Google paid search update: no more ads on the right side of desktop searches

Google right side ads

PPC is changing.

In a big shake up to current Google ad search results across the globe, there will no longer be ads on the right side of desktop searches.

Now, we know how daunting it can be when Google moves the goalposts in this way, but don't panic! We've broken down everything you need to know in this post.

What's happening?

Previously, there had been three paid ads at the top of each search page, with the rest shown down the right-hand side of the page. Google will now remove the side ads and revert to four at the top of the page, but only for “highly commercial queries”, e.g. ‘taxi service in Manchester’.

The update is still being rolled out and will likely be completed in the next 7 days. Reports suggest 50% of searches are currently affected.

Crucially, the update only affects desktop searches. Mobile searches will remain the same, with either two or three paid ads at the top of the results page. Effectively, desktop searches will now be formatted in the same way as mobile, with the only difference being the number of ads shown.

Why is it happening?

Google has been testing the four-ad system as far back as 2010. It’s only now that it has decided to officially go with this as a strategy.

Essentially, the ads on the right-hand side of the page weren’t generating enough traction for advertisers. Positioning them at the top of the page gives the ads greater prominence. This means it's now up to advertisers to refine their accounts more effectively in order to gain top spot positions.

What next?

In the short term, you or your digital agency should look at what more you can be doing in Google Display Network to compensate for the traffic you may lose from paid search.

It’s likely that some companies will panic and throw money at the problem to try and snap up the top spots. This will drive the cost up, so you should avoid following suit and instead take a more considered approach.

Long term, you should review your keywords and negative keywords to ensure you are only targeting the ones that will generate conversions.

It sounds obvious, and you certainly should have been doing this already, but today’s announcement makes it more important than ever to give your paid campaigns the care and attention they deserve.

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