In one of the most drastic changes in paid search we’ve seen for years, Google is ditching ads in the right column of desktop searches. Advertisers have been noticing for some time that less ads are appearing in the right hand side of Google searches, but AdWords representatives have now confirmed the move as a permanent update.

More ads on top, (almost) no gutter ads

The change will see three ads at the top of search results and three at the bottom, but none at all in the right column. With some exceptions where Google says it may show an additional ad so there will be four and not three above the search results for what it calls “highly commercial queries.” Regardless of whether there’s three or four ads this move will bring desktop search another giant step closer to the mobile experience, which Google has been working on for years. In fact, Google has been testing this move since way back in 2010, so it’s not a change the search giant is making lightly.

Now that rollout is upon us, though, it will apply to all searches, in every language worldwide, with two exceptions, according to Search Engine Land:

  • Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes, which will continue to show in the right column for some searches (or above the fold).
  • Ads in the Knowledge Panel, which will continue to show in the gutter for relevant searches.

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What this means for advertisers

Well, the obvious impact is this leaves less space for text ads in searches that once displayed a right column. This has a knock-on effect in terms of cost per click (cpc) ad position, visibility and competition as well, of course. It will be interesting to see what this means for ad performance, once the change has been rolled out for long enough. We already know Google’s early tests of four ads at the top of results was highly unpopular with many marketers, which could be a preview of things to come.

In terms of Google motives, we suspect the move could be to accommodate the ever-growing presence of product listing ads. Google is working hard to bridge the gap between search and shopping, as the rise of social commerce gives it a new kind of competition to think about.

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