Have you noticed your Google search results are looking a little neater over the past week?

Okay… if you have, you’ve probably got a pretty keen eye. If you haven’t, well, it’s a subtle change. Try it – go search something. Why not try ‘e-commerce website design’? Just a suggestion…

On desktop searches, adverts will no longer appear on the right-hand side of the page, only at the top and bottom making more room for Google to provide additional information – depending on your search.Google

Google will also be placing more adverts at the top of the page – typically three, or four for the searches deemed “highly commercial”.

The change will affect all searches in all languages worldwide so it’s a big shift, and demonstrates a push towards both paid advertising and user experience for the tech and search engine giants.

Why the change?

We’ve heard it time and time again – the percentage of mobile usage is consistently rising against desktop. Companies have started to adapt their desktop services and products to suit the mobile-first mentality – think Windows 10 or the influx of company apps.

This move away from right-hand ads could be another sign of merging user experience between mobile and desktop. Trimming the fat and delivering consistency across platforms.

It also places more emphasis on the ‘knowledge panel’ – the additional information Google provides to the right of your actual search results. This contextual information changes depending on your search. Looking for a specific restaurant and it’ll include opening times and reviews. Searching for an album and Google will provide links to listen online.

How does it affect me?

This emphasis on providing immediate answers shows that Google is always evolving its user experience. Moving the right-hand ads in favour of more focus on the knowledge panel means delivering answers without additional clutter.

However, removing the less prominent, right-hand adverts does create a potential problem for AdWords users. You’ll now be paying a higher rate for the more premium slots. This change may cause more PPC advertisers to bid aggressively for the top slots or, more practically, look into developing their quality score.

Whether the change is actually a negative is slightly subjective. It could be argued that you’re now getting the prime advertising real estate, rather than being shuffled to the side. Yes, you’ll be paying more, but the central spots are guaranteed.

But what about those who would prefer to use right-hand ads because of the cheaper price? Well, let’s be honest, Google will have factored this in. They may lose a few AdWords users who don’t want to up their expenditure, but this is a change based on experiments. The results will come down to what’s in the best interest of Google.

It’s those who don’t use AdWords who will feel the greatest impact.

Our PPC expert Mitch Brown said: “With this latest change it has made it more important to consider AdWords as a way to compete for your targeted keywords. With Google increasing the top ad placements to four, organic listings have been shifted further down the fold.

“This means the ‘Golden Triangle’ (pictured below) is more targeted towards the ads. As you can see from the heat map, the majority of clicks are in the top-left corner, which then declines the further down the page a user goes. With side ads removed and more ads being displayed at the top of the page, this means that the chances of an organic listing being clicked will decrease.

Google Triangle

Image courtesy of /

“On the other hand, ‘quality score’ is a big ranking factor in AdWords. This can potentially reduce your cost per click, if you have a credible quality score. So before this change makes you panic and increase your PPC expenditure, think about whether or not you can improve your quality score to increase your rankings.”

Exceptions to the new rule

A Google spokesperson confirmed to Search Engine Land that there are two exceptions to the new layout:

  • Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes
  • Adverts inside the knowledge panel

The PLA boxes will still appear either above or to the right of your search where relevant. The boxes highlight ‘sponsored’ product adverts, which includes a clear product image and brief description. This exception still keeps an emphasis on user experience, making everything as clear and easy as possible following a search.

The knowledge panel itself can also include adverts. Booking sites for hotel pages, streaming sites for TV shows, and other services that speed up the experience and minimise additional searches.

Interested in having our AdWords experts work with your business? Contact us and we’ll schedule a face-to-face meeting – and see exactly how we can build your website traffic and get you the right kind of visitor. You can also stay up to date with the latest in e-commerce and online marketing by subscribing to our mailing list – you’ll receive a monthly recap of our most popular articles!

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Posted by Katrina Starkie