4 Ads At The Top… The Sky Is Falling!

by | Mar 7, 2016 | PPC

By Brian York, Managing Director, AIM

right hand adsEveryone knows the story about Chicken Little, or Henny Penny, as he is more commonly referred to outside the United States. Chicken Little has an acorn fall on his head and runs around to tell his small world that the sky is falling. In the world of online marketing, this same thing seems to happen with each and every change made by Google.

We’ve seen it dozens of times: Penguin, Panda, Author Rank, Google +, Universal Search, Priority Inbox, etc… It seems with every tap on the keyboard, Matt Cutts sends the internet marketing world into a panic.

In late February, Google announced they would no longer serve right hand ads in the SERPs… only in 3 to 4 ad blocks above and below the organic SERPs. Let’s take a moment for Chicken Little to have his say…

Chicken Little, the sky is falling

Now… back to reality. While it is a bit windy and cold outside, and snow is in the forecast (again)… I can assure you, the sky is not falling on internet marketing. Lets take a moment to dissect Google’s most latest change and what it means to you.

Why did Google Make this Change

Do we dare question Google’s motives? As mentioned previously, Google makes changes all the time.  In this case, however, there are a few very apparent reasons.

1. By their own admission, the mobile revolution caught Google off guard.  Last summer, searches on mobile overtook desktop searches.  This has changed search patterns… into what Google coined ‘Micro-moments’.  In their words…

“Mobile has forever changed what we expect of brands. It’s fractured the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments. Each is a critical opportunity for brands to shape our decisions and preferences.”

How does this tie into the latest Adwords change?  Consistently, across all properties, Google has been trying to more closely align the look and feel of desktop and mobile searches.  This is a step in that direction.

2. Google is constantly culling their pool of advertisers to create a quality search experience for their users.  By trimming marginal advertisers that violate AdWords guidelines, Google can free up more space for those that do answer the users more ‘transparently’.  In limiting the number of ads that show up in Search, Google ups the ante.  It forces the bids higher on competitive phrases.  This generally favors brand advertisers, and brand advertisers generally have less confrontational ads than direct response advertisers.

3. There is a lot of valuable real estate on the right.  You’ll notice that most searches that generate 4 ads at the top, now also generate product listing ads (PLAs) on the right.  Google makes more money from PLAs then they do from regular search results.

 How does the change to Google right hand ads impact you?

In a nutshell… you probably won’t see much of a difference… unless you are a business to business publisher or bidding on very expensive phrases.

1. Search vs GDN: In the world of information publishing, the majority of our conversions happen on the Google Display Network (GDN)… where this change has no impact whatsoever.  Most financial publishers generate 95% of their lead volume from GDN!  As mentioned above, this could impact business to business publishers where the vast majority of leads come from the search network.

2. Extensions, Extensions, Extensions: In the old world of AdWords, pre two weeks ago, extensions were reserved for top of page ads.  Now all ads are top and bottom ads!  Make use of sitelinks, reviews, call out extensions, etc…. In the world of information publishing, Sitelinks will be your most useful extension.

2. SEO: This will most likely have more of an impact on SEO than paid advertising.  For a phrase like ‘cruises’, for example, we see four paid search results at the top.  Only one of the organic SERPs is now above the fold.  Uh oh… the end of SEO?  I don’t think so.  If you scroll down below the first image below, you will see what I mean.

4 Ads at the top of SERPs

In the image below you can see what happens when I scroll down below the ads on a search for ‘cruises’.  With the ads out of the picture, I am seeing many more organic listings on my virtual page than I would have seen pre-change.  I suspect, though I don’t have proof just yet, that this change will drive people deeper into the page 1 organic SERPs.  Stay tuned to this space as I gather more data!

right hand ads removed from Google SERP

In a nutshell

The sky is not falling… all is well.  Google is a business. They made a change which they’ve been testing for months and will ultimately make them more money.  It will create a better user experience for end users… which keeps people coming back… and which gets our paid and organic listings in front of more potential customers.  Remember, this change will NOT have any affect on the majority of the people reading this e-letter.  Most conversions in our space come from GDN.

If you have any questions about the ‘4-ad’ change, or AdWords in general… please get in touch with AIM.  We’d be happy to help!

Brian York
Brian York
Managing Director, AIM

P.S. Please share your thoughts on the latest AdWords change on our Facebook page.  Also… please share this e-letter with a colleague.