News | 22/02/2016

Right becomes wrong – Google’s latest change to their search results

Posted by Christian Ryan

So Google has just announced that desktop searches will no longer hold text ads on the right hand side of their search results for desktop browsers.

Google ads will now only feature at the very top and the very bottom of the page. For some highly searched-for terms there will be four placements at the top of the search results.

This is to be rolled out worldwide imminently and is another step for Google in trying to make the mobile and desktop experience a more seamless one for its users.

What does this mean for advertisers and consumers alike?
Here are four of our considerations about the latest Google announcement.

1. No medal for fourth place

It’s now never been more important to feature within the top three. Whilst the top three positions were always the most coveted from a recognition and positioning point of view, dropping to fourth and fifth would still mean there was above the fold visibility. Now if you’re not in the top three you really aren’t anywhere. This will be particularly annoying for those PPC managers who have taken time to locate that sweet spot for keywords which married a fantastic cost per click (CPC) and generated conversions.

The upshot of these newly coveted positions? We expect this to lead to significantly more competitive bidding for these positions, which will in turn increase CPCs across many if not all vertical markets.

2. The writing’s been on the wall

Google have made lots of changes to the top three positions over the years, this is just the latest (and most dramatic) of changes to this hallowed virtual space. Sitelink extensions, call out extensions, call extensions, changes to the colour of the borders behind the ads, local search and many other elements have all made the top three spaces that bit more alluring over the years, so is it that surprising that they’ve done away with them altogether?

3. SEO – The competition heats up

The fourth spot, which is now available to queries with “high commercial appeal“ such as “car Insurance”, means the SERPS will be even more congested and the first organic search result will inevitably be pushed down once more. The click through rate (CTR) for organic results has decreased each time the space has been reduced, so we expect the competition to be even fiercer for those organic rankings as companies fight it out for premium first page rankings.

4. Product listing ads

Whilst text ads have had their day, it seems product listing ads (PLAs) will increase their prominence. Google has confirmed that both PLAs and ads in the Knowledge Panel will continue to have visibility for relevant searches. This is no surprise given the rise in popularity of the vehicle and we’d expect the “relevance” to be of some question if there’s available space for Google to start making more money from.

It’s still to early to judge as the announcement was only made a few days ago, however, the ripples are getting bigger and it’ll be interesting to see how the scene settles down over the coming weeks and month.