Changes to Google AdWords Stir Mixed Emotions
Potential Impact on Pay Per Click Advertising
This month Google eliminated all AdWords text ads from appearing on the right-hand side of SERPs at Google.com on desktop computers. In addition, Google AdWords ads are now taking the top four positions when search results are displayed, pushing down organic non-paid results. Google confirmed that these changes to the layout of its pay-per-click ads on Search Engine Results Pages (“SERPs”) are permanent. What affect will this major change have on businesses and advertisers? Read on …
Historically, Google has only had a few AdWords ads appear at the top of search results. Data shows that ads at the top of SERPs typically receive more clicks than those to the right or bottom of search results pages.
Several more pay-per-click ads (i.e. paid ads) used to appear on the right side of search results, and a few ads appeared at the bottom. Now, the only ads that will appear on the right-hand-side of Google SERPs, are Product Listing Ads, and ads in the Knowledge Panel.
Having one’s AdWords text ads appear at the top of the right-hand column was advantageous. In fact, a well-known strategy among professional advertisers was to bid in such a way that their paid ads would nearly always be lower than positions #1, #2 or #3 at Google.com. This strategy provided two advantages:
A) Such ads would often appear at the top of the list of Google ads in the right-hand column; and
B) The cost-per-click on such ads was much lower than the top three spots at the top of the left-hand column where natural search results appear.
Going forward, purposely positioning ads to be lower than the top three spots, will no longer provide the advantage of residing at the top of the right-hand column, because these ads aren’t allowed to appear there any longer. Such ads will simply play fourth fiddle to ads in the top three spots, or worse, appear at the bottom of SERPs. The average cost per click will probably climb, and casual advertisers who are not well-funded, may well be pushed out of AdWords altogether.
Now that the right-side PPC ads are gone, businesses are affected in two main ways:
- Tougher Competition Among Google PPC Ads.
- Tougher Competition Among Google Organic Listings.
Tougher Competition Among Google PPC Ads:
There will be increased competition at AdWords overall, because the 11 advertisers who used to battle over the 11 spots, now only have 7 spots to battle over. We predict that competition will greatly increase for those coveted top 4 spots.
For businesses investing in pay-per-click (“PPC”) advertising with Google, the change is either a blessing or a curse, depending on each business’ PPC advertising style. For businesses with a professional advertising style (the “Pros”), it’s a blessing. For businesses with a more casual advertising style (the “Casuals”) it’s a curse, and sadly may spell the end of their off-the-cuff AdWords advertising experiments.
The “Pros” are the businesses who either have professional certified search agencies managing their PPC campaigns, or they have in-house certified PPC experts managing their PPC campaigns. These Pros have figured out how to squeeze a positive Return on Investment (“ROI”) out of those high-end clicks. These “Pro” businesses nearly always have deep enough pockets to make serious investments in advertising – to the tune of $1,000/month and up. In addition, they have enough of a budget to pay an average 20%-of-spend management fee to search marketing agencies, or a nice salary to in-house experts, as the case may be.
Going forward, despite the predictably higher cost-per-click of ads that win the top four positions at Google.com, the Pros will maintain the competitive edge, and will not only survive, but thrive. Some Casuals may be squeezed out as they fight over the remaining three positions that appear at the bottom of SERPs. The silver lining is, this may just be the push that Casuals need to re-evaluate and optimize stale AdWords campaigns and ensure they are receiving the greatest ROI for their PPC investments.
Casuals usually have lower advertising budgets, cannot afford to pay a certified search agency or PPC Manager, and they struggle to afford the high bids that higher search positions demand. Casual advertisers who were happy having their paid ads positioned on the right side of the page, will obviously either need to step up and compete for those top four positions, or be satisfied with bottom positions.
Casual advertisers – take heart! AdWords ads appearing at the bottom of SERPs, do get clicked on, and do cost less. Do keep in mind – there will be more competition for those as well. Everyone who used to compete over the seven ad positions that used to exist on the right side and bottom of SERPs, will now be competing over the bottom three positions on the SERPs.
Even if you are a casual business advertiser, we can help! If you’d like some assistance with any of the following, please don’t hesitate to ask:
- Get the latest information regarding current cost-per-click figures;
- Get advice on improving your AdWords overall quality score;
- Discover how to determine which keywords offer the greatest potential ROI;
- Let us analyze your AdWords account and give you expert advice!
We offer Google AdWords Campaign Assessments, Google AdWords Campaign Creation services, and Google AdWords Campaign Management Services for both the Pro advertiser, and the Casual advertiser.
If you are not yet utilizing AdWords for leads/sales/revenues, now is the time! The AdWords experts at Net Site Marketing are happy to get you setup with AdWords campaigns, and answer your questions along the way.
Tougher Competition Among Google Organic Listings:
The switch to four AdWords ads at the top of organic search results only adds to the list of items organic rankings have to compete against for visibility.
When certain search queries are performed, in an effort to show the most relevant results across all platforms, Google routinely sprinkles into organic search results, links to local search results, suggested news stories, suggested images and suggested YouTube videos.
With Google’s new SERPs layout, traditional organic search results are being pushed even further down the page. This is particularly troublesome in cases where local listings, or other content, already appear above traditional organic search results, because it eliminates the appearance of any organic listings above the fold. (The “fold” meaning the bottom of one’s computer screen – the lowest point where one can see search results without having to scroll downward.)
Here is an example of the current above the fold content that appears for a search for “asheville computer repair service” – see Figure 1:
It is a screen capture taken of a 27″ desktop computer screen. The top of the screen shows four Google AdWords ads. Next, a Google map is displayed. Then appears a listing for a local computer repair shop – it’s part of Google’s local search results.
There are zero organic listings above the fold.
In order to see beneath the fold, the user would have to scroll down. Here is what appeared beneath the fold (which is why these items do not appear on the screen capture): two more Google local listings, and a link for “More Places” (more Google local listings).
Then, finally(!), the natural organic listings that people trust – the ones that used to appear at the top of Google SERPs years ago, make an appearance.
It will be interesting to see whether the number of clicks on organic listings will decrease or remain the same. Many are speculating that the new move to four AdWords ads at the top of SERPs is a ploy by Google to increase revenues. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
The impact upon natural search results is obvious. Natural listings are now harder for users to get to, and now even more intensely desired by businesses.
Potential Impact on Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
We believe SEO will become even more important to businesses that want to ensure they remain at the top of local and organic search results. Remember, PPC ads can be very effective, but not AS effective as natural search results listings. And every paid ad click costs money, whereas clicks on local and organic listings optimized by SEO are inherently free. In addition, the benefits of an AdWords campaign immediately cease if the campaign is turned off. By contrast, SEO is a long-term strategy that continues to deliver results years down the road.
Now that natural organic search results are no longer being displayed above the fold in many searches, we theorize that the top organic positions will become even more desirable and competition will grow even fiercer. So if you haven’t optimized your website, now is the time! Net Site Marketing offers both professional SEO Campaigns and full-service Search Engine Marketing (SEM) services, including Google AdWords and Bing Ads.
We want to hear your thoughts on the new Google SERP changes. How do you think it will impact PPC campaigns and SEO campaigns? Please share your comments below.
If you need expert help with pay-per-click advertising, or search engine optimization, please contact us now!