No Right Hand Ads!?  What's the Impact?

Google removed the right side ads from SERP results in February 2016. Since then there has been a lot of speculation as to the impact.  We look at the immediate effect no right hand ads had on AdWords and organic, using industry data to draw conclusions.  And hypothesize on longer-term effects that might be seen if competition heats up.

If you have been living under a PPC rock for the last few weeks, you would have missed hearing about possibly the largest change ever made to AdWords and the Google SERP results.

Google removed the right rail ads in late February of this year. There can now be 4 ads above organic results, while the 5-7 positioned ads were moved to the bottom of the SERP. A lot of speculation erupted about how this would affect AdWords and PPC accounts. Some lunatic theories, and some well founded arguments.

PPC professionals and digital marketers, including all of us at Search & Gather, found themselves asking how this would affect their accounts. The general consensus from the PPC community is that advertisers in the top 4 benefited, while those vying for lower positions got knocked out. This made those top 4 positions even more coveted than before – if your ads did not show there, you pretty much did not exist in the Google universe.

How did PPC managers react to these changes? Well, ad text and landing pages became even more competitive. Each 0.1% in conversion rate meant that you could spend more on traffic. Each bump in CTR meant that you might have a reduction in CPCs. All of these elements made the Google AdWords world even more competitive than it already was.

But enough theorizing, here are some data driven insights into how the change impacted AdWords:

SEO is Fine

Lucas Perrose published some data showing slight decreases in organic CTRs since the change. There were no dramatic drops in people engaging with SEO results after the removal – as some had predicted. This is definitely something to keep an eye on, as Google tweaks and adds more features to the new SERP layout.

CPC Remains the Same

It looks like data so far is showing us that CPCs still remain the same (Merkle/RKG). It is difficult to tell whether the nature of the surprise launch – if CPCs will get increasingly heated going forward. Especially as the players previously in the 5-7 positions find themselves losing click and revenue volume.

Shopping Is Killing It

It looks like Shopping ads are appearing at the top of the page more frequently. This is resulting in an increase to Shopping campaign impressions. If you are running eCommerce – ride the wave to increased revenue. Below is some data provided by Merkle/RKG to back up these results.

The impacts that we are seeing might be because the right side ads were nothing to sneeze at to begin with. They only received 5-15% of traffic anyway (depending on the source). It is too early to tell the real effects of the change.  Like most Google changes, the removal of the right side makes things more competitive. As a result, more than likely we will see improved ads and landing pages, along with other tactics, to allow PPC players to take over the top 4.

In closing, be steady and vigilant and not reactive to these changes. Make decisions based on data – not speculation. If you would like to discuss how Search & Gather can partner with you to deliver digital results, please contact us.