A big change to the search engine results page on Google has been confirmed this week. Traditionally, Google has displayed paid ads in two locations on the desktop view, above organic search listings and along the right-hand side of the page, but no longer.

In a story originally published by Search Engine Land on Friday, Google confirmed that they are phasing out ads on the right side of the listings. The change means that ads will now be displayed only at the top and/or bottom of the search results page. In cases where google determines search terms to be “highly commercial queries” it has stated the possibility that up to four ads will show at the top, rather than the usual two to three.

The Impact on Paid Search Campaigns

This change, which is currently being rolled out globally, will certainly increase keyword competition among advertisers and is very likely to raise costs per click. The largest foreseeable impact from these higher rates will understandably be on smaller accounts with small budgets or low keyword bids, as they will have to either increase their bids and/or daily budgets or see their ads lose visibility.

AdWordsWhile the highest impact will be on smaller accounts, the higher cost-per-click will of course affect accounts with larger budgets as well. To ensure their ad extension visibility (reserved for the highest ranking ads) they’ll be forced to pay more due to the sudden increase in competition.

Quality scores, which are impacted by the relevancy of the keyword to the ad copy and the landing page, will be more important than ever. Ads with higher quality scores can pay less per click than competitors by virtue of having greater relevance and providing a better user experience.

Some advertisers may choose to shift a larger allocation of their budget to other platforms, especially Bing. While Bing and Yahoo have some market share, Google still has the highest of all search engines, so we don’t recommend entirely shifting your budget away from AdWords.

What You Should Do

It’s not a question of if PPC accounts will be affected, but by how much. That said, the team at Station Four doesn’t recommend that anyone rush into changes just yet. Monitoring accounts closely is encouraged, but we strongly advise waiting until the actual implications are known before making any big changes.

There are a few things that we do recommend:

  1. Ensure that your landing pages are properly optimized for the keywords that you are targeting.
  2. Review your Adwords account and clean up any keywords with low quality scores or poor average positioning.
  3. Monitor individual keyword performance. If there are keywords averaging below the fourth position, optimize your campaign and landing pages to ensure visibility.

Finally, keep in mind that if your campaign has not been impacted already, any keywords that rank below position four will no longer be visible in the near future. If you have any additional questions about these changes, don’t hesitate to contact Station Four and we’ll be happy to discuss this further or conduct an audit of your AdWords account.

Michael Docster Michael Docster

Digital Marketing Specialist at Station Four