Have you noticed a change to the way a Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page) shows up in the last few days? Does the page seem a little emptier than it used to?

If you have noticed, then well done – you are observant. Google has globally rolled out a change that it has been playing with as far back as 2010. The change is that the ads in the right rail (the area on the right hand side of the organic search results) are now gone. There will now only be three ads above the organic search results, and up to three below the ten organic search results. Google has said for highly commercial searches such as “hotels in Umhlanga” or “car insurance comparison”, there may be four ads results at the top. This means that for all desktop search results pages, there will be a maximum of 7 ads on Page 1, with most searches only bringing up 6 ads. That’s a lot of ad real estate that has disappeared.

serp before ads removed on right hand side

This is an example of a search result on February 5 2016. Note the ads on the right hand side

serp with no ads on right rail

The exact same search done on 23 Feb 2016. Note the blank white space on the right where ads used to show

This change effects desktop search results, since mobile search results already displayed this way (with no ads on the right). So Google has brought their desktop SERP to more closely resemble their mobile SERP.

How Google Adwords Changes Effect Advertisers

The fact is that the lower down a result is on Page 1, the lower the CTR and the fewer clicks it tends to get. This is true for both paid and organic results, and pretty much every SERP heatmap we have ever seen bears this out. If you are not on Page 1, you may as well be invisible. Different studies have different figures, but you can pretty much bet that a minimum of 75% of people don’t go past Page 1.

So if more people click on results higher up Page 1, then moving Ads 4 to 6 down the bottom of the page pretty much guarantees their CTR will fall dramatically.

How To Mitigate The Effects Of The Invisible Right Rail

  • Bidding: Your bidding may need to get more aggresive. If your ads are sitting at an average position of anything less than 3, then very often they are going to be showing at the bottom of the first page. If your average position is 7, then you are no longer even on Page 1. This means you are effectively invisible. Positions 1-3 are now even more valuable, and you will need to bid accordingly.
  • Quality Score is always important, but now even more so. Increasing your bid can only improve your ad position by so much. Its time to dump poor QS keywords, check your landing page content for keyword density and write some better ads.
  • Ad Extensions: We know that Google also takes into account Ad Extensions when determining Ad Rank, so if you don’t have extensions enabled on your account, its time to start. At minimum you should have sitelink, call and callout extensions enabled.
  • Conversion Optimizer: Do you have Conversion Optimizer enabled on your account? Then consider turning it off for a month and manually managing your bids. You see, if you have had CO running for a long time, the algorithm may have determined that the best place for you to achieve your target CPA is position 4. That won’t change with the position of 4 now dropping to the bottom of the page. So you will suddenly see your clicks and probably conversions plummet before the system can gather enough data to adjust and increase the bids on your keywords.

Needless to say, our Adwords Team is checking each account really carefully this week. Maybe make a call to your Adwords Agency and ask them what they are doing to look after your account during this time? If they don’t seem to know what you are talking about, send them to this post 🙂

If you are concerned about Adwords account, or think it could perform better, why not book a free consultation with us to discuss it?

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