Google’s Right Rail Ads Are Gone. What Now?
From a marketer’s point of view, Google ridding itself of right-rail ads may be a good thing. On Tuesday, I searched on my desktop computer for “insurance” and had to scroll down, down, down to find the first organic search result. On a less common search term, however, only organic terms popped up in the main listing, but I did see ads to the right — just not in the right rail.
While Google’s official blogs didn't talk about the changes, a Googler did talk to Search Engine Land, according to the publication’s post on Friday. It reads: “Ads will not appear on the right side of desktop search results, with two exceptions: Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes, which show either above or to the right of search results [and] ads in the Knowledge Panel.”
And since then, vendors sent reactions about it to Target Marketing.
“From Google’s perspective, these changes benefit searchers by putting more focus on ‘more up-to-date’ results, which just so happen to be paid ads that can be updated nearly instantaneously, as opposed to organic results which take longer to impact rankings,” says Dave Ragals, global managing director of search at IgnitionOne, in a statement emailed to Target Marketing on Tuesday. “For advertisers, it means greater pressure to be above the fold, which means higher CPCs. While some advertisers may find some value in the bottom-of-the-page results, the CPC spread between Positions 4 (for queries that display four ads above the organic listings) and [Position] 5 could be significant.”
What Ragals means by “bottom-of-the-page results” is this:
Totaled up, I saw seven paid ad results for my “insurance” query, three Google Places listings, three Google News items and nine organic results (the top two of which were the top two paid ads above the fold).
As for my “how to be a gentleman” search (I’m curious about how many men look this up) I got a right-side result in what Google calls the “Knowledge Panel.” (Notice that’s not the usual terminology of “fact box”? Perhaps that's because of the "sponsored" possibilities?)
Ben Kirshner, CEO at Elite SEM, sent these insights to Target Marketing on Monday:
- Does This Create a Supply and Demand Issue for Marketers? Yes, it takes away a lot of real estate for text ads. So the paid ads on top of the organic search results will get even more important. Google is moving the first four paid listings to the top of the page, where there used to be only three. I expect a lot of advertisers will make a run for these four spots, because they are far more effective. That could increase the pricing dramatically. On the other hand – with all clicks now driven to the top ads, CTRs (click through rates) are bound to increase, which will boost overall quality scores and drive CPC (cost per click) back down. We’ll need to watch this closely to see which way it goes.
- Is There More Change to Come? I expect Google to move shopping ads into the right-rail space that’s now vacant. That could be very good news for e-commerce advertisers, who typically get a higher return from the right rail. The top gets the most clicks, but they tend to be the impulse of window shoppers; whereas, the right rail attracts people who study the fine print to make an informed decision. They make their clicks count. From a conversion standpoint, in terms of ROI, the right rail beats the top for e-commerce shopping ads by more than 3-to-1.
- Will This Affect Organic Search Traffic, As Well? No question about it. Taking SEO steps to secure your company’s Knowledge Graph just became even more important. All user attention to that right-side real estate will now go directly to shopping ads and company Knowledge Graphs.
- How Does This Affect or Relate to Mobile? Advertisers have to remember to keep a sharp eye on mobile pricing to avoid getting caught up in the rush of this announcement. Fluctuations resulting from this change will most likely affect mobile spend and performance – exactly how is yet to be determined.
- What Practical Steps Can Marketers Take to Manage the Change? You can start by turning off or closely monitoring automated bidding platforms for now. Bid tools will be slow to catch up as their algorithms adjust to a new reality; it’s going to take a while for a new baseline to establish. Until then, fluctuations could really undermine your search performance. Going manual restores strategy to the process.
- What Do You Consider the Most Important Takeaway? [The] landing page experience is now even more essential – if marketers focus on conversions and CRO (conversion rate optimization) on their landing pages, they will ensure a positive user experience (thus, [a] higher quality score and lower cost per click), and drive more ROI from their search campaigns. Ultimately, that’s what matters.
What do marketers think about the loss of the right rail? For marketers who really want to get into the weeds with this change, there's "FAQ: All About the Changes to Google’s Ad Layout on Desktop Search Results." And for a more cynical look, check out "Google Makes Desktop Search Look More Mobile-ish to Milk More Shopping-Ads Cash."
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Related story: 11 Steps for Google’s New Shopping Campaigns