What Google’s Elimination of Side-Rail Ads Means for Your PPC Program
Google recently announced it is eliminating text ad impressions on the right-hand side of its results pages. Previously, upwards of 10 or 11 total ads were eligible to show on the first results page with a majority showing up on the right-hand side. Going forward, there will now be a maximum of 7 total ads eligible to show above and below the organic results in the middle.
We could speculate endlessly about why Google has made this change. However, from my perspective as a PPC strategist, the reason doesn’t really matter. There is only one pertinent question on my mind right now: what does this change mean for my AdWords accounts?
Time to Panic?
Is this a significant change on paper? Yes.
Should you be panicking? Of course not.
Google has been testing some version of this change on and off for the past 6 years. No hard date has been set yet for when this format change will take effect for 100% of searches. Although there are signs that ads are not appearing in the right-hand rail more frequently, you may notice that not all text ad impressions have suddenly disappeared from the “other” row in the Top versus Other segmentation report in your AdWords account this past week.
Basically, Google rolled this change out in a methodical and data-driven manner to give advertisers the least amount of headaches possible. And, as a PPC strategist, I sincerely appreciate that.
Predicting the Future
So, what can you expect in the immediate future? After reviewing changes in click metrics week over week for several accounts, I wasn’t able to find any solid, consistent changes in click-through-rate, average position, or any other pertinent metric that I could attribute to this format change from Google. So the short answer to that question is: not much.
What are the long term implications once text ads on the side-rail go away entirely? It will take months to know for sure, but here are some of my best guesses:
So, That’s it? No “___-geddon”?
From an AdWords stand point? Pretty much, yeah. This isn’t as big of a deal as, say, when enhanced campaigns were introduced. My best advice is common sense: keep a close eye on your click metrics over the next month and make optimizations accordingly.
However, this format change could have other implications outside of an AdWords account. For example, if Google shows 3 or 4 ads above organic results more often, pushing the first organic listing for a given search below the fold, what does that mean for SEO? I’ll leave that question for someone more qualified to answer. The point is: don’t assume you only have to worry about changes in your Google AdWords account as a result of this change.
Do you have any observations regarding this format change you’d like to share? Comment below and let us know.
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