What You Need to Know About the Google Adwords Layout Update

If your digital marketing strategy includes Google Adwords advertising, you’ve probably heard that Google made significant changes to how those ads appear in desktop search results.

The gist: 4 ads at the top, 3 at the bottom, 0 on the side

On Friday, February 19 Google confirmed they it had eliminated all ads on the right side of desktop search results. The change felt sudden and has many wondering what the consequences will be for their campaigns. Don’t panic! If your campaigns are managed regularly and effectively, you’re unlikely to notice a difference. Here’s a rundown of what changed and what it means for you and your campaigns.

Right side ads are gone, but there’s one more top position – #4

Ads will not appear on the right side of desktop search results, with two exceptions:

  1. Product Listing Ad boxes
  2. Ads in the Knowledge Panel

Google has confirmed a 4th top ad in results for highly commercial queries where there is a perceived intent to purchase (“Portland, Maine hotels,” “car insurance”).

How will this impact campaign performance – especially keyword costs?

Based on supply and demand, it’s easy to assume that the elimination of side ads will drive up keyword cost. So far, the data shows that the majority of smaller advertisers have not been priced out of the remaining ad positions. Believe it or not, experts predict that the extra #4 top slot may actually level the playing field and even decrease keyword costs.

Expect fewer impressions, higher click through rate

The click through rate on right side ads was quite low. The elimination of these positions should only impact impression count. Many advertisers are likely to see an increase in click through rate. Clicks are expected to stay the same or increase.

Well-managed campaigns will shine

Just like all of Google’s updates, this change was made to deliver higher quality, more useful results to users. This update holds advertisers to a higher standard. Google Adwords campaigns that are optimized with targeted keyword groups, relevant and well-written ad copy, and ad extensions should already be positioning in the top 3. If your campaign has relied on coasting by with very little management and clicks from side ads you will need to optimize.

It’s too early to understand the full impact of this change. We’ll have to wait and see what happens as advertisers react to one another’s adjustments. In the meantime, take a deep breath, stick to best practices and keep a watchful eye on those campaigns.