Google Bins Side PPC Ads

Google removes right-hand side ads in search results.

Google removes right-hand side ads in search results.

You have probably noticed a layout change in search results.

Google has removed the right-hand PPC ads and changed the top ads shown from three to four.

This is a change affecting both PPC (AdWords) and SEO marketing and highlights how traditional web layouts are changing.

Key Questions:

  • Why has Google done this?
  • Is this good or bad?
  • How should you adjust SEO and PPC marketing?
  • What can I do to stay ahead? 

Why has Google done this?

More people now are using smartphones and these require a layout for scrolling on smaller screens. Right side ads simply were no longer working.

Research shows that Ads in the top positions receive 14X the click-through rate (CTR} of the same ad on the same keyword on the right-hand side.

Google not only wants to please its search audience they also want advertisers using AdWords to be happy and with low CTR they weren’t.

Is this good or bad?

As with any Google change, there are winners and losers.

Yes, we have gained an extra top slot for our PPC ads, but we have also now got a lot more competition for the top 4 places. As a result, PPC advertising costs could increase a lot for competitive keywords.

Yet any well managed PPC campaign optimised at keyword level will in most cases gain by this change.

For SEO that coveted position one has just been pushed down the page and for many is now below the fold (need to scroll to see it). We can see SEO click through rates dropping as a result of the change.

However, scrolling is not the barrier it was and although there will be a period of adjustment searchers will get used to the change and CTR’s will improve.

How should I adjust my PPC and SEO?

It's best not to make any rash moves, but rather make changes based on data and results.

Check your website stats and compare traffic from Google search both for Paid and Organic. Look at both month on month and year on year for the change period and a few months afterwards.

Comparing data will help you see if you have gained or lost.

Your PPC manager can help you do this for your AdWords and make sensible recommendations on how to improve your ad position and CTR.

To start with searchers might be confused by the layout change and click more on the PPC listings. However, after a little time, they will get wise to which listings are paid and start to scroll down for the organic ones.

We would expect to see this as a bounce in your traffic results.

Only after the bounce can you start to make more significant adjustments to your SEO and PPC.

Are top SEO listings less important?


As highlighted above we expect a period of adjustment as searchers get used to the new layout. After this thing will settle down and those top SEO places will continue to be traffic generating hot spots.

The battleground will always be in the highly competitive phrases and here PPC costs are likely to rise steeply. Some could be priced out of PPC moving their efforts to SEO making keeping those top organic search positions a challenge.

Also, don’t forget about the many niche longer searches where PPC doesn’t appear. These are the ones that bring in the bigger sales and better quality leads.

So don’t cut your SEO budgets instead make sure you optimise them.

What can I do to stay ahead?

Balance is key to using both SEO and PPC to your advantage.

Using both of these channels will help you stay visible on the competitive terms and still catch all the high-value niche searches.

You need to:

  1. Data driven – review how the change has affected your traffic and leads/sales from both SEO and PPC.
  2. Trim the fat – Stop targeting keywords and match types that don’t produce results.
  3. Make it better – Improve where you can areas like landing pages, bids, ad copy, metadata etc.…
  4. Review budgets – Only now should you review budgets, because you will be able to see where your resources are needed. You might be surprised to find PPC budgets need less and SEO more.
  5. Big Picture – Visitors seldom only use one channel to convert to a lead or sale. It takes multiple visits including clicks on PPC and SEO listings. Both these channels need to work together for maximum effect.

Need help to get the best from your SEO and PPC?

Call ExtraDigital on +44(0)1227 68 68 98.

Friday 4th March 2016

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