SEOs and digital marketing pros alike weighed in last week when Google officially removed right-hand sidebar ads from SERPs. The change spurred much debate regarding whether the ads were effective, what this means for the future of search and how this change will affect organic rankings. I spoke with Organik SEO’s SEO specialist, Danny Lima, to learn more about the change.
SK: What prompted Google to make this change?
DL: There are different theories. It could be that ads on the right side of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) had a lower click-through-rate (CTR) than ads on top of SERPs. We reviewed several ads in our client accounts and this could certainly be the case. The average cost-per-click (CPC) is much lower for right-hand side ads. Google probably knew that if it removed real estate that wasn’t performing well, it could increase profit for the limited real estate it has now.
Another possibility is that Google intends to bring back paid ads, but in the form of ads within knowledge panels. SEO By The Sea mentioned a potential patent that Google filed last year which refers to “entity-based searching with content selection.” The author states that content selection is determined by advertisements and landing pages.
Currently, this is strictly experimentation by Google, but I bet Google will roll this out in the future.
SK: Do you think the right-hand ads were effective?
DL: If advertisers used a lower-priced bid strategy, then yes, the ads were effective. Google started to see this as a trend and noticed a poor click-through-rate and profit. Companies were using right side ads for exposure and brand awareness. Google could have seen an increase in brand-driven search queries.
SK: How does this change affect organic search?
DL: Honestly, it’s hard to say right now. While Google is removing the right-hand side ads, it’s also adding a fourth ad on the top of SERPs to, and I’m quoting Google, increase “high commercial” searches. This may push organic search results lower and decrease the click-through-rate for positions 1-10 on the first page for organic searches. For example, a number one ranking in organic search could be at 32.5% with the traditional three paid search ads on top. That number might decrease by adding a fourth paid search ad on top.
At the same time, this might have a positive effect on organic search. Fewer distractions on searches might draw more attention to natural, organic results. This could change the way SEOs perform keyword research. This move could force marketers to think like paid search marketers. Marketers will start to meet users at the “micro-moments” of the buying process, which may be what Google intends. This change will also emphasize the importance of great content and a dialed in keyword research strategy.
Call it a stretch, but I believe there is another positive effect on organic search due to this change. Google seems to be pushing for a mobile-first mentality, which could mean that the desktop user experience might begin to mirror a mobile experience. On mobile, users are already inclined to scroll down and because desktop SERPs are now emulating mobile, we may see desktop users begin to scroll down the SERPs, which could change the overall click-through rate of organic search results on the first page.
SK: What should site owners and SEOs do in response to this change?
Benchmark rankings now and add an annotation in Google Analytics. Revisit the data after 30 days, and let the data and user behavior determine what your next steps should be. This reminds me of mobilegeddon. Stay calm and let the data dictate your next move.
SK: How do you think this will affect user experience?
DL: This change encourages a cohesive and clean design. It bridges the gap between mobile and desktop now that both have a similar layout. I think this is what Google has been pushing for since it made mobile a priority.Learn more about our SEO Specialist, Danny, here. Fun fact: He’s an ambidextrous ping pong player.
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