Yep, it’s true. Google has recently made some big changes to its search engine results page (SERP for short). Earlier this week Google announced that effective immediately there will be big changes to the way its users interact with the results page. Now to be honest, for your average user, it would possibly go unnoticed, but for those of us in the digital marketing landscape, what does it actually mean? The truth is that at this stage we can only speculate as to how it will impact campaign performance and SEM strategies, in the meantime here are some answers to the big questions…
What on earth happened?
Well you might notice that when you were searching this time last week there were results on the right hand side of the page:
Now they’re gone:
Essentially Google has decided to change the layout of its search results in order to bring it in line with its mobile and tablet interface. The ads from the right hand side of the page have been cut out and from now on will only show three ads at the top of the search page (or four ads for searches deemed to be ‘highly commercial’) as well as three results at the bottom of the page.
Ok cool, but why?
Well there is a lot of debate on this topic. The truth is that only Google really knows the answer, however we can make some pretty informed guesses as to the reasons. At the end of the day, Google AdWords is an auction based advertising system. Without getting too deep into how it all works, the more competition there is for a keyword, the more money you need to bid in order to be considered for the top advertising placements on Google. Quite simply, Google has reduced the number of first page ad positions from around 11, to roughly 7, creating higher demand and in turn increasing competition across the board. It is likely that costs will go up if you’re looking for a podium finish for your ad placement.
At the end of the day, AdWords is the biggest revenue stream for Google and in 2015 generated an estimated $67.3b for the company. Like any business, they want to see growth and one way to do that is to increase demand for their advertising platform.
Is this really a big deal?
At first glance it could be all doom and gloom, however looking a bit deeper into the impact of this change gives us a clearer picture. In reality roughly 14% of all clicks on Google ads come from the right hand column. Further to this less than half of all searches are made on a desktop. If we use these rough figures then we can say approximately 7% of all Google searches resulting in click throughs on ads will be impacted by this new change. Doesn’t sound too bad now does it?
In reality the big loser in this whole change seems to be the humble organic listing which as a result of the changes will be pushed below the fold (depending on screen size/resolution). Where SEM strategists need to really stay on the ball is how to best create holistic campaigns which don’t feel the impact of this change quite so much.
Here is a breakdown for what it means by platform:
Overall SEM strategy:
Why Google… just, why?
Dave Mooney is a Digital Strategist at BCM