POV: Changes in Google's Paid Search Results

Earlier this month, Google confirmed that search results on desktop will no longer contain paid search ads on the right-hand sidebar. Instead, 4 text ads will appear above the organic search results. This is a big shift from the previous paid ad format, which had 1-2 ads above the organic results and up to 5 ads on the right rail.

So, how will advertisers be affected?

Paid search cost per click (CPC) will increase. With fewer available ad spaces on page one, competitive brands will spend big to maintain their prime positioning.

Campaign budgets won’t buy as much total traffic given the increased CPCs. Advertisers will likely need to consider an increase in budget to maintain consistent traffic volume.

Visibility and traffic will decrease for ads below the top 4 positions. Very few people click beyond the first page. Going forward, a position of 5 will land advertisers on the second page.

Sites with organic rankings of 6-10 will see a decrease in traffic. Even though Google still shows 10 organic results for many queries, the increased prominence of the paid ads decreases the chances that a user will scroll far enough to engage with the bottom half of the organic results.

How should advertisers respond from a campaign strategy perspective?

Don’t panic. When the change was announced, several advertisers reactively increased their bids across the board. This is great for Google’s revenue, but bad for your campaign’s bottom line.

Monitor, measure and optimize. Monitor your campaign’s average conversions, clicks and position. If the data indicate that a decrease in bottom-line metrics correlates with lost visibility, consider increasing bids on the keywords that have the performance history to justify the investment.

Diversify ad formats. With more competition at the top, advertisers should use every tool at their disposal to stand out from the pack. Consider exploring enhancements like ad extensions, which bring a wealth of new features directly to the ad that shorten the users’ path to deeply engaging with your site.

Diversify ad channels. With more competition in traditional paid search, alternative ad channels are more attractive than ever. Channels like the Google Display Network offer cost-effective options to target qualified users with text and banner ads. Brands within the e-commerce space can drive targeted, product-specific reach using Google Shopping Ads.

Re-examine organic visibility. It’s a great time for advertisers to examine how their sites are appearing in the organic search results. This is especially true for brands that focus a bulk of their daily efforts on paid search. Conduct an organic search audit and address the issues it uncovers. Even brands that don’t have budgets for recurring organic strategy can score some quick wins by addressing the low-hanging fruit in their organic strategy.