In February, Google announced they were removing the right hand side paid ads in their search engine results pages. This change meant that ads would no longer display in the rail to the right of search results and the number of top of the page ads would increase from three to four, plus a further three ads displayed at the bottom of the page below the organic results. This announcement sent advertisers into a mild panic, worried their ads would drop off the SERPs, competition would increase and CPCs would skyrocket.

We gave our initial insight into the update with a timely blog post on Google’s announcement of the update.

Three months on; what actually happened?

Impressions Decreased

With less shelf space available, it was predicted that ad impressions would fall. We have noticed drops from between 10% and 60% in impressions from what Google classes as ‘other’ ad positions, i.e. side or bottom ads.

CTR Increased

It’s estimated over 90% of clicks previously came from top ads anyway, thus the removal of the side ads will likely not have had much effect on overall click volume. Of course, impressions from ads that previously sat in lower positions – 8 and below – will have dropped off completely, however these ads will likely have brought in very few clicks prior to the change in any case.

Overall, the reduced impression volumes (11 dropped to 7 ads per page) paired with minor impact to overall clicks means that advertisers will have seen their CTR increase quite significantly.

CPCs stayed flat

The expectation was that CPCs would inflate due an increase in competition for fewer ad slots. Most companies are actually reporting that their CPCs have not been impacted by the removal of side ads as feared and some are even claiming a slight dip in costs.

Improvements on Average Positions

Internet response to this change indicates that most advertisers are seeing an improvement on their average positions. At addmustard, we’ve found that average ad positions have increased by around 0.3 places. Happy days!

SEO Impact

It was foretold that removing the right hand side paid ads in the SERPs could have dramatic consequences for the organic results. It is obvious that SEO visibility on page one is more important than ever, however, addmustard has not noticed any important change in terms of organic visits or CTRs. We also do not find any pattern that indicates this right-hand side ads removal has negatively affected our clients.

It’s safe to say that what could have been a major change in the SERPs has in reality had a very minor impact on AdWords advertisers’ performance.

Our recommendations

Here’s what our SEM experts suggest for making use of the space available:

  • Create highly relevant and engaging ad copy.
  • Keep testing and making improvements.
  • Keep and eye on top performing keywords and ensure those ads are always visible.
  • Use as much of the available space as possible which means of course, utilise all available ad space and ad extensions.