Google has just made the biggest change to the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) since the changes to the Map Pack back in August last year.
The main change is the removal of the the adverts shown on the right hand side of the search results, which is a significant change for advertisers as there are now fewer spaces for adverts on page one of the search results.
The changes were first reported on TheSEMPost and advertisers are reporting that individual Google account managers have confirmed the right hand ads are being removed, however Google currently remain tight-lipped about the changes.
The below screenshot shows the SERPS before the change:
The next screenshot shows the the SERPS after the removal of the adverts on the right hand side:
In the second screenshot, you may have noticed the next change that Google made at the same time as the removal of the adverts from the right, a 4th advert at the top of the page for some of the more commercial search terms.
Dr. Pete Myers from Moz, regularly analyses changes in the search results and he mentioned that they are seeing a huge increase in the number of search queries that are showing 4 adverts from 0.1% of queries to 19% of queries, a 19,000% increase!
Of 10K SERps, almost 6K had top ads. Breakdown:— Dr. Pete Meyers (@dr_pete) February 19, 2016
1 ad - 36%
2 ads - 17%
3 ads - 28%
4 ads - 19%
Why is Google doing this?
While there has been no official response from Google yet, we expect that they will say that the reason is to improve user experience. While it is true that the new layout is less cluttered than the old one, the real reason will be to increase Google's adwords revenue.
The changes will increase the level of competition for the top 3 or 4 ad spaces, which could result in a higher CPC (Cost-Per-Click) for advertisers as fewer will settle for lower positions as otherwise they will be at the bottom of the page where very few people will see their ad.
What does this mean for me?
Check your adverts are still on page one
The changes to the SERPS have resulted in there being fewer adverts shown on page one, previously there were 11 adverts shown and now there are only 6 or 7 depending on the search term. Check your adwords campaigns for keywords that are showing below 6 or 7 as this will result in them not showing at all on page one.
It's more important than ever to be in the top 3 for your target keywords
Previously, you could bid for position 4 or 5 in adwords and still be shown at the top of the page. This is no longer the case and you now need to be in the top 3 or 4 depending on the search term. This could mean that you will need to spend more to continue to get the same number of clicks.
We don't yet know how this will affect organic traffic
Queries that are showing 4 ads at the top of the SERPS will have organic listings pushed further down so users will have to scroll further to get to the organic results, which may cause a decrease in Organic traffic. However, many for many search queries this has already happened with ads and the map pack pushing organic results further down. The lack of ads on the right hand side could also cause an increase in the click-through-rate of the organic search results as once users have already scrolled down they will not be distracted by any adverts.
Over the next few weeks we will be carrying out some internal analysis to see if there has been any effect on traffic and we expect that providers of digital marketing software, such as Moz, who have access to huge amounts of data will be carrying out their own analysis of the changes.