Have you noticed something different about Google search results recently? Google is always trying out different layouts and displays in search results, to ensure they are providing users with the most relevant search results pages.
Since 2010, Google has been testing removing paid adverts from the right hand side of the search results, replacing them for an additional advert directly below the search bar. This means there are four paid ads above the organic search results, instead of just three.
Over the weekend (19th February 2016), Google has confirmed to Search Engine Land that they are going to be rolling out the change to remove search ads that appear on the right sidebar of its desktop search results, adding in the additional paid advert. This will be rolled out worldwide across all languages as early as the 22nd February.
Old search results layout
The image below is how the search results show currently, however everything down the right hand side (outlined in purple) will no longer exist.
New search results layout
The image below is the new updated display of Google search results. The difference can be seen with another paid advert before the organic results, meaning less organic search results are eligible to show.
A Google spokesperson has reached out to The Search Engine Land post with the following:
“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.”
Google consider "commercial queries" as search queries where people express a highly likely intention to buy. We cannot know for certain the exact search terms this will affect, however we personally have seen this change rolled out across a variety of queries, not just related to commercial queries. This is why we're not only making you aware of these changes, but adjusting our strategies accordingly.
Google have also confirmed that the only results that will appear on the right hand side of a pages search results will include Shopping ads and/or the knowledge panel. Shopping ads can still appear within the top left of search results but this will only happen on certain search queries.
How is this change going to affect PPC?
This change could potentially affect paid search results by increasing cost per clicks, as competitors know that they need to be in the top three/four positions to be eligible to be seen above the fold. This in turn could potentially affect volume of traffic, media spend, conversions and ROI.
How is this change going to affect SEO?
This change could affect SEO by potentially decreasing organic traffic, with organic listings being forced to move further down the page. However, this also increases the importance of ranking high organically to ensure traffic is not affected.
In order to be seen organically, it is vital to ensure you have selected relevant keywords for your brand, as well as ensuring your site's Meta Data is optimised for those keywords.
toinfinity will be keeping a close eye on these changes over the next few months, ensuring we are on top of any changes by Google and are adapting both paid and organic strategies accordingly.