On Friday, Google released a world-wide update, one that directly impacts both Search Engine Marketing (SEM) accounts advertising with Adwords and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results. This update removed text ads from the right sidebar of the search engine result pages (SERPs) for desktop and laptop devices, and ads are now only shown above and below organic listings on each page.

With the new format, there are no universal results, meaning that the number of text ads above and below organic listings can fluctuate between zero and four. For an unknown percentage of queries, text ads in the right sidebar are now completely gone, but for other queries, they are still present. For queries without the right-sidebar text ads, Google Shopping Ads may now be shown for e-Commerce related queries. We have tested hundreds of queries and have discovered only fragmented results in SERP listings. Your own queries may return differing results; this is not a universal change, but more of an expanded experiment by Google.

How this impacts your paid search campaign:

Google’s unannounced change is one of the most significant updates to have taken place in SERPS in the last five years. The future impacts are not fully understood at this point, but our team—along with the rest of the industry—has come up with a few well-reasoned predictions:

  1. Increased Costs-Per-Click (CPC): Advertisers historically comfortable with costs associated with the text ads appearing in the right sidebar will now be forced to bid higher in an effort to fight for the more limited real-estate.
  1. More visibility for Shopping Ads: Although the update was unannounced, we know Google was testing it in smaller markets for more than a year. We also know Google has been attempting to expand their “shopping” services for some time, offering features like one-click checkout and improved buyer ratings (similar to Amazon.com). These are still being tested, but they likely will be here soon. We predict the right sidebar of the SERPs, which previously held only text ads, may soon be filled with shopping Ads and Shopping features.
  1. Cleaner, more accurate representation of products/services in ads: The increased CPCs may mean that generic ads fall by the wayside. For example, companies like Yellow Pages, Stuccu, and Ask.com have historically used “Dynamic Keyword Insertion” in their ad copy to place search queries in their ad headlines to make it seem as though they carry the products and services prompted by the search query. These ads, which many professional search marketers consider SPAM may decrease in frequency due to the expected increase in CPCs.

How this impacts your organic (unpaid) search results:

  1. Keywords/Topics are more important than ever: Google has announced that searches containing “high volume” and “lower volume” keywords will result in different placement of ads around organic listings on the SERP. This may not always be ideal for unpaid search results and could negatively affect clicks that come directly from organic listings.
  1. Proper META information is critical: Well-written page title and meta descriptions (as well as proper usage of SEO, and correctly formatted schema and design elements) can reduce the competition from ads and benefit the number of clicks that come from organic listings.
  1. More results: Google is now experimenting with increasing the number of results shown on the first SERP for “high volume” queries. In fact, we’re seeing upwards of 20 results and as few as 10 on Page 1. The good news is that if you were historically on the second page of a keyword-related query, you might be elevated to the first page. Please be aware, however, that this is NOT a universal change. As previously stated, Google appears to be experimenting with these results as part of its Adwords change. We will be monitoring this closely on your behalf.

As expected, we are reviewing the impact of this monumental change very closely so we can understand the best course of action for our clients moving forward. If you have any questions about these changes, please let us know, and we will be happy to discuss the with you. It may also make sense to combine this call with your monthly account review in early March.