 Influential PPC Expert by PPC Hero in 2017 and 2018.