Back in May (2016) Google tested a combination of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) at the top of search results – and it appears to be at it again. We’re used to seeing six items display when PLAs get the nod but Google appears to be testing a reduced set of three ads at the top of results.

The same set of three seems to be showing in the right sidebar when Google opts for this layout. So could we see a reduced number of product listing ads in Google SERPs for early 2017?


You mean Google wants to show less ads?

We know this might sound incredibly un-Google like but the search giant proved it’s not afraid to slash the number of ads on its pages when necessary. The biggest headlines in AdWords for 2016 came when Google ditched the right column ads on its SERPs – the biggest shakeup to how it shows ads in years.

Reducing the number of PLA ads won’t make anywhere near the same kind of impact if Google decides to go with the change. However, it would be significant enough for retailers that use Product Listing Ads, especially those who currently occupy the positions that get dropped.

Here’s a look at what we’re used to seeing from PLAs in the SERPs:

*Source: The SEM Post

And now for the revised 3-pack:

*Source: The SEM Post

If you’re wondering why on Earth Google would want to reduce the number of PLA ads, we’ll there’s no way of knowing for sure. But the 3-pack layout look a lot less cluttered than the 6-pack version and we’re betting Google fancied higher click-through rates from a more minimal approach.

What are PLA ads?

If you’re new to PLA ads and interested in finding out more about them, take a look at the following explainer video from Google:

There’s no guarantee Google will go ahead with reducing the number of PLAs in its search results but this is the second we’ve seen it test out similar formats. So we fancy this could be one that gets pushed out live in the near future and you’ll want to keep an eye on this if you’re used to showing the positions 4, 5 or 6.