If you’ve done a Google search lately, you may have noticed that the sidebar ads (the paid search ads on the right side of search results) are gone. In February, Google confirmed that it is eliminating the right side AdWords ads from search results.
Instead of ads on top, below, and to the right of their organic search results, there will now only be four ads on top, above organic search results, and three ads on the bottom of the first page.
There have been some comments since this news broke that this change will only affect a small percentage of searches, but the vast majority of Google searches we have conducted reflect this new format. Furthermore, it should be noted that Google doesn’t make big changes like this live unless their limited global tests go well. For better or worse, this new format is here to stay.
So, what does this mean for your business?
More competition for Paid Space
First, it’s worth noting that just about 85% of AdWords clicks are from the top ads anyway, and that this change only affects desktop search – which as of now accounts for less than half of searches.
That being said, by granting less real estate for ads, demand for these top ads is only going to go up. This leads to the possibility that bigger businesses will swoop in and leverage their budgets to buy up this ad space, which would lead to increased cost-per-clicks for many advertisers as the top position will be more difficult to maintain.
Don’t feel like you need to completely abandon AdWords; instead, if you’re playing in a competitive space that just got more expensive to play in, consider focusing on the biggest ROI keywords, rather than casting a wide net. Play up any specialization of service or product and use specific targeting to your advantage.
If this new structure does cause bidding for results to get out of hand, however, then Google search ads may very well become unfriendly to many small businesses. If this climate does come to pass, small businesses will have to become more resourceful and capitalize on other paid networks or double down on organic search optimization efforts. Investigation, testing and iteration of options will become paramount.
With less real estate for paid Google search results, gaining organic search result visibility will become more competitive than ever. If you rely on organic search traffic as part of your strategy, competing for views could become tougher as more companies invest in their SEO campaigns. In that case, it may be time to revisit your SEO strategy. (First, make sure your expectations are realistic.)
Many people think that Google went ahead with this change to ensure uniformity across desktop and mobile search results. Mobile results lacked these side ads, and now desktop search results do too.
If it wasn’t clear yet, it should be now: Mobile optimization is essential for your business’ website. Google doesn’t just follow trends, they create them. This should serve as a reminder to optimize your assets now for mobile.
Changes have happened before, and they will again. The key to success is to remain proactive and nimble so you can quickly adapt to new challenges.
We will continue to monitor and track this situation as it evolves; check back for a follow-up post in the coming months once we have data in the books.