Do a Google search from your desktop PC this week and you’ll notice a change in paid search positions.
On pages with so-called ‘high commercial content’ (ie. search pages from which a user is likely to buy), Google now features four paid adverts at the top of the SERPs (search engine results page) instead of the usual three and there are three paid adverts at the bottom of the page.
Organic rankings are in the squeezed middle. There are no adverts on the right hand side – apart from Google Shopping images and links.
This update has implications for any business which spends money advertising online, of course. The removal of the right hand advert panel means there are fewer opportunities to be noticed for a particular keyword as seven adverts appear on each SERPS instead of the usual 11.
Although the repercussions remain to be seen, online advertisers will be competing more heavily for the top four spots at the top of the SERPs and there will be additional emphasis on Google Shopping for product-led searches.
From the point of view of a Google user, the removal of the right hand side adverts has certainly led to a much clearer SERPs page and the image-led layout of Google Shopping is now more dominant. However, the presence of four ads will take a bit of getting used to – when searching from my iPad I found the presence of four adverts particularly annoying as I had to scroll to see the first organic listing.
Organic listings remain the Holy Grail, of course, and fortunately the update doesn’t affect organic rankings, though of course they are now sandwiched between heavier layers of paid ads.
While Google’s algorithms are changing all the time, the advice on achieving good organic rankings remains the same: good content and quality backlinks backed up a healthy, technically well-maintained and mobile-friendly site.