Google Kills Off Side Ads

Panic Ensues

Over the weekend (20/02/16 a€“ 21/02/16) Google made a very significant change to the layout of the search results pages that has everyone in the digital marketing world in a panic. Without any prior warning Google has quietly removed all of the pay per click adverts on the right hand side of search results. Whilst Google is putting this change down to improving the user experience, many within the industry are touting this as a way to for Google to increase their ad revenue.

So whata€?s the difference???????????????????????

Before the change Google often showed two or three adverts at the top of the search results followed by four adverts down the right hand side and a further two adverts at the bottom of the page:

Google side ads 1 - fountain partnership







The change has resulted in the complete removal of the right hand side adverts, leaving three or four adverts at the top of the page, three adverts beneath organic results and a larger space for shopping ads or the map snack pack where the adverts have traditionally been:

google side ads 2 - fountain partnership








This doesna€?t mean the end of side adverts completely. When relevant, Google will now use the right hand side space for shopping adverts (as shown below) and the knowledge graph (When Google shows relevant information on your query that is pulled from multiple sources).

google side ads 3 - fountain partnership









Many analysts have been sharing their concern in digital marketing forums since the weekenda€?s announcement. Common theories about the death of organic clicks, money making tactics by Google and an increase in cost per click are some of the most common concerns doing the rounds.
So, how is this change really going to affect things?

What it means for PPC

Ita€?s still too early to tell what this actually means for your PPC campaign performance, more analysis is needed before we can come to a conclusion. Common theories include the following:

a€¢ We could see CPC increase for positions 1 a€“ 3 (and 4 if there are 4 ads) as supply has decreased and advertisers are wary of the lower click through rates that a bottom of page position could bring

a€¢ CTRa€?s could increase for the top adverts because there is no organic result above the fold

a€¢ CTRa€?s could increase for shopping adverts as they are shown more frequently and with more listings

a€¢ Your adverts in the top positions will take up more of Googlea€?s prime real estate because sitelinks are shown more frequently

What it means for SEO

The main consideration for those concerned with organic listings is the visibility of organic results on Google. With Google showing up to four adverts at the top of desktop results, organic listings are now no longer visible above the fold. Some people in the industry have spread concern that ita€?s more important now than ever before to appear in the top three organic positions with paid ads now taking a greater market share.

Reasons not to panic

Is there reason to panic at all? As Larry Kim (Founder of WordStream) points out, side bar and bottom position ads only make up 14.6% of clicks before this change.

google desktop paid clicks by position






Once you discount mobile devices from the statistics above Kim argues that the change will only impact 7.3% of queries.


In conclusion a€“ The jury is still out on this one, some commentators are suggesting this will be a seismic shift in the paid search landscape whilst others are suggesting that this doesna€?t impact a great deal of queries. We will be closely monitoring the metrics here at Fountain and will be conducting some analysis over the coming weeks a€“ stay tuned!

Category: PPC, Thoughts
24 February 2016

By Alice Rose

Alice Rose

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