The Latest Change in Google Adwords: Sidebar Ads Dropped

by | Mar 9, 2016 | Paid Search

Find Out What’s Happening to Your PPC Ads

Google is known for rolling out big changes, surprising everyone and changing the game for searches, marketing, and overall business. Most recently, as of February 19th, Google confirmed that they removed text ads from the right sidebar of a search page. What this means is that ads now only appear on the top and bottom of the search results pages.

The changes started being noted late last year when users worldwide began to notice they were only seeing top ads only. This change seriously decreases the amount of ads that are seen in SERPS, which could cause a decline in clicks for advertisers who aren’t in the top few positions.


What You Need To Know

It will take time and careful review of analytics to find out what exactly how this will affect companies who use PPC advertising. For now, here are the main facts that we know about the changes being made:

  • Ads removed on the right sidebar results
  • Anywhere from one to four text ads above organic listings.
    • These ads are for what Google is calling a�?highly commercial queriesa�?
      • This is for when Google is confident the intention is to complete a purchase
  • Three text ads below organic results.
  • Number of texts ads on any results page are being lowered
    • Where there used to be as many as eleven, there is now a maximum of seven.
  • There are some exceptions to right sidebar ads
    • People are still seeing product listing ad blocks and Knowledge Panels will appear on relevant search queries


Why The Big Change?

According to Google, this this change makes a more cohesive and clean user experience within a search. It brings a balance between mobile and desktop, which is something that Google has been seriously focusing on over the last year or more.

Google claims that by making this change it is making it easier for users to complete purchases, which is why they are decreasing the amount of ads and focusing more on which ads will result in a sale, as demonstrated by their use of a�?highly commercial queries.a�?

Google has always been about the user experience whether on their search pages or on your website. So there may indeed be something to this.

On the other hand, there are those who do believe this change will result in higher click costs as competitors bid higher to make sure they grab a top slot. To support this, they point to a new bid estimate column in AdWords, a�?Est. first position bid,a�? that shows the minimum bid necessary to be eligible for the top ad position.

In some cases this bid amount has been the same as the a�?Est top page bid,a�? but in some cases we have seen bid estimates 200-300x as high as the top of page bid estimate. So there are some who believe this change is more motivated by money than any user experience reason.

What’s Changing For You’and What To Do

All this is very early and very little data exists yet on what these changes mean and how best to deal with them. What is certain right now is that these changes will affect your PPC campaigns.

One example is that if your ad is appearing at the bottom of the page ‘ this is almost certainly going to drive down your clicks, which in turn will drive down your click through rate (CTR) a key quality score metric. This could result in higher click costs’.a bit of a moot point as nobody will be clicking on your ads because nobody will be seeing them!

We believe that the first thing to do is review your account and see what your average ad position is.

  • Are you bidding on the right keywords?
  • Is there a strong chain of relevancy between your keywords and your ad copy?
  • Is your landing page meeting user expectations and is your website providing a good user experience?
  • Are you using all ad extensions available to you?
  • Are you constantly testing new keywords and new ad copy?
  • Are you regularly reviewing your search terms report and adding negatives?

Google loves to see you using all the bells and whistles they provide and continually working to improve your paid ad campaigns and landing pages/website.

If you work with an agency, they should already be doing these things for you.

It is now even more important that you know what your average order size is, what a conversion or lead is worth, and LTV. This allows you to determine whether or not it is feasible to increase your max bid if you need to do so in order to grab one of the top 4 ad slots.

This is mostly speculative at this point ‘ but definitely something to keep an eye on.

If you’re still not sure how this affects you and how you should handle this change, ask a professional! Call us here at ProspectMX and let our experienced team advise you on changes you can do to make sure your rankings and sales don’t drop from this change in Google.


By Joshua Cranmer, President

Joshua Cranmer, the fearless leader (aka President) of Lupeer, injects charisma and inventiveness into everything he does for the company. From developing strategic campaigns for our national and global clients, to providing mentorship to budding professionals, Joshua is dedicated to excellence in the digital marketing industry. He has worked hard to create a culture at Lupeer that inspires remarkable achievements among each and every one of his employees. When he’s not crushin’ it at the office, he’s partaking in exquisite culinary experiences, which can be enjoyed by following #whatjoshiseating on Instagram.