Last week we confirmed that Google is removing ads from the right hand column of search . This also came with the news that four ads will now appear in the top pack, above organic search results, for a number of searches.

We said at the time that this was a huge change and the impact on search marketing will be massive. So today we want to have a closer look at what the AdWords reshuffle means for both paid and organic search.

No more right hand column ads

Okay, so the big news is the loss of right hand column ads on desktop searches. Here’s what you can expect to see from Google searches now:


Note that big empty space on the right where ads used to show. This is what all the fuss is about, but why are so many advertisers kicking up a fuss? Here are the main reasons:

  • Less ads mean less space available to advertisers
  • Which means more competition for the space remaining
  • And that tells us those top three or four ads are about to get more expensive

So, essentially, advertisers are miffed that Google stand to make more money at their expense. Meanwhile, the concern for smaller businesses is they’ll be priced out of the equation. But we suspect there’s more to these changes than pure ad revenue for Google.

What this means for AdWords advertisers

While it’s too early to confirm anything with hard data, it’s a safe bet those top block ads are going to get more expensive. The extra ad in that block for relevant searches will soften the blow to some extent, but CPCs on the whole will almost certainly rise.

The knock-on effect will be more expensive keywords – especially those generic, already competitive ones – and this will probably filter down to less competitive keywords as well. This will leave many advertisers with two options: increase those bids or explore new strategies (eg: run fewer campaigns, find less competitive keywords, etc.).

Essentially, strategy is more important than ever now and we suggest advertisers aim high. Pick your battles carefully with keywords, targeting and other techniques but aim to get in that top block everywhere you can.

We’re also anticipating some increased click-through rates from all this and a higher quality of leads generated for some searches. From our experience, ads in the right hand column weren’t the best performers to begin with and it’s not as if they displayed for every search anyway. And we’re sure a key factor in Google’s decision was user experience – after all, that right hand column made results pages look like an ad spread.

The impact on organic search

The first thing to note on the organic side of thigs is that searches returning four ads in the top block will basically push organic results blow the fold. This is common with a number of result pages anyway, but it looks like another blow for organic at a quick glance.

But when you consider the loss of that right column things start to look a little better. Less ads mean competition for those organic results and that large chunk of white space makes organic results more noticeable. Essentially, less ads means less distraction away from organic results and the visual hierarchy is much more digestible now.

How long this last depends on how often Google serves up Product Listing Ads, because they’ll quickly take all that rediscovered attention away from organic results. So a lot remains to bee seen for the impact on organic search, but it’s not as gloomy as many are making out.

So is it all doom and gloom for paid and organic search via Google. Well, no, not at all. Essentially, this looks like a step in the right direction for user experience and only time will tell if Google honours this. The impact on your AdWords efforts will mostly come down to being a bit more strategic with your approach.

If you’re used to low-budget tactics, then this won’t pose much of a challenge for you. But, if you’re budget is maxed out and you’re not sure how to be more economical, you’ll want to sharpen up your AdWords skills asap. As always, we’re here to help you deal with the latest changes to AdWords and other marketing channels, though, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need a helping hand.