Google SERP Changes – Search Marketing Game Changer?


Written by Nick Yorchak. Posted in Blog

The Paid Search world is all a-buzz the last few days with news that Google is planning on rolling out a big change to the way the search engine results pages (SERPs) are configured.

Starting later this week, Google will no longer show the vertical ad sets that previously filled the right side-bar of the results page (on desktop and tablet) worldwide.

Changing SERPs



This change is coming in conjunction with the addition of a fourth ad in the top section, though this spot is reserved only for “highly commercial queries” (and it’s still a bit unclear what exactly that means). You’ll still see ads both above and below organic search results, but now you’ll see four instead of three for many queries.

There’s no word yet on how, or if, Google will fill the valuable side-bar real estate.



Changes SERP PLA





Apparently this change will not effect Google’s Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes, or Knowledge Panel ads.




Changes SERP Local



Make no mistake, this change is huge news! The number of advertisers “above the fold” has been cut by more than 60%, and that’s only if a large portion of searches qualify for the extra “highly commercial queries” ad spot. This example illustrates this new change.





At the very least, agencies should expect to see some cost-per-click (CPC ) increases for many of their advertisers, as well as a more competitive paid search marketplace overall.

Spenders in Google’s big beautiful auction could see CPAs rise due to the growing CPC.

With this in mind, Big Footprint put together a quick list of strategies that you might begin employing now to mitigate the effects of this change.

Specialize… Like a Specialist

One of the biggest effects this change will have on smaller advertisers is that it will make an “all of the above” bidding strategy much more expensive to employ. Many advertisers simply won’t be able to compete head-to-head with some of their bigger competitors any more on every single query. Keeping accounts lean and highly targeted will help focus your media on driving performance.

Several tactics to consider would be:

Day-parts to eliminate spend during low conversion times
Limiting targeting to certain geos or demographic
Pulling expensive “fat-head” terms out of your account

Often times keyword research can help identify longer-tailed versions of core keywords to exact match in order to maintain coverage at a fraction of the cost.

Emphasize Mobile & Ad Extensions

Mobile devices are driving a growing proportion of clicks in many accounts, and since mobile ads won’t be effected by this change at all, consider trying to emphasize mobile even more in your campaigns. Creating mobile specific ads and extensions is a quick way to do this, but bid modifiers and RLSAs could also be employed.

Focus on Conversion Rate Optimization

If you’re paying more for clicks, theoretically you should be maximizing the value of those clicks. A renewed focus on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) tactics will help pull every cent of ROI out of your media dollar.

Rock Your Brand!

Since your Brand is often fairly cheap and in top positioning already, pushing these campaigns harder where possible will also help keep overall CPCs low.

Wordstream’s blog has some great initial insights and data you can check out too for additional details on what others are seeing. For instance, the early winner of this change so far seems Position 3, which is gaining a greater share of Click-Thru-Rate (CTR) while Positions below 5-10 are struggling.












Only time will tell how this change will ultimately effect the future of Paid Search, but here at Big Footprint, we’re looking forward to the challenge.