Google ads – have they really gone?
That’s right folks. Google is no longer showing ads on the side of its search results pages. No matter where you are searching from, or in what language, the roll-out was applied this week to users worldwide. If you’ve not already noticed, go on, try it. See? Nothing. Nada.
Ok, so for many search terms there will be something filling the gap – just not your standard Google ads. Expect to see Product Listing Ads (PLAs – items you can click on and buy immediately) and Knowledge Graph Boxes (the lovely tidy fact boxes that teach you about said Googled topic) filling the space instead.
So where have the ads actually gone?
At the cost of an organic spot, Google has decided to expand the space for PPC (Pay Per Click) by plopping these paid ads in the main bulk of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page, to those in the know). Google ads will now show at the top (three or four ads, depending on how ‘commercial’ the search term is) and at the bottom (two or three ads, we don’t think they’ve quite decided yet judging by today’s Google-searching research).
For companies investing in SEO, this makes the organic space even more precious. For those investing in Paid Search, competition for the top slot will certainly become tougher. Whichever realm you fall in, Google’s changes will see us all having to up our game.
But why? What’s up Google?
Google is claiming that the move is to deliver a modern, more ‘centred’ search experience that reflects the current mobile/tablet aesthetic and provides a smoother, more uniform experience for desktop and portable device users. Nice. But perhaps we should take this little sweetener with a pinch of salt.
One of the first industry players to break the story, The Media Image has reported a different reason. These guys speculate that the move is a result of Google determining that “the average click-through-rate for Right Hand Side Ads is poor across verticals, and the expected CPC inflation from this major change is projected to more profitable in the long run.”
Google ads with a poor click-through-rate? How?
Let’s face it; previously, not many of us would click on the right-hand side ads. However – reports show that non-tech-savvy SE users barely distinguish between the paid ads that show at the top/bottom and the organic, SEO-driven results. Integrating paid ads in with the organic results will certainly blur the line even more for these users, increasing the chances of them clicking on a paid ad and ultimately, further lining the pockets of Google.
Worryingly, the changes now mean that for many search terms there is almost no space above the fold (the bit of page visible before you have to scroll) for organic results. So guys, get your scrolling fingers ready, because we’re going to have to head south for non-PPC results.
So what does it all mean?
The move will almost definitely make SEO efforts more competitive – conversion rates will be even more vital and focus will likely fall on long tail keywords and more specific searches. Now that paid ads are loud and proud, it’s also likely that PPC will become more expensive for popular search terms.
Whether or not the move improves Google’s overall user experience, only time will tell. More scrolling implies that these results will be harder for users to find what they’re looking for, but (if this change is anything to go by) Google would tell us that it’s actually the paid ads that people are searching for. Whatever Google says, the general consensus between marketers seems to be that businesses must ‘get better at SEO, or invest more in PPC – or both.’
As always, we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on Google’s mysterious and mercurial ways… And we’re sure we’re not the only ones. Will you be too? Hit us up on social @K2LMarketing or www.facebook.com/K2LMarketing and share your thoughts.