No More Sidebar Ads in Google Desktop SERPs, What Now?

We’ve been in digital marketing since 2008, and though we don’t consider ourselves as gurus as we know how dynamic the industry is and that we always have to adapt and keep learning to stay on top of our game, we do know Google enough to know that Google is still the top dog in the search industry. With that, it’s safe to say, we’re at the mercy of Google’s every qualm and whim.

In the middle of February 2016, we’ve seen Google finally making official the recent layout changes it’s been experimenting since 2010.

goodbye sidebar ads

Although the desktop SERPs new look is still in its infancy, here’s what we know about it:

  1. Text ads are eliminated from the right side of desktop results
  2. Four text ads are now shown above organic results list
  3. Three text ads are now shown below organic results list
  4. Text ads on SERPs are trimmed from eleven to seven
  5. Product listings and Knowledge Panels are to populate the sidebar

And most importantly,

  1. Digital marketers are in for some challenge as we all scramble to take the first four ad positions!


Effects of the New Layout


The new Google desktop results layout is sure to intensify the already fierce competition within the digital marketing landscape. From what we’ve gathered, these are the ripple effects of the new desktop SERPs look.

  1. Top Four Ads to Enjoy Higher CTRs

It’s like we’re like children once again. Remember the parlor game, Trip to Jerusalem? Imagine the hundreds or thousands of marketers vying for only four chairs. It’s insane! The trip is going to be challenging, but when you do get the top four spot, what an accomplishment. You’re sure to receive higher click-through rates than the rest of the fold who can’t make it to top four.

  1. Top Five and Below to Suffer CTR Cuts

While there’s so much good news for those in the top four positions, the rest are out of the game. At least, there’s hope for those in the top five, six, and seven positions, whose ads are to show on the bottom of the organic results. Nevertheless, with all the distractions that a user encounters before getting to their ads, top fivead and below will have to brace for lower CTRs henceforth.

  1. Average CPC will Increase

It’s all about the principle of supply and demand. There are only four viable positions in the first page of desktop SERPs, there are hundreds or thousands fighting neck and neck to get there. What is Google’s most apparent reaction? Of course, there will be race and the winner will be determined in part by their bids.

  1. Extensions will Push Down Organic Results

Although organic search is still preferred by most searchers as proven Advanced Web Ranking’s Google Organic CTR Study in 2014, revealing that organic SERPs get a larger chunk of the pie with 82.8% of the clicks, and the rest goes to either the top three ads or the sidebar ads. This change should put some dint into such data.

With the new layout, things will be somewhat different. Organic results will now make way for more paid ad space (despite the lower number of ads shown on the desktop SERPs from 11 down to 7). Every line of ad extension coming from the top four ads will push the organic results list down, drowning further the top five and below ads. More importantly, there might be no organic search results left, as observed by Raj Nijjer on February 20.

What’s our Stand?

  1. Join the Race at Desktop SERPs

What’s left to do than roll up our sleeves and work harder than ever before – pushing for the top four positions at the desktop SERPs. Change is not always easy, but it’s exciting, it’s challenging, it brings forth the best and worst in us. We’re constantly re-analyzing our best practices, adjusting and re-adjusting as necessary to help our clients get to a competitive position and maintain it.


  1. Strategize for Other Devices

Desktop however isn’t the only digital advertising platform out there. While working out to get to the top four positions at desktop results, we also look for other avenues for generating ad views and clicks. In the past, campaigning for other devices may come as an afterthought, now other devices such as tablet and mobile may take up equally important roles in AdWords advertising especially since the online buying journey has become more multi-deviced.

  1. Adjust Budget Accordingly

Every client has a digital marketing goal it wants to achieve, and the course towards achieving that goal is largely determined by the client’s budget for their AdWords campaign. We work with what’s made available to us, taking a limited budget and creating a digital marketing strategy that optimizes the budget and materializes the client’s goal.

  1. Consider Bing/Yahoo PPC

With Bing/Yahoo Ad network continuing to slowly but surely chew more market share on the search industry, it’s a no brainer to consider doing a PPC campaign on here as well.

Not to mention the network’s move to become the default browser of Apple’s Safari, Siri, and Searchlight products.

With all that said, our valued partners need not worry too much about this update as we keep our eyes peeled on the possible effects of it in terms of CPC increases and adjust campaigns accordingly.

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