This past weekend, initial reports suggested that Google would eliminate the ads you see on the right hand side of a Google search. It has now been confirmed that the change took place around February 19th.
Prior to the change, you would see up to 3 ads on the top, up to 2 at the bottom and some ads on the side. There have been certain instances where we’ve seen up to 12 ads on a single page! With the changes Google has made, now up to 4 ads will be visible at the top and up to 3 at the bottom for a total of up to 7 possible ads.
You may be wondering why Google decided to kill side ads. Although there’s no official answer from Google, we guess it’s a number of factors. The elimination of side ads brings the desktop experience more in line with the mobile experience as there weren’t any side ads on mobile searches; this is critical since mobile accounts for a majority of search queries. Speaking of experience, Google also recognized that users don’t really interact with side ads all that much. In fact, several eye-tracking studies suggested they are largely ignored.
The last and perhaps most enticing reason is that Google sees it as more profitable. It’s easy to understand that since PPC is basically an auction system, if there are less seats available, then the price of the available seats would go up. But we’re not sure it’s that simple, especially since less than 5% of all clicks, in our experience, comes from right side ads. In terms of impressions, it’s typical for us to see no more than 20% come form right side ads. These, of course, are only averages, and a hotel competing in New York City might see vastly different percentages.
Location and audience are two very important factors in how this change might effect a hotel’s PPC campaign. Some properties are simply targeting terms, based on their located and audience, that don’t have enough competition to trigger side ads even when they were available.
We would say that the biggest negative impact is to organic search. With the possible addition of a 4th PPC ad at the top, organic listings will be pushed even further down the page. This has even more of an impact for hotels, as hospitality-related searches also yield a 3-pack listing of hotels and small map (see screenshot above), which already push the organic listings down. If all 4 PPC ads heavily utilize ad extensions, it’ll push the organic listings further down.
There is at the very least one positive from this change, and it’s that all ads will be able to use ad extensions such as sitelink extensions and callout extensions. It’s our experience that adding these extensions increases click through rates and can provide a leg up on the competition.
Unfortunately, we won’t really know the true impact until we’re able to run some numbers with the new ad layout in place for a while. Stay tuned for more!