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24 . 2 . 16

Google’s move to 4 top ads – How will this impact SEO?


On 19 February 2016, Google confirmed that search results pages on desktop will no longer show text ads in the right sidebar. Instead, Google has stated that four ads will appear above the organic listings and three ads will display at the bottom of the page. To confirm, these updates are rolling out permanently worldwide on both Google.com and search partners.

Ultimately this will affect both PPC and SEO performance. With real estate at a premium, we expect an increase in cost per clicks (CPCs) for PPC campaigns. Organic clicks will also be impacted – as the natural listings will be pushed further down the page (below the fold in some cases) and thus making them less visible to the user.

Google have publically stated that four ads (instead of 3) may show more often on highly commercial queries such as “car insurance” (these are queries in which Google perceives an intent to purchase), therefore this change will not impact all search terms.

It is also worth noting that, even with the increase in ads at the top on the search results, the right-hand column historically contained up to 8 ads, so this shift represents an overall drop in PPC ad positions from as many as 11 to a maximum of 7. Therefore, this could actually prove beneficial for organic click through rates – if a user scrolls down the page then the competition from right-hand PPC ads is removed.

Our Analyst team at twentysix will be able to monitor your site’s organic click through rate from the data provided in Google’s Search Console. Once there is a full month of data, we will be able to compare against the results prior to the update and report back on the initial impact.

From an SEO perspective, ranking positions will continue to be an important metric, however, this update also highlights the importance of organic ad messaging and relevant on-site content which targets the right audience. Joining up your SEO and PPC efforts is key to understanding how both channels interact and how to achieve optimal performance from search. Utilising successful PPC messaging to inform SEO ad text will ensure a consistent brand message, help improve organic click-through-rates, and increase website conversions.

As Moz.com have speculated, this change supports Google’s move to towards mobile-first design and since mobile doesn’t support the right-hand column, Google may be trying to standardise the advertising ecosystem across devices.

We will continue to monitor the search landscape and report back on any further updates.


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