Google Removes Right Hand Sidebar Ads

Written by: Jason Bayless | March 13, 2017

In the past, PPC ads were positioned along the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) as well as down the right-hand sidebar. Now, however, the search results page looks a bit emptier and the overall arrangement of sponsored ads is quite different. For those heavily invested in pay-per-click advertising, this has generated some well-founded fears concerning a potentially steep increase in per-click costs. In terms of SEO, Google’s decision to remove right-hand sidebar ads has also had an impact on the number of organic listings that are visible above the fold. Following is everything you need to know about this change and what it means for you.

Google Is Putting Four Sponsored Listings Above The Fold Instead Of Three

After having removed right-hand sidebar ads, Google altered the overall layout of the search results page by placing four sponsored listings above the fold rather than just three. This means that web users will have to scroll down quite a bit before actually reaching any organic listings. The good news is that the average web user is still able to discern the difference between an organic link and one that has been paid for. Moreover, the four pay-per-click ads that now dominate the space above the fold remain clearly labeled with the small, dark green “Ad” symbol.

Pay-Per-Click Changes

One important fact to note about these changes is that it has not impacted the demand for PPC. What it has done, however, is limit the supply of available, top-of-the-page space for PPC ads. With greater demand than supply, it is safe to assume that a rise in PPC prices is inevitable. How soon this increase will occur and how dramatic it will ultimately be, however, remains to be seen.

PPC For Greater Visibility

Many SEO experts have long recommended using a balanced online marketing approach that includes diligent and ongoing SEO in conjunction with a goal-oriented and well-managed PPC campaign. The need for using both online marketing methods together, however, has dramatically increased with the elimination of organic listings above the fold. Companies that want to be the very first thing that people see after conducting searches pertaining to their industries will have to have strategic PPC plans in place in order to reach this goal. Those who do not will have to make do with first-page placement below the fold.

Greater Challenge In Landing A First Page Listing

Not only does the placement of four, sponsored listings above the fold eliminate space for organic listings, but it additionally limits the amount of available space for organic listings below the fold. This means that the struggle to rank well for high-interest keywords has been intensified. This is yet another reason for company owners, particularly those within highly competitive or densely populated niches, to run both SEO and PPC campaigns together.

This Isn’t Google’s First Effort To Ditch Sidebar Ads

The decision to get rid of sidebar ads was an effort to make it harder for non-technical web users to differentiate between page content that has ranked organically and listings that have been paid for. The overarching goal is to increase ad revenue by getting more search engine users to actually click on sponsored ads, rather than scroll right past them. While ads positioned at the top of the page can easily blend in with the remaining, organic content, ads that were positioned along the right side of the page were a bit more obvious in terms of their origination. Surprisingly, however, this isn’t the very first time that Google has made this major move. In 2012, efforts to ditch sidebar ads were rolled out as part of a test that was performed exclusively within the United States. In spring of 2016, this change was made internationally and with immediate effect for all platform users.

Search Habits Are Still Changing

Despite what many companies believe, web users are indeed becoming increasingly savvy and discerning when it comes to the page layout strategies that Google uses to promote its sponsored listings. Moreover, they continue to be preferable to first-page listings that have been organically earned. Efforts to make sponsored listings better blend in with their organic counterparts, without eliminating their green “Ad” symbols stands as evidence of this on its own. Thus, one of the positive developments that companies can expect to see from this change is a greater willingness on the part of web users to scroll beyond the first page of results.