Updates to Google’s Ad Layout on Desktop Search Results: What Does It Really Mean?

 As you may have read online (or even seen for yourself), Google has recently made a number of changes to the way it serves ads on desktop.

Google has always tinkered with its search results layouts. Over the past decade we have seen the inclusion of images, videos and Twitter, offering users a more comprehensive results list. With these latest changes, Google will no longer serve AdWords text ads in the right hand panel of desktop search. This has implications for everyone with an interest in search.

What’s different?

Of the text ads that remain, four will be eligible to be served at the top of the page, and three at the bottom of the page. This will not only reduce the number of ads eligible to be served (from eleven down to seven), but will also push organic results further down the page.

However, product ads and Knowledge Panels will continue to appear in the right hand side on relevant searches.

What does this mean for cost-per-click?
As AdWords operate on a cost-per-click (CPC) model, there is speculation that with fewer ads available, competition for the remaining seven will intensify. This could cause overall CPC to increase, and reduce the overall return on investment on AdWords campaigns.

Realistically, it’s too early to tell, as there’s just not enough data available to draw any firm conclusions. This will change as more case studies become available over the coming months.

What does this mean for Search Engine Optimisation in general?

With any update to the search engine results page, organic listings would seem to be the loser.

Through AdWords, Google generates an estimated $100mUSD per day. It is without doubt their largest revenue stream. Through organic listings, Google makes $0.

So its not surprising that every update (large or small) is moving towards AdWords occupying prime real estate in search results. But this doesn't mean that you should abandon your SEO campaign, or be deterred from starting one.

Many studies have shown that a brand presence across both paid ads and organic listings in search results actually increases the likelihood of a user clicking through to your site through either channel.

And with competition across AdWords likely to increase and become more expensive, a diversified SEO strategy may provide a more cost-effective delivery channel to your website.

What to do now?

If you already have an AdWords account, it is important that you review it regularly and ask the following questions:

  1. Note any changes to campaign costs – is it still ROI positive?
  2. Look at your average ad position. Has it increased or decreased since the update? And what is the impact on click-through rate?
  3. If your ads are showing in the top four, are you utilising ad extensions?

So our advice is: don’t panic. It’s too early to tell what the direct impact on your campaigns will be, so keep a cool head and look at what your data is telling you.

Written by Aaron Wilson.