It’s now official Google has removed advertising from the right-hand side of their search engine results pages (SERPS). They have now placed 4 ad positions at the top of the page, which previously only played host to 3 at most. The right side of the page is now looking sadly empty, and everything above the fold, is now paid advertising.
Google has been testing this change for a few months now which has caused a lot of speculations in the Adwords world about what this could mean for advertisers, and where Google could be heading with this.
At the Moz headquarters during the beginning of Feb, their data showed that SERPs containing 4 ad positions at the top of the page accounted for around 1% of all SERPs. On February 18, this jumped to 18.9%, then 36.45% by the end of the month.
Pages that are showing 4 ads at the top have now overtaken pages that show 2 or 3 and now account for more than one third of all top-of-the-page ad blocks.
The ads look identical as before, with the exception of the fourth listing added in. Although public statements from Google have suggested that the 4-ad blocks will be mostly occurring on highly commercial searches, Moz has tracked some exceptions on other phrases such as
bible verses, and
habitat for humanity.
Although the disappearance of the right hand column, and the introduction of the 4-block of ads at the top of the page are two separate moves by Google, their coincidental timing has experts in the industry theorising what the motivation behind the changes has been. In the past, the right-hand column has been seen to contain up to 8 paid advertising positions, so this change has supposedly meant a significant drop in overall ad positions available. According to the MozCast data set, ads now max out at 7 per page, with a total ad count of 25,755. As of February 16, there were up to 11 ads on a page (3 top + 8 side) and a total count of 43,740 ads. This equates to a 41.1% drop in AdWords ads and leaves us pondering the new direction Google has in their sights.
There are a few notable theories worth mentioning
1. Mobile does not support right-hand column advertisements, so this may be Google’s way of standardising their ads across all devices.
2. Over the years, we’ve seen a few new features pop up within the SERPs which feature in the right hand panel ‐ such as shopping suggestions and knowledge panels. Perhaps this adjustment was to make room for more initiatives of this kind.
Experts in the industry were quick to have their say about what their thoughts are on Google’s intentions, and it’s been widely viewed as being purely commercial driven. But Google has never been one to sacrifice short term profits at the cost of market share, so we’re excited to see how their plans pan out.
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