It was an unassuming Friday afternoon in mid-February when Google killed its right-hand side ads.
Panic, as it does, spread swiftly online.
And, sure, it was a shake-up. The fourth paid ad position from the right-hand rail of the SERP was relocated to a new perch above the organic listings; right-hand side ads 5 through 7 were relegated to the bottom of the page, and ads 8-11? Well… probably best not to even bring them up.
Some were outraged, citing poor usage of desktop real estate. The right-hand rail now became the exclusive stomping grounds for Knowledge Panels (a boxed panel that can showcase local results and their associated information) and product listing ad blocks (PLAs), which resulted in their click through rates receiving a shot in the arm. The change was largely viewed as yet another step in Google’s quest to unify its mobile and desktop experiences, while clearly catering to the majority of its smartphone-reliant users.
And now, here we are, five months after the tossup. The Internet has not exploded or folded in on itself. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re still adapting (or if you’re in marketing).
• Keep the faith for SEO: What was initially viewed as a death knell for organic listings and SEO hasn’t quite resulted in the blight that many anticipated. That being said, the increase in the number of top of the page paid search ads – especially in searches that feature the local search 3 pack – are pushing organic results farther down the page. On many SERPs, the first organic result is no longer visible above the fold in lieu of “highly commercial queries” that are reserved for new ad slot number four. This makes ranking in the top two organic spots even more critical. To counteract this effect, insiders strongly urge businesses to pair their SEO with paid search in some capacity to boost visibility. And this writer believes that SEO can be salvaged and maintained through a combination of thorough keyword research, content management, and – for “brick and mortar” institutions – a strong focus on local strategy.
• Keep watching the skies – and your CPC. Many advertisers earlier believed that Cost-Per-Click (CPC) would skyrocket as businesses vied for those top spots on SERPs. Others thought that an increase in the number of ads at the top would result in a boosted inventory, which would subsequently drive down the price. So far, none of this has come to pass, and rates have remained relatively steady. But as we’ve witnessed, things change quickly and without warning in the online world, and those in the know stress that everyone should keep a close eye on their accounts and make changes when necessary.
• Keep calm and market on: According to this article, most paid clicks come from top ads, anyway – to the tune of 85 percent. The same article argues that the fourth top slot allows for ad extensions, which could be a boon for PPC advertisers, allowing them to spotlight additional information about their business, such as contact information and location, while boosting click through rates.
The takeaway? Only time will tell. Not reassuring? No, but then again, you didn’t get into this business for its predictability. The net is in a constant state of flux, and yesterday’s turmoil will be tomorrow’s old news. As marketers, the important thing to remember is to remain vigilant, aware of your surroundings, and when necessary – adapt.
Still have questions? Contact IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations today. We can review your SEO and PPC, and potentially make recommendations to coincide with Google’s recent changes.
– Terri Hesse, Digital Marketing Manager