What Google’s New Layout Means For You


Google is now displaying up to four ads above organic desktop search results and removed the ads on the right sidebar.

If you’ve been using Google over the last couple of days you’ll notice the pages look a little different. Last week Google has mixed things up, showing up to four ads above desktop search results, and simultaneously removing the ads on the right hand side. Usually Google’s ads are shown all over the page — a mixture of top, bottom, and right-hand positions, based on the specific query but from last week the list of changes are:

  1. No text ads will be shown on the right sidebar.
  2. Google will show four text ads instead of three above the organic listings for “highly commercial queries” (we’ll get to that in a mo).
  3. Three text ads will be shown at the bottom of the page.
  4. The total number of ads that can appear will reduce from up to 11 to a maximum of seven.
  5. Product listings (shopping results) and knowledge panels will show in the right sidebar for relevant queries.

What Are “Highly Commercial Queries”?

Google have been testing this new four ad layout above organic results since 2010, but only for a small number of searches. Now a greater number of searches which they deem “Highly Commercial” will serve 4 ads.

What you deem highly commercial may differ from Google’s definition. Generally speaking, the term is used for queries in which Google perceives an intent to purchase. Examples from Google include “hotels in New York City” or “car insurance.”

Dont Panic (just yet)

You could argue the right sidebar was long overdue an overhaul. Research shows ads in the top three places received 14 times the click through rate of the same ad on the right-hand side.

If most impressions on the right-hand side have gone to waste moving more ads toward the top will help campaigns. On the other hand we would expect to see bidding increase as advertisers try to fight for the top page positions.

But it’s still too soon to tell if the fewer ads will lead to higher prices due to more people vying for fewer spots. We’re analysing our data and looking at trends and feedback from the search community.

All Natural?

There is also going to be ramifications for SEO as natural listings on some searches will now be pushed down below the fold. A search could trigger four ads and eight shopping results, leaving just one natural result visible, greatly reducing the amount of traffic to a website.

iPhone SERPs

Therefor it’s important that you have an SEO plan that can be tested and has a balance between paid search (PPC) and organic search (SEO). It’s also important for the next few days and weeks to analyse the data and see what is happening in your market as advertisers (and Google) make changes to their strategies based on the changes. As soon as we know more we’ll keep you updated.