No doubt you’ve heard, Google has removed the right-hand side ads, a dramatic change that’s been rolled out worldwide.
This is the result of a test that began in 2010; results will now appear only at the top or bottom of the page. Furthermore, “highly commercial queries” like ‘home insurance’ will have four ad spots available.
The ads that don’t make it into the top spots will be forced to the two spots available below the organic results. The right-hand side ads won’t be replaced with blank space; rather Google Shopping listings will fill the space. Additionally, Google’s knowledge Graphs (the informative boxes that come up when you search, for example, the title of a film and the ads within these – commonly a link to watch the film online via Google Play or Amazon).
According to The Media Image this could be because “the average CTR for the RHS ads is poor across all verticals”, likely because many people won’t click on them because it’s so obvious that they are ads – in January this year only 14.6% of paid clicks came from the side and bottom ads. Moving away from right-hand side ads is likely to increase the CPC of ads, as they will be competing for a reduced number of ads, generating more profit in the long run. As well as this, ditching the sidebar ads looks more balanced, blurring the lines between ads and organic search results as well as making desktop and mobile results more similar to each other.
What does this mean for users?
The bottom line of it is that users will see less organic listings. If businesses respond well by running well-targeted ads, it could actually be a positive thing from the perspective of a user. The layout is certainly less cluttered, which is always positive. The improved consistency between mobile and desktop will make Google’s search overall more seamless.
What does this mean for organic search?
For the most part, the removal of right-hand side ads means that SEO will become more competitive. Ads will now be more attractive and more interactive, so organic listings really need to stand out to make that all-important impression on potential customers.
What does this mean for PPC?
There are benefits and drawbacks. On the plus side, all ads can now benefit from using ad extensions, where before it was just the top-of-page ads that could do this. This will make the ads appear ‘more native’, enabling them to blend in with organic results more easily. On the other hand, CPC is likely to go up, making competition for those all-important top spots fiercer and more expensive.