Extracted from the original post on Medium by Louis Thompson, Head of Digital
So it’s happened. The rumour that Google would be removing right hand side ads was real and it’s already happened.
Typically ads displayed in the right hand area are from people who are bidding less that the top 2 or 3 bidders and more often than not see a much lower engagement rate than that the top ads. WordStream estimated that in January 2016 almost 86% of paid clicks came from Google’s top ads.
This could possibly be attributed to the fact that the right hand column results are more obviously ads when compared to the top bidders which the average user could still mistaken for an organic result.
As the removal of right hand side ads come into place, Google will move from 3 ads in the top position to 4 adding slightly more paid real estate to the top of the page.
In the grand scheme of things the removal of right hand ads may not make a huge difference to engagement for most advertisers. In all honesty it makes perfect sense for the ever growing pool of mobile users where right hand ads don’t even make sense.
Even with all of the justifications and logic behind the decision, there will almost certainly be a variety of repercussions that (as advertisers) we should all be aware of.
More Aggressive Bidding Strategies
With less room on the page for paid placements bidding strategies will no doubt become more aggressive. There is no longer an option for smaller advertisers to be content with appearing below fourth position. If you previously bidding on highly competitive key words you will either need to up your bid or not be seen.
More Expensive Real Estate
Like everything in the world, the rarer a commodity is, the more valuable it becomes. With much less real estate to work with and more aggressive bidding strategies, placement in to top spot of search results will most likely become much more expensive.
More Specific Keyword Targeting
Most advertisers will already be as specific as they can with their keyword targeting in order to get the best quality, most relevant traffic they can. There are still situations where advertisers will use broad match, generic keyword strategies to attract a wide audience, specifically in low volume markets. If broad targeting was expensive before, it is only going to get worse.
Bigger Focus on SEO
The move to showing less ads will of course mean an even bigger focus on organic rankings. Displaying high in results for meaningful keywords relating to your brand and products has always been the most coveted reward. With even less room to supplement your organic ranking through paid means, Google is driving brands and agencies to focus on this even more.
How will things look on Google in the future?
I don’t think anyone can truly predict the future of Google’s SERP. For the most part they have maintained an uncluttered look throughout their history and kept pages true to their main function.
Let’s not forget that Google will still use the right hand column to display product listings and knowledge graphs so in many cases, general users may not even notice the difference.
For searches where these options aren’t relevant, there is an odd looking void on the right and side leaving the page looking a little bare like someone who has created a two column wordpress site but forgotten to add all of the widgets that you might usually see there.
It’s not impossible to think that Google may start representing their search results across the full width bringing organic result further above the fold.
Maybe they will go down the route of Facebook and start displaying a single page of results without any pagination and present paid slots throughout the infinite scroll. With ads mixed in with organic content like this, we may see higher engagement rates further down the page. It would also bring the Google more in line with how users expect information to be presented on mobile devices.
This does raise questions about how they will to measure positions of ads and organic content if they do move to a single infinite page format.
Whatever happens in the long term, we can be sure that in the short term we will be seeing a higher CPC, more competition for ad space and more focus on organic rankings for brand and advertisers alike.