Last week, Google globally rolled out one of the most significant changes to the layout of its desktop search engine results pages (SERPs) to date. The switch came with unusually short notice and had online marketers scrambling to work out what it means for them….
What are the changes?
The big change is that there are now no ads showing on the right hand side of the desktop SERPs with the exception of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) from AdWords Shopping campaigns, and the Knowledge Panel , where business information is displayed.
The new layout will continue to show three ads at the top of the page, with the addition of a fourth for "highly commercial queries". According to Google's official statement on the change:
“We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”
There will also be up to three ads at the bottom of the page.
This brings desktop search results more in line with the look and feel of mobile search results, although mobile results will still typically show 2-3 top ads rather than the 3-4 ads on the new desktop layout.
What will the effects be?
Naturally, with such a major change, there will be concerns from advertisers, particularly regarding effects on CPC. With the number of ads shrinking from a possible 11 to a maximum of seven, some worry that increased competition for ad spots will lead to skyrocketing CPCs.
However, others predict that with the addition of the fourth ad, the greater opportunity to grab one of the valuable ‘top spots’ will help to suppress any CPC increases.
It is also worth noting that a substantial majority of ad clicks (85%+) had already been coming from the top spots rather than the side positions, and with an accelerating trend towards mobile searches over desktop, these changes should not cause the armageddon that some advertisers fear.
While we await solid data on the impact, we’ll be keeping a close eye on any effects - so watch this space for more updates and your Digity Account Manager will keep you updated on any direct impact.
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