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6 Questions everyone is asking about the Adwords layout change

by: Tim Richardson

on: 1st March, 2016

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How will the removal of the sidebar ads affect your Adwords account?

As some of you will have heard by now, Google has officially announced for desktop searches they are removing all Adwords text ads from the right sidebar, and for what they class as highly commercial searches, going to show 4 ads at the top of the page.

With this news many of you are probably wondering

Why has Google decided to do this?
How will this affect my Click Through Rate (CTR) and conversions?

Will my ads get less exposure?
Is my CPC going to increase?
What about my SEO, will I see less traffic come through?
Are there any alternatives I can use instead?

These questions will be up to speculation as to how this will affect us, but let’s take a look one by one and see what the results might look like, and what you should be looking out for in your campaigns.

1. Why has Google decided to do this?

There will be a few reasons for this, one of them will be to increase revenue, less ads on first page, leads to more competitiveness, which means higher bids and more revenue for Google.

There will also be that the right hand text ads are not as often looked and clicked at (more on this after), and as some of you like me, will have seen from segmenting top vs other, the CTR of right hand ads is significantly lower than ads shown on top of the SERP’s, and this is what test have shown it looks like when people search.

why-google-is-removing-right-hand-ads

Image source: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Google-removing-ads-from-the-right-side-of-the-desktop-search-page

As you can see, all concentration is on the left hand side of the SERP’s, and very little on the right, Google have probably looked at all their data and decided that they are not worth keeping and have gone in the direction they have.

It also looks like the now empty right hand space will be where the Product Listings Ads (PLA) will show for shopping related searches. With these ads being more visually appealing than the text ads, they should pull in more attention and clicks. Google might also decide to show more of PLA’s than they currently do.

2. How will this affect my CTR and conversions

When I first saw the news I was a little worried, I was not sure if I would be able to keep up as good a CTR and conversions through Adwords with a lack of righthand ads.

Logging into my Adwords account quickly going to one of my highest performing adgroups, I segmented the keywords using top vs other to try and get an idea about the amount of impressions and clicks I might lose.

I looked at keywords in a number of adgroups and the common thing I noticed was this;

adwords-segmented-position-top-vs-other

In many cases, even though impressions were fairly equal between the two, almost all of my clicks were coming from my ads showing at on the tops spots, the impressions gained from other positions were getting very little or no clicks and bringing down my CTR. Here is one from an adgroup of mine.

segmenting-top-vs-other-in-ggolge-adwords

Even though I have had four times the impressions come through for ecommerce website terms in other positions, none of them have had any clicks.

I believe if you look at your keyword and ad performance, you will see similar results. Why not segment yours now and take a look? Check the past ninety days and see what it looks like to get a better idea.

To do this, log into your Adwords account and choose whether you want to see campaigns, adgroups, ads or keywords, then click on segment and change this to top vs other, from here you will be able to see impressions and clicks split between top positions, other positions on the Google SERP’s and search partner websites.

Adwords-how-to-segment-top-vs-other

Knowing this, I believe that the majority of us will either see our impressions drop, but our CTR and conversions remain in proportion to the impressions we have, or even improve, as you won’t be wasting impressions on the right hand column ads.

Now that you have some idea how your ads in other performed, what we will need to look at next is the average positions of your keywords, at the moment I am looking at anything that the average is below 5.0 I am having concerns about, these ads are likely to still show on the first page, but below the SERP’s.

Personally I am not convinced that ads shown below the SERP’s perform as well (if someone has any data that can tell us otherwise please do share it), my reasoning for this is fairly simple, there is too much choice above them.

Think of it this way, we now have (potentially) fourteen search results showing above the ads that will display at the bottom, up to four paid at the top, then the organic ten, how confident do you feel these will get you many clicks? I can’t imagine they will.

3. Will my ads get less exposure?

To answer this, we might need to make some educated predictions based on what we know, we will now be seeing up to four ads at the top of the page and up to three ads below the organic Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s) at the bottom of the page.

You might be able to get an idea of how many ads will show above the SERP’s for your keywords by doing an ad preview and diagnosis.

To do this, go to one of your keywords and hover your mouse over the speech bubble next to it this will show up, on there click ad preview and diagnosis and a new tab will open.

