Mar 2016


Google recently announced that its search results pages on desktop will no longer show text ads in the right sidebar. What does this mean to marketers?

What actually happened? 

Here is a quick recap of Google’s big announcement:

  • No more text ads on the right side of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPS).
  • There will be four ads on top for the highest bid keywords.
  • Three text ads will appear at the bottom of the page.
  • There will be a maximum of seven text ads on a SERP.
  • Product listing ads and knowledge panels will appear on the right.

The new update has surprised a lot of marketers because the 11 ads on the Google search results have been a staple since the early 2000s. But marketers that have been utilizing the entire suite of Google products know that this makes Google Desktop results very similar to Google Mobile results.

Why is Google making this change? 

The “Mobile First” Google

More than half the searches that happen on Google, come through Mobile devices now. So this “Mobile First” user behavior is influencing Google Product Development. With this move, Google Search on both desktop and mobile has come a lot closer together.

Search Isn’t As Crucial As It Once Was

Google’s attention in advertising has turned to its growth areas – video, mobile and display ads – which have outpaced the growth of search. This might jolt many Search-only advertisers to realize there are other tools in the Google toolkit.

Room for Google To Innovate in Ad Offerings

The new change gives Google, the entire right side of free space to innovate on desktop. I can see new, more focused ad units for particular industries such as hospitality, aviation, and financial services.

Who are going to be the winners and losers from this change?

The Losers – Smaller Advertisers

Small businesses will suffer the most. They are the ones who bid smartly to show up on the right. But they won’t get the same effect from showing up at the bottom of the page.

The Winners – Bigger Advertisers

Larger businesses will be insulated from the change as they tend to rank in the top three on SERPs for the branding effect. They also typically rely less on SEM compared to smaller businesses.

What should advertisers do differently now?

Make your search ads really rich in features

Last year, Google started taking into account whether your ads were just text or actually include site links, third-party reviews, and offers. So if you want to rank in the top four, make your ads rich and your click-through rates will rise by 200-400%.

Use remarketing lists for search ads

Marketers should start using RSLA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads). Through RSLAs, you can bid for certain keywords for existing customers or past visitors. This allows your business to rank high at the most opportune moment, but ignore cold prospects.

Reduce your SEM budget for low ranking keywords

Decrease your SEM budget for all keywords where your business is not in the top three. Instead, invest in a combination of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Google Display Network and remarketing campaigns.

Re-focus on SEO

Take another look at your search engine optimization (SEO). There’s probably some techie in your basement who’s currently in charge of your SEO investments. It’s time now to bring them to the top floor, give them budgets for technology, content creation and online PR.

SEO can be hugely profitable for businesses – Just look into your Analytics and you’ll likely find far more SEO impact than you thought. In this case, you can overcome your SEM losses in weeks through solid SEO. And in a few months, you’ll forget that the right side of the SERP was ever there!

Take Another Look At Your Channel Mix

Zoom out and look at the usefulness of your search marketing as a whole. If you decided to make a huge investment a few years ago, it’s time to evaluate whether search does the same job? In many industries, search only closes the sale for branded keywords.

That means you need to start investing in content, social, email automation, programmatic, analytics, and mobile to address the entirety of your customers’ journeys.

There you have it, with these simple tips you’ll be able to capitalise on Google’s new ad update and drive your business forward through digital.

The blog post was originally published as an article in Marketing Magazine


Rachit Dayal

Founder & Managing Partner, Happy Marketer