Google shocked the online marketing world a few days ago when we noticed that they have slowly but steadily started to remove all right hand side ads on all operating systems (desktop mainly).
The right hand side (generally positions 4-8) are said to make up for about 15% of all ad clicks. This might not sound like a lot, but it offers the user a large number of alternatives to the sole top-advertiser placements at the top of the page. This move unifies the mobile and desktop version of the google search. It will make the page look cleaner and easier to read. Yet it also “kills” the diversity of the ad landscape once more.
The last decade, we have learned to live and love the right hand side ads, as they allowed us to test and broaden our keyword spectrum considerably. A 4th or 5th position could be profitable, and sensible bid management is a key component of testing new keyword sets for performance marketeers / who are not concerned with the “branding”/”visibility” aspect of marketing.
4 ads above the fold
If you are using Google as your preferred search engine on your desktop computer or Mac, you will find the page to look a little bit empty. Sure this “helps” the user to focus on the single results that are presented, but to me it personally looks a bit odd. It feels like something is missing… The page is still slightly centered to the left and balance is off. Maybe Google will start to experiment with moving the results to the center or using the space on the right hand side differently (fill it with, what Google thinks, are relevant infos to fit the search queries). We will have to wait and see.
Something appears to be missing on the right… The page-balance is off and our beloved search engine looks a little “empty”…
The top of the page will look a bit different in the next few weeks though, Google will namely start to place 4 instead of 3 ads above the fold. This basically means that users who do not have the larges of screens, will only see ads when they search for something. The right handside will remain blank, except for the Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which will still show a number of google shopping results.
This is especially relevant for highly commercial queries as Google calls them. These are search terms such as: Hotels in New York or Car Insurance. Google generally perceives terms to be relevant when they present a clear intent to purchase something. The closer the search query is to the purchase event, the more relevant it is.
Search Engine Land reported that this was not a something that had been done over night, but that it appears that Google has started rolling the changes out more quickly in the last few days.
As Merkle RKG’s Andy Taylor illustrated in a blog post last Friday, the shift to remove ads from the right rail began slowly early last week and then picked up dramatically after Wednesday, February 17.
So does this change our CPCs dramatically?
What worries us marketeers is of course how this will affect our campaign performance. I have to be honest and say that it is still a little bit too soon to comment on that. We have not seen the biggest of changes in our accounts just yet.
The fact that there are more top slots now, should actually increase the CTRs of the ads that used to be on the right, bringing in more competition and could in the short run “lower” the CPCs for the top positions a little… As soon as we have a bit more data, I will update this post and share our first insights.