Adwords-PPC-how-to-preview-and-diagnosis

 

In here click preview and you will be able to see the amount of ads at the top and bottom of the page, you will be able to search different keywords you target and see what the results look like.

adwords-how-to-ad-preview-and-diagnose-keywords

Be warned though, I have run ad previews and diagnosis multiple times and it always shows ads at the bottom of the page, but when performing searches on Google, I don’t always see ads at the bottom, this could be because the changes are still being rolled out though.

So now you have an idea of for some of your keywords the amount of results you will see at the top,  let’s take a look at the keyword average positions, and see what might happen, we will look at them as if we have four ads displaying at the top, if you mostly have three, adjust where needed:

Average positions 1 – 4 will show at the top of the page.
Average positions 5 – 7 will show at the bottom or pushed to page 2.
Average position 8 – 10 will be pushed onto the second page.

That seems like a reasonable prediction doesn’t it?

So it looks likely, if you’re keywords don’t normally show in the top six or seven positions, you could lose out on impressions and I believe if you are not in the top three or four positions, you will be seeing less clicks.

4. Is my CPC going to increase?

The way I see this, is we now have a maximum of seven ads rather than ten ads on the first page of results, which will mean more competition to get your ad featured on the first page, with this showing up more on keywords.

adwords-Google-ppc-below-first-page-bid

With more competition and a bigger fight for the top spots, people will bid more to gain those higher positions meaning that CPC’s will go up, unfortunately it looks like paying more could be inevitable. This is not to say it will, there are a few different factors that make this up, like competitiveness of the keyword and your market, how broad or specific the terms you are using are etc. but some of us targeting more generic or broad terms, may see the CPC increase.

5. What will happen to my organic search results?

Many of you, like me, will be wondering if all the hard work you’ve put into SEO to move your website onto the first page and up the organic rankings, will affected by this new Adwords layout.

For some searches, three ads at the top of the page is normal, and these won’t be affected, in fact they might improve, without the right hand ads, searchers only options will be to go down the centre page results. For searches where the amount of ads showing at the top increases, your search results might look like this.

new-four-ads-at-top-of-google-serps

This will depend on rich snippets and knowledge graph data being pulled through, but organic rankings are going to be pushed further down.

This is a tricky question to answer, for me, I will almost always skip the ads and go straight for the organic results when searching, for someone like my mum, she will click on the first results that come up, some of it will come down to searcher behaviour behaviour.

For first page rankings, where there are searches with more ads at the top, you may see some change to your organic CTR, but nothing significant.

For second page rankings, the new way the ads are displayed, will make them more noticeable as they are grouped with the organic search results, this could reduce the CTR you see from second page rankings.

 6. Are there any alternatives I can use instead?

For some of us, using Adwords search network might become too expensive to continue with, the good news is there are alternatives,

Bing ads
Similar to Google Adwords, but ads are shown on Bing and other partner websites like Yahoo, MSN, AOL.

Social ads
An area many marketers have moved into to expand their reach advertising on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, their targeting options allow you to target as broadly or specifically as you like. It is a little tricky to get into to start with, but rewarding when you get up and running.

Other Google paid marketing
Google has other paid marketing channels you may not have tried, that could be worth a look;

PLA – These are ads of products, that show an image, price and website, allowing searchers to have a better idea of what they are going to see, reducing costs and increasing conversions, this is more of an ecommerce advertising so if that isn’t what you do, this won’t be for you.
Display – Allows you to advertise on the Google partner network which is made up of over one million websites and apps, you can advertise here with text and banners ads.
Video – You know those ads that appear on Youtube just before the video? Those are the video ads.

Invest more in your other successful marketing
Whether that is printed ads, SEO, shows and exhibitions etc. look at what you are currently achieving in the other areas you invest in, you may be able to generate more leads and sales from investing more time and money could further improve them.

When it comes down to it, there is nothing we can do to change what has happened, we can only roll with it, maybe some of what I’ve predicted won’t be as bad as we thought or not happen at all, but this is the new face of Google Adwords, and we will either have to work with it, or move away.

Why not drop us a message on Social media as to how this has affected you, and what your plans are with this new update. If you want your Adwords campaigns auditing or get them optimised for better ROI, you can send us a message or call us on 01952 897444.

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