On February 19th, Google rolled out a significant change to their desktop search results. Google pushed out a global change that removed the sponsored text ads from the right sidebar. Google had been testing this for quite awhile and felt that this change would match the mobile experience.
So what changed? Google used to show up to eleven text ads on their search results page. These ads ran across the top, down the right side, and at the bottom of the page. That ad inventory has shrunk to a maximum of seven text ads now.
Today’s Google search result pages will show a minimum of three ads across the top and three ads at the bottom for general queries. If the search query has an intent to purchase, Google will show a maximum of four text ads across the top. Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and ads within the Knowledge Panel will continue to display across the top or in the right sidebar.
Impact From the Removal of the Google Ads
What impact occurred with this change? There have been several case studies produced since the change took effect. Here are the top three changes cited:
- Loss of Ad Impressions – Reducing the total number of ads on the page has translated into less ad impressions. So advertisers that are not bidding in the top seven spots saw the most impact.
- Click Through Rates (CTR) Increased – With a 19% decrease in ad inventory, the end-user has less choices to click on. So it makes sense that the CTR would actually go up for those remaining ad spots. WordStream actually saw that the ads in the third spot got the biggest increase in CTR with the new layout.
- Cost Per Click (CPC) Decreased – The decrease in CPC could be a byproduct of an increased Adwords Quality Score. One of the factors that goes into calculating your Quality Score is the CTR. As we have noted above, CTR saw an increase with the new layout. So a higher Quality Score leads to a lower CPC for your campaign ads.