In February of this year it was confirmed that Google was doing away with the right-side ads used on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). While this was actually a long-time coming and could be seen sporadically by those who constantly used Google, some experts were surprised. Most searches if not all feature this update now since the confirmation in mid February.
Since doing away with the right-side ads, Google has now shifted it’s focus towards the top and bottom sponsor ads area.
While no one is certain of Google’s intentions behind this some SEO experts say it is to gain more revenue from the top position paying advertisers (those ranking 1-3) and results from eye tracking studies. Also some experts say it’s to gain even clicks from non-technical users being that the top and bottom area isn’t as obvious as the right side was for being commercially driven.
The team at Google has also confirmed that in high commercial queries algorithm will sometimes feature 4 top ads at the top area where it previously was a maximum of 3.
So what does all this mean?
Previously with right-side ads Google had a maximum of 11 ads featured during a search. With the confirmation and now via SERPs we see that the maximum ads featured on a page is 7. With less space this means that Google Adword’s suggested bid and minimum bidding will have possibly have an increase especially for highly competitive niches. Everyone that was competing for more of a brand recognition using Adwords and PPC ranked in the 8th – 11th spots will now be in a bidding war with the 6th or 7th which could possibly lead to a trickle up event raising the top bidding for many of the high commercial queries.
While it is still a little to early to know the overall effects of this change some people such as Martin Roettgerding (the head of SEM / SEA at Bloofusion Germany) think it could possibly lower CPC:
“There are more top slots now. That alone would mean lower prices for the top. This part is much more certain than the demand side #ppcchat” – Martin Roettgerding
What does this do for SEO?
Between more ads at the top and bottom that are a bit more inconspicuous as the right side ads were and a higher click through rate than ever, being in the top 3 organically is becoming even more important. When asked by Search Engine Watch, Kevin Gibbons had this to say:
“My advice is to aim high. We’ve definitely see a significant shift in first page clickthrough rates over the last couple of years especially in organic search. Ranking on page one is often not good enough anymore, every term is different – but I’d recommend that you really should be aiming top three now, otherwise there’s likely to a big drop-off in clickthrough rates Also, become the brand that people think of before they even get to typing a query into Google…” – Kevin Gibbons
It is to be noted that this only effects those viewing SERPs from Desktop so this is not a highly volatile thing as some SEO writers have predicted. If you were to read the originally thoughts of some SEO researches you would have thought this was a doomsday event for Adwords and PPC. Research suggests that the right side only received 13~15% of clicks.
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