5 Minute Read

Google Removes Right Hand Sidebar Ads

Thanks a lot, Google.


If you haven’t noticed Google decided to throw another wrench into everyone’s PPC Marketing Strategy by removing the right-hand sidebar ads. As of Feb. 19, Google will only display ads at the top and bottom of the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).


Google removed the right-hand sidebar ads. Did you notice? Click To Tweet


In a nutshell, Google removed the ads in the right-hand rail, shifted the fourth ad position to appear just above the organic listings, moved ad positions five through seven to the bottom of the page and pushed positions eight through eleven to page two. This creates a more streamlined structure that looks like the mobile SERP.


Read this: Why PPC Should Be Part of Your Marketing Strategy


This YUGE change created widespread panic throughout the PPC community. Rather than panicking, drastically increasing spend we decided to stay calm, continue to monitor and be reactive to our account performance.

Matt Lawson, who works at Google, wrote a piece on searchengineland.com taking us through the changes:


“As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Google (my employer) recently removed text ads from the right-hand side of search results. At the same time, it’s now possible for four ads to show above the organic results, albeit on a very small percentage of highly commercially relevant queries. Combined with the ads that appear below the results (which are unaffected by this change), a maximum of seven text ads can show at any one time. This is down from the previous maximum of 11 ads when including that right rail.


Ultimately, we are making this update to improve the user experience on Google Search and to make that experience consistent across desktop, tablet and mobile. In fact, the majority of our searches happen on mobile these days, which has no right-hand-side ads.”


Fewer ads above the fold mean it’s going to be harder to maintain the same amount of impressions and clicks you’re used to. It could also mean higher CPCs as bidding wars happen for those top spots. If you’re bidding in a competitive auction and aren’t willing or able to achieve positions one through four you may want to look at bidding for different, less expensive keywords.


Fewer ads above the fold mean it’s going to be harder to maintain impressions and clicks. Click To Tweet


It doesn’t matter how these changes are going to affect marketers, it’s important that you manage your campaigns correctly. Here’s what you can do:


1. Review how your ads appear

Dive into your preview ads section and discover where your ads are. Navigate to the Tools tab and then click on “Ad Preview and Diagnosis”. Here you can review search results by location, language, device and domain.


2. Review your average position in search results for specific keywords

To maintain high impressions and clicks, you’ll need an average position higher than three or four depending on the keyword. If you’re lower than three or four you’ll be pushed below organic results or worse, the second page. You can find the “Avg. Pos.” metric in the Keywords tab of AdWords.

3. Increase your average position for relevant keywords

There are two main ways to increase your average position: increase your bid, or improve your Quality Score. Google determines Ad Rank based on your bid vs. the competition, everyone else bidding on that keyword, as well as Quality Score, which is based on how relevant your ad and landing page are to the search term that triggered the results. To move up fast, increase your bid and quality score.


There’s nothing we can do to undo the removal of the right side ads, but take a deep breath and start making adjustments to your account. Google makes changes to their algorithms all the time, so this is not something marketers are unfamiliar with, but something that we should be used to. Once you review your reports and see how the traffic has changed, the handful of actions listed should keep you on the right track.


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