Google Text Ads Removed from Right Rail and Changes to Desktop Layout
Google announced on February 19, 2016 that desktop search results pages will begin discontinuing text ads on the right hand side. Now there will be as many as four text ads displayed above organic listings, and up to three text ads will show at the bottom of the page. With a maximum of seven text ads per a page compared to eleven when the right had side was being utilized – it appears the more competitive the keyword, the more text ads that will be shown. The below images show Google text ads removed from the right side for different levels of competitiveness keywords.
- Google text ads removed on right side
Compared to Example B:
- Google updates text ads
Paid advertising and PPC experts will surely be analyzing the move for the next several months and strategies might have to be fully overhauled in order to stay visible and/or profitable. Google looks to be moving into a uniform layout so that desktop results match those seen on mobile. This move coincides with Google’s emphasis on mobile as more people do the majority of searches on their phones than at a desktop.
When we look at Example A on mobile, the entire fold is covered with text ads. We need to scroll down in order to see an organic listing.
- Google mobile text ads
So what should we expect to see on desktop from now on?
- Google text ads removed from the right hand side of desktop results.
- Google will serve up to four text ads instead of three above the organic listings.
- Up to three text ads will show at the bottom of the page.
- *Both 2 and 3 are dependent on the demand of the keyword being bid on
- With the Google text ads removed from the right side, we’ll now see a maximum number of seven text ads (compared to up to 11 when utilizing the right side).
- Google Shopping results and Knowledge Panels will be the only things present on the right hand side.
This change came as a sudden shock to many business owners and advertisers but has been in testing since 2010. Eliminating the entire right side – with no warning – has PPC managers tossing and turning at night. It might have been inevitable, but most of us thought we had more time.
Why the sudden change?
Google is like any other business and they need to keep their shareholders happy while still maintaining a product that consumers enjoy using. Many people have rumored that removing the right side ads was because users have mentally blocked them out knowing they are advertisements. In a mobile centric world, the top of the results page is prime real estate for any PPC manager. Time will tell what this means for advertisers but here are some recent predictions.
The change could lead to higher prices and overall more revenue for Google due to supply and demand. The top advertisers now have to bid a little more to maintain their spot rather than risk losing their first page presence, and the fourth spot will probably bring in more ad revenue than the entire right side combined. This is no surprise as CPC goes up dramatically each position you climb.
So from just a text ad perspective, this can create more competition hence increasing bids through supply and demand. This leads to more money in Google’s pocket. But let’s look back at Example A. There is so much blank space that Google now has the opportunity to experiment with. Google has confirmed that the only two exceptions of the right side of desktop will be Product Listing Ad boxes or Ads in the Knowledge Panel as seen below.
- Google shopping ad changes
- Google knowledge panel with ads
If consumers are blocking out the right side text ads, well Google will find an alternate way to get their attention. Looks to be a more media friendly direction to keep the user engaged with their search results, and alternate ways to increase Google’s revenue other than text ads.
What does it mean for Google Shopping (Product Listing Ads)?
It may seem unrelated but Google started a rollout telling sellers in the Google Merchant Center that they will now require Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN or UPC codes) for most recognized brands in Google Shopping. This new requirement will help Google understand exactly what is being sold as they continue to grow with their comparison shopping engine. Sellers have until May 16, 2016 to make these changes before they will see their items disapproved from Google Shopping.
This rollout shows Google Shopping is continuing to grow and wants to make sure the shopping engines remains a great experience for the user. As more businesses move into Product Listing Ads, there will be more SKUs available for consumers to choose from. At the moment, Google PLAs show five to eight products on the right rail.
Channel Advisor has just spotted that Google is testing an expandable view of PLAs from five to 16 at the top of the page. You can see in the screenshots (both from ChannelAdvisor) below the dropdown arrow which leads to a full selection of PLAs.
- Google Shopping changes with PLAs
- Google Shopping increases number of items
This shows Google is trying to get more out of these ads which have become successful for both sellers and Google. Overall CTR for sellers may go down with the added variation, but the increased real estate will certainly increase overall clicks for Google.
Are these changes just the start of what we expect to see on the newly open real estate on the right side? Did text ads just get kicked out for the new and more successful PLAs? Especially given how much Google PLAs have outperformed text ads in recent years. Only time will tell but I don’t believe Google will leave too much empty space for long.