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Google Confirms Changes to Ad Positions on Desktop Search Results

By 25 February, 2016 No Comments

Google has confirmed text ads will no longer appear on the right sidebar of desktop search results. The giant search engine broke the news of this drastic change on 19th February 2016. Rather than appearing at the top, bottom and right side of search results, ads will be positioned above and below them instead.

In addition to this, the number of text ads shown above organic listings will be increased to four, not three. This will occur for those considered to be “highly commercial queries”.

Advertisers are dying to know how these sudden changes to ads on desktop search results will affect their own ad performance. Factors such as CPC (PPC), CTR and average position etc. are at the top of the growing list of concerns executed by online advertisers.

 

Here’s what Google has confirmed so far about the recent changes:

·         Text ads will no longer appear on the right side of desktop search results.

·         For “highly commercial queries”, four text ads will be served above search results instead of three.

·         A maximum of seven text ads will be displayed on a SERP.

·         No more than three text ads are to be shown below SERPs.

·         Relevant queries will display Knowledge Panels and Product Listing Ad Blocks on the right rail of SERPs.

·         All of these recent changes and updates will be implemented worldwide (regardless of language), on both Google.com and each of its search partners. These changes are permanent.

 

Should We Have Expected This Shift?

Back in 2010, when Google first began to test the notion of four ads shown directly above search results it appeared to be just that, a notion. However, those experiments continued for an additional several years. So, should we be kicking ourselves for not seeing these changes coming sooner?

No, not exactly.

Whilst slight changes were seen by users in the past, this was by no means expected to be permanent. In the beginning, Google experimented with simple mortgage queries. Users noticed that instead of having three ads on top of their organic results, there were four. In some instances, no ads appeared in the right sidebar whatsoever. This was perhaps the first clue that there were bigger changes to come.

So why didn’t any of us see it coming?

Google denied these changes were going to be permanent. As a result, people turned their attention elsewhere and desktop ad changes were put away in a tiny box at the back of our minds, never having to be dealt with. That is, until Friday 19th February happened.

 

More about Highly Commercial Queries

Highly Commercial Queries (aka, the ones where four ads will show instead of three) are seen by Google as being queries where the user is intent on making a purchase. For the time being, this is unlikely to affect ad tests in Knowledge Panels or Product Listings. Instead, Google will continue to run various experiments in Knowledge Panels and with Product Listing Ad layouts, despite the recent changes to the right rail of SERPs.

 

What Does all of this Mean for CPC?

Many are worried that the cost of CPC will rise as a result of there being less ad space available. However, there may not be as much interest to place ads at the bottom of organic search listings as there were for having ads on the right side of SERPs. Until more data is available on the subject, we can do nothing but speculate according to prior knowledge and the information that Google has currently provided us with.

We can guarantee, however, that advertisers running bid-to-position strategies are likely to need to make relevant updates. These updates may cause an auction fluctuation period. This will settle once advertisers become accustomed to Google’s changes to ad layout on desktop search results.

Keep an eye on our blog for more updates as this story unfolds.