Over the years, Google has been known for taking exciting steps towards better user experiences – remember 41 shades of blue? Their most recent ‘side ads’ update may be far less entertaining, but you’ll certainly feel the impact on your site’s search ranking and the success of your ads.
As of late February this year, AdWords ads no longer appear in the right-hand section of search engine results pages (SERP). The top and bottom sections, above and below organic search results, will still show three ads apiece with an additional fourth ad included in the top section for “highly commercial queries”. Still present in the right-side section are Product Listing ads and content in the Knowledge panel.
In an official statement, Google confirmed:
“We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”
This change cuts the number of SERP ads down from 11 to a maximum of 7, upping the ante on what makes an ad worthy of being displayed. Hot on the tail of last year’s Mobilegeddon and the launch of AMP, it’s clear our beloved search giant is pushing for a more streamlined web experience of relevant and useful content.
Optimise, optimise, optimise
With competition now more fierce than ever for SERP real estate, site owners and marketers must take advantage of opportunities to improve the quality of their content and campaigns. Poorly designed ads will struggle for visibility, as more sharply worded, specifically targeted items vie for a position in, according to WordStream, Google’s most-clicked paid ads section: the top 4.
But it’s not just your pay-per-click ads you need to be mindful of. A fourth “highly commercial” ad in the top section will naturally push organic search results further down the page, perhaps even below the fold, potentially raising a red flag for your clickthrough rate.
Mitigate this by focusing your efforts on search engine optimisation (SEO). The better your content, the more meaningful your messages, the more relevant your link exchanges, and the more organised your site structure, the greater your chances of closing in on a better position in organic search rankings.
SEO is a complex beast with many influencing factors, but ensuring your website is constructed well – with standards-compliant code, completed meta information and well-written copy – will never lead you astray. Few internet users would say no to easy-to-use pages full of meaningful information.
Evidently, Google thinks so too.