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Google caused shockwaves in the PPC community back in February when it announced that it was removing advertisements from the right-hand side of its search results page. These ads, which had become commonplace and an enormous part of many business’ PPC campaigns, would be totally removed in favour of ads at the top and bottom of the search result pages.

So why did Google make this decision, and what does it mean for your PPC?

A mobile adjustment by Google

Many believe that this enormous change from Google is a result of their commitment to mobile devices. The ads in the right-hand column don’t show up on mobile searches, so it made sense to remove them entirely to ensure that those using desktops and mobile devices had a consistent experience across all platforms.

Google never makes a change without comprehensive and thorough testing – so this amendment must have been made with the user experience in mind. Perhaps there simply weren’t enough people engaging with the right-hand ads to make it worthwhile anymore. Google may also be setting aside the space for new features to be introduced at a later date.

What about my PPC campaign?

There are now fewer ad slots available for businesses to bid on – which means that impression levels are likely to decline, and the keywords with the highest traffic will probably become much more competitive. The downside is that it could push some advertisers out altogether. As the bids to appear in the top ads become more expensive, some businesses will no longer be able to justify the ROI they’re getting, and may choose to abandon their PPC approach altogether.

On the bright side, this means that smaller businesses with smaller budgets will be looking for new and innovative strategies. Rather than targeting the broad search terms that often appear in paid ads, they’ll be forced to focus on the long-tail keywords that dovetail with Google’s semantic search endeavours. Perhaps this was Google’s intention all along; to help people move away from the generic search terms and encourage them to focus on semantic terms that are more relevant to their business. The reduction in the number of spots could also be a way of urging businesses to focus more on organic rankings.

Seer Interactive offered a little context to the change, posting a graph of their clients’ right-hand ad traffic in comparison to the traffic from their top ads. It turns out that their right-hand ads were garnering barely any traffic anyway. Other companies have found similar results, with less than 15% of ad clicks coming as a result of side ads. Perhaps the change will end up saving some businesses money, as they’ll no longer have to bid to keep their right-hand ads and can instead focus on the top ads that are actually generating clicks for their site.

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