This week, Google stopped serving desktop ads along its right rail. The newly available space will primarily serve as inventory for both product listing ads and Google’s knowledge graph. While the top of the SERP will still generally yield three ads, any query that Google deems “highly commercial” will be eligible to trigger four top-of-page ad results. In addition, desktop will now serve three ads instead of two below the fold. These streamlined changes will bring desktop search further in line with the mobile experience. Google provided examples of what “highly commercial” queries might be – “car insurance” or “hotels in New York” – however, we must remember that Google’s transactional intent algorithms may differ from true customer objectives.
Why Change Now?
Google sees how other platforms are engaging mobile and social audiences and have decided to pare down text advertising in order to support a more dynamic, engaging, mobile-optimized SERP environment.
In addition, before this update, many right rail ads historically underperformed compared to the top three ads, so why not add another in the center view to push more search focus there? This change will likely spur more auction competition, i.e. more $ for Google.
How Will This Change Impact Advertisers?
This update will not be as disruptive to larger advertisers as some may think since most accounts do not rely on the right rail ads for core performance. Essentially 3-4 limited performing ads are being removed from the SERP, so the main disruption will be felt by smaller advertisers on more general keyword sets.
Additionally, expanded sitelinks will allow top advertisers to own more SERP real estate when their ads are displayed in top positions. For those who own these expensive top positions, making use of the right deep link in these spots will be extremely important with less click options on the page. These expanded sitelinks are taking the white space from the legacy paid ad spaces so test, analyze, and optimize sitelinks for key ad groups to help win these valuable SERP clicks.
How to Proceed
Now, with more limited ad space available on the engines, it is important for advertisers to expand their paid media presence on other, developing audience platforms like social and key publisher sites.
As we’ve said time and time again, setting up your account structure to have a positive impact on quality scores is more important than ever. As much of a pain account restructuring is, it is still the most optimal way to have a long-lasting, positive impact on ad rank, thus being eligible for top ad positions on the SERP. Leveraging thoughtful RLSA strategies is another way to maintain important search presence once this core structure is set.
While more specific details are bound to emerge around impacts to CPC, CTR and positioning, the trending concise, media-rich, mobile SERP continues dominating the path forward for Google Search.