Advertising has been a part of mass media for generations. Even as mediums have changed, ads have remained a common part of the landscape. But things are about to be a little different for SEO and PPC marketers in 2016. Google recently announced some changes to the amount and layout of ads people see in certain places on search engine results pages.
SEO marketers began noticing the test of new layouts and ad features back in December of 2015. Now that the testing phase is done, the changes to ad placements in search results are set to rollout by the end of the month.
“We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries,” a Google spokesperson told The SEM Post, according to a Yahoo News. “We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”
According to reports, Google plans to remove some of the ads that appeared along the right sidebar in search results. So now, without these ads, the right rail on desktop searches will now be blank whiteness in most cases.
There are two exceptions to the changes to the side bar. First, the Google “Knowledge Panel” cards, its own results for renowned people, places or things, will still be on the right-hand bar. For example, when you search a local restaurant the information in the sidebar will still dow up.
Similarly, Product Listing Ads (PLAs) such as links to products for sale that match the keywords will remain in in the sidebar in some cases. Most users interact with PLAs through Google’s own comparative shopping service.
Mark Bergen of Re/Code suggested that the true incentive behind the changes is to give more chances for PLAs to work their magic. In his article about the upcoming changes, he wrote, “A rise in shopping ads is good for Google, so long as advertisers spend them with Google. And it explains why the company is now limiting its paid search real estate, and giving the shopping ads prime location.”
While this covers the ads on the sidebar, there are also reports indicating that Google will change the number of ads shown before the search results. Google AdWords will soon display four ads above organic search results, no ads to the right of search results, and three additional ads below search results, according to The SEM Post.
These changes could be a part of Google’s effort to deflect criticism that it’s too difficult to distinguish ad content from traditional search results. In fact, a recent study showed that kids have a particularly difficult time identifying ads from regular results.
Clearly identifying ad content may be a part of the reasoning, but the most likely main reason for the updates is to streamline the look and to make using Google on desktops similar to the experience on mobile. For space reasons, mobile devices can’t use a layout with a sidebar.
Though the mobile and desktop search results pages will look similar, it’s important to remember that the algorithms that determine the search results for desktop and mobile are different. So even if the pages are similar, the results will not be.
These changes will have a profound effect on SEO and PPC marketers. An obvious repurcussion is that the search ranking will shift. The ads at the top and bottom will move some search results of page one to page two and so on.
Also, since there will now be ad listings at the top and bottom of search result pages, there is an added incentive for marketers to bid more for the higher spaces.
For more recent news about changes to Google, read this article on changes to Google’s core algorithm.