Google confirmed Saturday that it will stop serving paid-search advertisements on the right side of search engine query page results, with some exceptions. The change sparked concern among search marketers supporting paid-search advertisements and search engine optimization.
"We've been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries," per a Google spokesperson. "We'll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers."
The layout adds a fourth paid-search advertisement above the organic search results, and up to three beneath the organic search results. In some cases, product listing ads will serve-up in the right-hand column, as well as the knowledge graph, information about the brand or retailer, which includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media links.
For brands it could mean rising cost per clicks for paid-search advertisements. One agency suggests that if organic content is unable to change as quickly as demand, there becomes a stronger need for paid-search ads to accompany the content.
"Ads at the top always perform better and have fetched a higher CPC, so I get it," says Rob Griffin, chief innovation officer at ad agency Almighty.
Griffin says this will impact advertisers with a lower-priced bid strategy, trying to gain more visibility.
DigitasLBI VP and group director Brian Valentini plans to monitor the change for possible reduction in traffic, decrease in conversions, and rise in CPCs. He says it's possible for more clicks to go to the first advertiser and/or first organic search listing on the page, and with fewer listing above the fold and the chance of decreased traffic interactions with brands and conversions could fall. The change also will drive-up competitiveness with fewer ads at the top.
"The big question becomes -- will the increase in CPCs make up for the decrease in revenue from having fewer ads for searchers to click on above the fold?" Valentini says. "I think this is a big gamble on Google's part, but it does provide a seamless ad and search experience across mobile, tablet, and desktop devices."
While Google says the new layout reduces the total number of ads that serve up with desktop search results, the change aims to drive better return on investment for advertisers.
Google says these ads are labeled "highly" relevant, which are often more up to date than organic results. Generally, this layout results in fewer ads on desktop for each query, and aligns more with what searchers would see in Google's mobile experience.
"Brands should closely monitor results and track performance fluctuations. While we may not have an option to influence Google's decision, we can be vigilant to control our search marketing presence to ensure success," Valentini says.