February 22, 2016

It’s the End of the SERPs as We Know It

By Justin H.

I don’t know how much Googling you’ve done today, but if you’ve frequented the search giant at all on this fine afternoon, there’s a chance you’ve noticed something quite different.

What could it be? Did the tech giant change its logo again? Nope.

Did all the fonts change sizes? Not quite.

Did Google’s domain finally redirect to Ask Jeeves?!

Now you’re just pulling guesses out of thin air. If you haven’t figured it out, take a look at the right side of your browser.


All the white space is another nod towards the mobile shift. That's also just me overreacting to having a wide browser window on my screen. You won’t see all that on your smartphone, though it will forever haunt your desktop. Muahahaha.

Google has officially rolled out a big change to AdWords which allows four ads at the top of the SERPs (search engine result pages), while eliminating all ads on the sidebar. There are also three more ads at the bottom of your search results.

More importantly, say goodbye to all those ads on the sidebar. If you were to search something more typical looking for any goods, services, locations and what not, you will already see all the ads on the top of the SERP. Thanks to my obscure Googling skills, I found you some of the last remaining sidebar ads so you can properly wave goodbye before they disappear over the coming days.

This truncated view of ads might be a lot to take in, but what does this mean for the all parties involved, i.e. the searcher, the advertiser, and the almighty Google?

As you’ll notice in the graph above courtesy of Moz.com, only about 1% of SERPs contained four ads prior to yesterday. Google had been subtly testing out four-ad-SERPs for the past few months, but now they’ve fully committed! On this unseasonable Black Monday, the ads have officially won. The percentage of SERPs with four ads at the top jumped all the way to 19.3%.

One of the first publications to break this story was The Media Image, who learned the reason behind this change was, “Google has determined the average click-through-rate for Right Hand Side Ads is poor across verticals, and the expected CPC inflation from this major change is projected to be more profitable in the long run.”

But What About My SEO Rankings?

The obvious drawback to this announcement is it’s now impossible to rank at the top of the SERP for your respective keywords, right?

It is merely speculative at this point until more information is gathered but, at first glance, this is a hit to organic rankings in general. Competition and ad budgets will inevitably become fierce to claim one of those top three or four ad locations at the top of your pages.

This is not to say organic rankings are not important, because you are truly putting yourself behind the 8-ball if you neglect traditional SEO tactics. Lapses in strategy could knock you further down the SERPs than they would have just a few days ago, so this new ad location is just another way to weed out the lesser-equipped sites from the top of the page. You’ve gotta earn it now more than ever!

If you own a local business, consider this a little wake-up call. Building your presence on Google Maps, Google My Business, and AdWords is as important as ever. If you need any help, of course eGumball is always just one call away. We are Google AdWords experts, after all!

What do you think of Google’s new ad locations? How will this affect local businesses, the SEO industry, etc.? Feel free to start a conversation in the comment section below!

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