Earlier this month, Google confirmed a striking change it made in the way that search results are displayed on google.com and Google search partners: namely, that most search result pages on desktop will no longer display text ads in the right sidebar.
Instead, up to four text ads will appear at the top of each search page, above organic listings, while three text ads will display at the bottom.
Here’s Google’s official statement on the matter: 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.”
As for “highly commercial queries,” Google’s own examples include “hotels in New York City” or “car insurance.”
Here’s a quick rundown of specific changes, according to Google:
- Text ads will no longer be displayed on the right rail of desktop search results.
- For “highly commercial queries,” four text ads will be displayed instead of three in the mainline area above the organic listings.
- Three text ads will now show at the bottom of search engine results pages (SERPs).
- The maximum number of text ads that can appear on a SERP will shrink from as many as 11 to a maximum of seven.
- On relevant queries, product listing ad blocks and Knowledge Panels will now show in the right rail.
As we mentioned earlier, the move was not entirely surprising. Google has tested this approach since 2010 and has adjusted it ever since. The company also indicated that this change is now rolling out to searches in all languages throughout the world.
According to Google, there are two exceptions to the new approach: 1) Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes, which show above or to the right of search results; and 2) ads in the Knowledge Panel.
Obviously, this move carries significant implications for advertisers on many levels. While it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions, some are already predicting that fewer ads will drive prices up. A counter argument could also be made that advertisers may be hesitant to bid the same for bottom-of-the-page ads as they would for right rail ads.
Only time – and data – will tell the story. Until then, we’ll keep you posted as developments occur.