If you haven’t heard – or seen – the news, last week Google began phasing out the right hand sidebar ads we’ve all been accustomed to for so many years. This change in ad placement is Google’s biggest change in years as to how it displays search ads.
Instead, the AdWords ad layout now displays 4 ads at the top of the search results, no sidebar ads, and 3 ads at the bottom of the search results. This is quite a departure from the historic mix of top, bottom and side-bar heavy AdWords ads.
Removal of Sidebar Ads Results in Fewer Ad Spots
The net result? You guessed it: fewer ads per page. With the old layout, usually around 10 ads appeared per page: 3 on top and 7 on the sidebar and/or bottom. With this AdWords change in layout, there will only be 7 ads per page: 4 on top, and 3 on the bottom.
According to the Search Engine Journal,
“It appears that Google will confirm the update only retroactively…Multiple AdWords representatives have confirmed the update, calling it ‘global and permanent,’ but Google has yet to publicly announce the change.”
What does this mean for advertisers? It means that competition for placement on the first page (especially the top spots) will be more intense.
With fewer ads per page, bidding will likely get more competitive as advertisers jockey for those top 4 spots, since sidebar ads will no longer be around. Also, you may see a drop-off in CTR in ads below position 4. Keep in mind that the update affects desktop search results pages only.
What Are the Results So Far?
- More than 40% of people have seen the change with 4 ad blocks on their SERPs
- Ads in position 3 have seen a dramatic increase in CTR
- Ads in position 4-7 have dropped in CTR since they have been moved to the bottom of a SERP
- No Change in CPC and traffic quality
Removal of Sidebar Ads Makes Ad Grants Dependent on Content
What does this mean for the nonprofit or NGO advertiser with a Google Ad Grants account? This AdWords change makes competition much more fierce for the top spots.
Since Google Ad Grants campaigns are limited to a $2 max CPC, it will be even more important to focus on improving relevancy and Quality Score in order to maintain a high average position and compete with other advertisers, some of whom can raise their bids above the $2 CPC max limit imposed on Ad Grants accounts.
What You Can Do About It
Take this time – while other organizations are trying to understand this AdWords change – to review a few basics and dive in deep to your AdWords or Ad Grants account.
- Review the landing pages, ad copy, and keywords across all of your active ad groups.
- Can you break up larger ad groups into tighter themes and optimize your messaging?
- Think of ways to improve a user’s experience, which can help improve CTR, increase the average time per visit, and lower bounce rate.
- Look at the Dimensions tab and analyze performance by geographic and time. Then check out your delivery and geo-targeting settings.
- Should you implement day-parting to restrict delivery to the best-performing days or times of the week?
- Does it make sense to target the US or only a handful of states?
- Review your Ad Rotation settings. Are you optimizing for clicks or conversions?
- Run a test to see if your site is mobile-friendly. As the competition heats up on desktop, you will want to ensure you’re ready to play ball on mobile as well.
Improving the relevancy of Google Ad Grants accounts and keeping a close eye on performance are paramount for ensuring your nonprofit ads continue to show.