On February 19th, Google confirmed that they will no longer be displaying ads on the right hand side bar of desktop search results. These changes are the result of AdWord tests that Google has been running since 2010 and are set to have a dramatic impact on advertiser’s CPCs, CTRs, ranking positions and SEO practices.

What are the significant changes?

According to Search Engine Land, there are five substantial changes to consider when you are optimizing your SEA and SEO practices going forward:

  1. There will no longer be any text ads on the right hand side bar of desktop SERPs.
  2. There will now be up to four text ads displayed above the organic listings at the top of results pages for ‘highly commercial queries’.
  3. There will be three additional text ads shown at the bottom of desktop SERPs.
  4. There will be a maximum of seven text ads shown on a SERP, down from the previously allowed eleven.
  5. There will be relevant Knowledge Panels and Product Listing Ad Blocks displayed on the right hand rail.

The changes that are being implemented with this latest update apply to all desktop search results on Google and Google’s search partners. The update is permanent and will be applied worldwide, affecting search queries in all countries and languages.

What are the predicted consequences of these changes?

Many industry experts are predicting that by Google displaying fewer ads per page, the CPCs will increase due to a limited supply and a higher demand. Whether advertisers will be willing to pay the same price for ads displayed on the top and bottom of SERPs and what the CTR will be remains to be seen, but not everyone shares the same opinion. Martin Roettgerding, head of SEM at Bloofusion, believes that the changes will largely benefit paid advertisers as top and bottom ad positions have a higher percentage of conversions – offsetting any side ad losses.

Martin Roettgerding Twitter_SEA CTR
While we will undoubtedly know who is right for sure shortly, the update is already affecting positions. According to the Search Engine Journal “High volume and general search terms have been most severely affected by the update so far. Long-tail and niche terms will begin to see their right hand ads disappear in the coming weeks.”

What are ‘highly commercial queries’?

As I mentioned above, Google has implemented a change in the ads displayed in the area above organic listings. The SERPs will now show four ads for ‘highly commercial queries’, which Google defines as searches with the intent to purchase. Examples would include searches like ‘cake shops near me’ or ‘car rentals in Munich’. As Google said in their official statement “We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. 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 one thing that is certain about this ad update is that it will have far reaching repercussions for SEO and SEA practices. Keep on top of Google updates with OMMAX workshops and make sure your traffic stays unaffected.