On Friday Google confirmed a significant update to its search engine results page (SERP) with the removal of the right hand side ads on desktop. This change comes as a result of continuous testing in an evolving digital ecosystem and is expected to be deployed in full worldwide by the end of the week.

The Details

In the new configuration, the desktop SERP layout will more closely resemble the mobile experience where there is no right rail. A maximum of seven ads will be shown on the desktop –  up to four above the organic results and three ads at the bottom. The fourth potential ad on top will be reserved for what Google is calling “highly commercial queries.” The exception to this change is Product Listing Ads, which will remain on the top and right panel on the results page.

Industry Implications

From an industry standpoint, Google is not the only publisher that has been experimenting with the number of ads and placements within the consumer experience. Facebook, for example, has also adapted its desktop advertising, reducing the number of Newsfeed ads to improve relevance and quality and redesigning its ads in the right-hand column.

As consumer behavior evolves, it’s important for publishers to consider the user experience, how it can be bettered, and how ads can be most effective.

Advertiser Implications

For the advertiser, there are several implications to consider with this change. With less ad slots available, impression levels will likely decline, and we expect keywords with higher traffic to become more competitive as brands invest in making sure they appear in the top spots. This will be especially significant for head terms; as a result, it is likely CPCs will increase for those spots.

Mobile traffic should not be affected, only desktop. Although impressions and traffic may decline, expect clicks and overall click-through rates (CTR) to increase as ads on the top of paid search results have historically received significantly higher CTR than ads on the right.

Advertisers should keep an eye on performance and adapt their strategy as key variables like click volume, CTR, and CPC may fluctuate for their keywords as a result of this change.

The Bottom Line

The true impact of this update is yet to be seen.

Feel assured that Kenshoo is uniquely equipped to handle this type of change; investments into the platform and algorithms have been made to adapt to the continuously changing search experiences by better incorporating impression share and minimum first page bid, and overhauling the way Kenshoo Search models position-based changes to performance.

We plan to continue to monitor this update closely to understand the full effects, provide recommendations to best adapt to this new environment, and make this transition as seamless as possible for advertisers.