Ian Kooperman

Associate Director, Social Media

The Disappearance of Google Sidebar Ads

Google made a substantial announcement at the end of last month, announcing that it was getting rid of sidebar ads.

This means search ads will no longer show on the right side of Google’s results page. Instead, four ads will appear at the top of the page and three ads at the bottom. Users will now only see Product Listing Ads and Google’s Knowledge Panels on the right-hand side of the page.


Why did Google make this change?

While it may seem abrupt to some, this latest update shouldn’t be too shocking for most SEM professionals. Google has been working to align its desktop and mobile experiences over the last two years and the change will provide a more consistent experience across devices. In fact, last year was the first year that Google officially saw searches on mobile surpass searches on desktop. At this rate, mobile will likely have a continued influence on Google’s decisions in the future.

How does this impact your search program?

For those who use Google Paid Search, the new layout decreases the total number of ads on a page by at least 20 to 30 percent. The reduced inventory could lead to increased competition and higher costs for being on the first page. On the other hand, while the total number of ads on the page has decreased, the amount of ad space at the top of the page has increased, which could potentially cause the average cost-per-click to go down. It’s too soon to determine the exact effects of the update, as the average cost-per-click has yet to change.

Some may see these changes as a disadvantage; however, there are reasons why this change can actually be advantageous to advertisers. First, Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have been increasingly important since their inception. Following this update, PLAs have seen an increase in clicks and click-through-rates due to being the only paid search ads on the right-hand side of the page. For e-commerce advertisers, this update means that shifting budget from standard search campaigns to PLAs will allow for incremental visibility and the ability to not feel a dramatic impact if the cost-per-click increases.

Additionally, this change may have a substantial effect on organic traffic, as organic results may be pushed completely below the fold. When prioritizing organic optimizations, there will now be a need to also take into account the average number of paid ads being served. The value of ranking first organically for a keyword with four ads (giving you a net ranking of fifth) may no longer be as significant as ranking second for a keyword with two ads.

It is now more important than ever to establish an integrated search strategy that prioritizes keywords based on their potential impact. Marketers will need to approach search comprehensively, determining which keywords make more sense to “rent” with paid search, versus “own” with organic search, taking into account the competition, likelihood of ranking, and cost.

As you adjust your search program to adapt to this update, here are a few key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Average cost-per-click has yet to be impacted significantly from the update, but continues to be an important KPI for monitoring changes
  • There will now be a greater emphasis on Product Listing Ads than ever before
  • Organic search results will be pushed down the page, making it more important than ever to take an integrated approach to search


For more information on how this change will impact your efforts, or to learn more about taking an integrated approach to search, reach out to Rise.

03/03/2016 at 12:00

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