Google has done it again. Now that the dust is settling, let’s take a look at how everything is going.
Google announced that they were changing the presentation of paid search ads by removing those in the right rail. As part of this shift, there would typically be three, sometimes four, ads above the organic search results, with another three ads below the organic results.
This doesn’t mean all ads are disappearing from the right rail. Currently, product listing ads as well as Knowledge Panels will occasionally appear in the right rail. However, as with many things Google, whether these stay in the right rail or not will be dependent on what the outcomes of testing show.
Why the Change?
It’s about performance and mobile. Google found that ads appearing in the right rail simply were not performing as well as those found elsewhere on the page. Add to this that more searches happen on mobile devices than desktop, which do not even show right rail ads, and the percentage of total searches being credited to mobile continues to grow. The change is a way to more standardize and streamline the search experience regardless of the type of device being used.
Will There Be An Impact to Organic Search Results?
The removal of additional paid search ads is expected to increase organic search result clicks. The logic is that fewer paid distractions will likely lead to more organic search clicks. How many of these clicks are intentional is yet unknown. My supposition is that there is a greater chance of unintended clicks as the connection between keyword and page content can be a bit more tenuous than between a keyword and paid search result.
However, there is also the idea of placement. With potentially four paid ads at the top, organic results just got bumped down. As we have found, the further down a result appears, typically its click-through rate is lower as well.
Commercial break: Google says that the fourth ad is only going to be present for “highly commercial inquiries” (quotes are Google’s emphasis). Think keywords like “hotels in New York city” and “Lexus auto dealers Los Angeles ”. Essentially, the most highly competitive keywords ever. If your target keywords are in categories like these, get used to four paid ads.
Net result – Yes, there will be an impact although to what degree and the specific reasons, that we do not yet know.
What to Do?
First, take a deep breath and realize this is new territory for everyone. Next, follow the SEO best practices you know and love. Continue to focus on producing great, relevant content. Review your technical foundation. Enhance your site and content as relevant opportunities arise – such as implementing schema and working toward achieving featured snippets. After all, the end goal has not changed – delivering the most relevant content, in a great format, and enticing more visits.