How Google’s New Search Results Layout Impacts SEO

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How Google AdWords’ February 2016 Changes Impact SEO

Google recently announced some sizable changes to its AdWords program and the way they will display paid ad listings. Google started implementing the changes worldwide on February 19, 2016. The most notable among them is the removal of the right-side ad column. For many, this came as a complete surprise.

Although Google has not officially announced the reason for the change, some have speculated that the search giant is further aligning the desktop and mobile experiences. Currently, the largest difference between these two platforms is in that the column of ads displayed on the right-hand side of the desktop page is absent on mobile.

Ads Moved to Top (With a Twist)

To compensate for the reduction in AdWords space, as the right side column has been removed, Google says they will now show three ads at the top of the results page for most searches but, for “highly commercial queries,” it will allow four ads at the top of the search results.

Highly commercial queries are those most likely to lead to a purchase as a result of the search. For instance, queries regarding specific product models or brands, as opposed to informational or how-to research. It’s the difference between searching for the latest smartphone model from your favorite brand and searching for an article that tells you how to save battery power on the device.

It is important to note that while Google is removing the ad column on the right, the Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and knowledge panel will still keep its traditional spot on the right side.

Many webmasters and marketers are now asking themselves whether or not this change will have an impact on their organic search results. After all, it’s easy to think that the elimination of the paid right-column ad space might place the spotlight on the organic listings in the search results. However, keep in mind that the additional ads at the top of the results will push the organic results down below the fold.

Potential Cost Per Click Impacts

We cannot predict the impact on SEO. Only time will tell. One potential outcome could be quite a positive for search engine optimizers. With only seven spots on any given search results page instead of 11, the cost-per-click may rise. After all, the reduced number of spots will boost competition for those positions, particularly as visibility and click-through rates for any given ad may also increase.

On the other hand, if you take advantage of the multiple ad extensions available, the cost-per-click ads will be as robust as ever. If you’re not on Google’s first page organically, paid search remains the most valuable alternative for marketing your product and service on search engines. The question is, at what price? Continued bid optimization and ROI analysis remains in play.

Increased Importance of Organic Positioning

With more ads above the results list, reaching and maintaining the top organic search results spots will become more vital than ever. Sites outside the very top listings will have a lower opportunity for visibility and click-thru. This could bring businesses back to SEO as webmasters seek to improve their organic positions in order to achieve improved results with a strategy they can afford.

No matter how you look at it, whether it’s a paid click or an organic click, it’s still about conversion. Your need to optimize your website and landing pages for lead capture. Now may be the time to assess your conversion tactics, and we can help review them. Sign up for our free conversion assessment.







About Paul Mosenson

NuSpark Marketing Founder, Chief Lead Generation Strategist and Online Media Director An experienced B2B and B2C marketer, Paul has been helping clients generate leads and grow their businesses for over 25 years. Paul helps plan and optimize marketing and lead generation programs.