Search results pages have long had ads in the right sidebar. However, Google recently began rolling out an updated design for their search engine results pages, or SERPs for short.
The updated design removed the right sidebar ads from the results page and added a fourth ad above the organic results. (It’s worth noting that Google didn’t remove the knowledge panel from the sidebar.)
Here’s Google’s new SERP layout. Note the ads that used to be on the right side are gone.
One of the major reasons behind the update was to modernize the research results page to match the mobile results pages.
There are both benefits and drawbacks to this change, as well as an unknown.
More Relevant Results
The goal behind the update was to provide searchers with more refined and relevant results.
Better Ad Performance
The second benefit of the update is to provide better performance for advertisers. The vast majority of clicks received are on the ads at the top of the page. Initial results show that fourth-position ads have seen a 15% increase in click-through rates.
All Ads Have Extensions
Ads at the top of the page allow advertisers to have ad extensions like location, site links, and ratings. Side ads never allowed this.
Organic is Pushed Down
The major drawback of the redesign is that organic results from SEO are pushed down—causing fewer organic results to appear above the fold. While this is bad news for SEO, it’s not as bad as some believe. Some organic results still appear above the fold, and in large part, people are willing to scroll.
Ad positions 5-7 have less reach with the updated design. The goal of PPC ads is usually a conversion of some sort—not impressions. Reach is mostly a superficial metric when it comes to AdWords.
Cost Per Click
The big unknown is if the cost-per-click of AdWords campaigns will increase due to the decrease in possible ad locations. Early results suggest cost-per-click has not changed.
The Bottom Line
While it’s still too early to tell, early indications suggest the updated SERP is generally a good thing. It means more consistent ads across all platforms and higher click-through rates. The drawbacks are limited and minor. The tipping point is if the cost-per-click will increase.
If you'd like us to look at your AdWords—or discuss how to begin to use AdWords to drive more traffic to your website—reach out.