Google has rolled out radical changes to its ad layout in desktop search. The changes which are worldwide, make for a much less cluttered user experience. In the past, a search with a valuable commercial intent would have three ads up top and then a lengthy row of ads in the right sidebar. At times, up to 8 ads could appear on page 1 of Google search, with many users not even being able to distinguish between what is an organic/natural result and what is an ad.
Google began testing this new, no ads on right side layout some time ago, but only now has it been rolled out in all languages globally. In addition to commercial search queries having up to four ads up top, search result pages also now have up to three ads at the bottom of the search results, which is also a change. The new desktop search view means big changes for AdWords advertisers and a vastly different experience for users.
Below is a how a local search for a lawyer appears, with no ads or results otherwise on the right hand side:
Google Shopping Ad Changes
Google hasn’t just changed the layout for searches relating to service businesses. Clearing out the sidebar also leaves space for more prominent shopping ads, Google Product Listing Ads (PLA), which show in the sidebar. Product Listing ads can also have four ads above the natural results and then also show up to two rows of the PLAs with product images in the sidebar. Colorful product images really standout in Google’s otherwise mostly Plain Jane search results.
Google makes a lot of money off shopping ads and they now have even more prime ad spot location. This also presents opportunities for Google PLA advertisers.
What’s Changed on Mobile Searches?
At the time of this writing, nothing has changed anything with Google mobile searches. Google knows mobile is more of where search is going and part of Google’s strategy is to have more consistency between desktop and mobile search. In a commercial search query, Google typically shows two ads up of page 1 and then the organic results follow.
Because of screen size/space constraints, there is no lengthy list of ads in the right column in mobile. While in desktop they’re now showing up four ads up top, it is more consistent with how search appears in mobile.
What Does This Mean for AdWords Search Advertisers?
Google appears to be going for a quality over quantity approach with ads. The most valuable real estate on Google has always been the top ad or organic spots and the ads on the right side haven’t historically haven’t had a great conversion rate. While Google certainly doesn’t want a decrease in revenue due to less ads, it’s likely that AdWords’ prices will rise for the top spots as there is more competition for the most valuable/visible search real estate, the top four ad spots, which is what appears above the fold before you start scrolling down.
As a result, quality score is proper ad structure and quality score is critical to compete for top ad spots, making it imperative to work with a Google AdWords certified professional. Implementing ad sitelinks, callout extension, and having strong calls to action are even more critical to make your ad stand out.
What Does This Mean for Google Search Users and Businesses?
For users, the new desktop search layout has a cleaner, less cluttered presentation without the large myriad of visible links to click on. The change from up to three ads up top above the organic or local map pack results to four also means organic results continue to get pushed down further on the page in favor of ads. This new layout will not appear for all searches. It’s for searches with a strong commercial intent, which means the query indicates a deep intention to purchase a product or service.
These changes also impact businesses. SEO is even competitive as the top organic spots are further pushed down the page, as is PPC bidding. They’re also a reminder of the importance of diversification in online marketing. For example, if you’re overly reliant on SEO for traffic, Google can make changes in an instant that can have a material affect on your business.
The new desktop search also makes completing your Google business page, getting customer reviews, and using schema markup all the more important as SEO tactics as the only content that shows in the right hand side of Google desktop searches (except in shopping searches) is from the knowledge panel, which is the business information, address, customer reviews, and social profiles that appear in a box in the right hand side of search results.