How the New Google SERP Layouts Might (or Might Not) Affect Your Website
Whenever Google makes a change to the search results, the internet buzzes with excitement, disappointment, disapproval, despair, hope, fear, and a million other reactions. A handful of conspiracy theorists waste no time hopping out of wherever they hide when they aren't spreading conspiracies and explain how the new change will be the end of all small businesses. The more data-driven folks rush to show the effects of the change on the internet as a whole. But mostly, businesses wonder what they need to do now to continue being competitive on the internet.
The latest change in Google's search engine results page is no different. Google has drastically changed the number and position of ads in the search results. Here's what's new:
- A max of 4 ads instead of 3 at the top
- No more text ads on the right side for a desktop search
- 3 text ads at the bottom beneath the organic results
- A maximum of 7 text ads on a search result page, down from the previous max of 11
- Product listings and knowledge panels on the right side for relevant queries
What do these changes mean for your website? Here are a few possibilities:
Your cost per click (CPC) will go up
If you are running an AdWords campaign (and let's be honest, if you want to be competitive in search, you probably should be), then you are going to need to keep a close eye on your bidding strategies. There is now less room for the same amount of competition. 11 websites can't show up in 7 ads. So companies may need to bid more to make sure their ads still show up. If everyone raises their bids, then it will cost more to run your advertising campaign. Supply and demand, right?
Your CPC will go down
On the flipside, you may not need to spend more at all, especially if you were already showing up in the top three. Let's be honest for a second: the vast majority of clicks have always been on those top 3 ads. How often did people click on the side ads? Well, it was infrequent enough that Google had no problem getting rid of them. Make no mistake: Google will not lose ad money from this change. While there are fewer spots for the same amount of competition on the whole, there are actually more spots in the areas where people actually click. That makes it quite possible that you will be able to get more clicks at a slightly cheaper cost. Supply and demand, right? For the record, early data indicates no change in CPC.
Your Organic Click-Through Rate (CTR) Will Go Down
More ads up top does one obvious thing to organic search: it moves those results further down the page. And everyone knows that the further something is down the page, the less likely someone is to click on it. People don't like to work for things on the internet. No, we just click on the first thing we see. The new layout will push the top organic result below the fold on many devices. Just think of how far someone will have to scroll on a smaller screen to get to your organic listing. They'll probably save themselves all that trouble and just click the ads instead.
Your Organic CTR Will Go Up
It may defy logic to think organic results will get more clicks when they are further down the page, but they do have less overall competition now. Without the distraction of those right-side ads, users will be more likely to click on organic listings, including those further down the page. Besides, we all know those internet users who are so proud of the fact that they've never clicked on an ad before. They're going to keep clicking on organic results, and now they're less likely to accidentally click on one of those side ads.
What You Need to Do Now
With all these competing theories out there, what should you do next? Here are the most logical steps:
- Closely monitor your ad campaigns, particularly your average position, impression share, and cost per click. Adjust your bidding strategy as needed to maintain or improve your campaign. And always remember that the most important part of your ad campaign is your return. Losing a few clicks or paying more for a few clicks doesn't matter all that much if you are still making money.
- Make sure your organic results are optimized for click-throughs. That includes relevant title tags, compelling meta descriptions, and properly implemented structured data (such as review schema or product schema) to make your results stand out more in a shrinking organic landscape.
Wait a second. Those things aren't any different than what you already should have been doing. Weren't you already monitoring your ad campaigns and making adjustments where needed? Weren't you already optimizing your organic results to improve your click-through rates? Maybe you won't have to rewrite your marketing plan after all.
On the other hand, you may want to consider investing in some ads if you weren't before. You know, just in case.