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The Consequences of Google’s Sidebar Ads Removal

On February 19th, Google implemented a significant alteration to their desktop search results, removing sponsored text ads from the right sidebar—a change that had undergone extensive testing. Google’s aim was to align the desktop experience more closely with that of mobile users.

Before this update, Google displayed up to eleven text ads on their search results page, spanning the top, right sidebar, and bottom sections. However, this ad inventory has now been reduced to a maximum of seven text ads.

In today’s Google search results, general queries will feature a minimum of three ads at the top and three at the bottom. For queries indicating an intent to purchase, Google will present a maximum of four text ads at the top. Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and ads within the Knowledge Panel will persist in their display location, either at the top or in the right sidebar.

Impacts stemming from this removal of Google ads

  • Loss of Ad Impressions: The reduction in the total number of ads on the page has translated into fewer ad impressions. This particularly affects advertisers who are not bidding within the top seven spots.
  • Increased Click Through Rates (CTR): With a 19% decrease in ad inventory, users have fewer options to choose from. Consequently, it’s logical that the CTR would see an uptick for the remaining ad spots. Interestingly, WordStream observed the largest increase in CTR for ads occupying the third spot in the new layout.
  • Decreased Cost Per Click (CPC): The decline in CPC may be attributed to an enhanced AdWords Quality Score. One of the components factored into the Quality Score calculation is the CTR. As mentioned earlier, the CTR has seen an upswing with the new layout. Therefore, a higher Quality Score leads to a lower CPC for your campaign ads.

Moving forward, it’s crucial to consider related topics that have emerged in the wake of this change:

  • User Experience and Engagement: With fewer ads, users might experience more streamlined and focused search results. This could potentially lead to increased user satisfaction and engagement.
  • Strategies for Advertisers: Advertisers may need to reassess their bidding strategies and ad placements in light of the altered landscape. Emphasizing ad relevance and quality could become even more crucial.
  • Mobile vs. Desktop Experience: This update underscores the ongoing trend of aligning desktop and mobile experiences. Understanding and optimizing for these different platforms will continue to be a pivotal aspect of digital marketing.
  • Implications for SEO: The shift in ad placement may impact organic search results. SEO strategies may need adjustment to maintain visibility in search engine results pages.
  • Feedback from Users and Advertisers: As users and advertisers adapt to this change, feedback and insights could surface regarding the effectiveness and reception of this new ad layout.

In sum, Google’s alteration of desktop search results has prompted a series of shifts and considerations within the digital marketing landscape, touching on user experience, advertiser strategies, and broader implications for online visibility and engagement.

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