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26/02/2016 | Webreality

Changes to Google’s Ad Layout on Desktop Search Results

Google Ad Layout Blog 2

What's changed?

An all-new SERP

Last Friday, 19 February, Google officially confirmed a major update to their search engine results page (SERP). Text ads will no longer be displayed on the right-hand column on desktop SERPs. This is a big change!

How will it look now?

With the removal of the right-hand column, Google will now display up to four ads above and three below organic results. This seemingly sudden change has come as a surprise for many. However, there was some speculation about removing the right-hand ad column in 2010, so this must have been an on-going project for Google.

How it worked previously

11 text ads

For just about as long as everyone can remember, when making a search on Google you were able to see a total of up to 11 text ads. These ads could have been positioned above, to the right or underneath the organic (non-paid) results you see whenever you search.

Top spot

For advertisers, the aim would be to get an ad in the top three positions, as this would achieve the highest click-through-rate (CTR). Achieving a right-side listing provided a good amount of visibility and clicks, but not nearly as much as the top three.

Less effective

The worst position, in terms of CTR, was to be at the bottom of SERPs underneath the organic results. A recent study from WordStream showed that only 15% of users clicked on the right-hand or bottom ads, with 85% clicking on the top ads. This quite possibly explains why Google made this change.

What effect will the change have?

Fewer ads

Instead of up to 11 text ads, there will now be a maximum of just seven. This change affects both digital advertisers and end users.


For advertisers, it will mean more competitive bidding. With four fewer ads appearing on SERPs, it's now more important than ever to ensure Google Adwords campaigns are fully optimised to get ads displaying in one of the top four positions. Fewer ads may also mean a drop in impressions (ad views) for AdWords campaigns. The positive effect from this is that with fewer options, there should be higher CTRs for ads that do appear in these top four positions.

But will this mean higher bid prices? We’ll have to wait and see.


Users will have fewer options to click on, and the first organic result may be lower down the page. However, they can reasonably expect to see better quality ads in the top position. Users will also need to adapt to a more linear, mobile-like approach to search results. This should be a positive user experience, with no right listing distractions.

Website owners

For website owners, it's more important than ever to maintain a search engine optimised (SEO) website which will get on that first page of Google. First page organic website listings are now even more likely to be clicked on, with SERPs displaying a total of 17 listings (organic plus ads), instead of 21. We are well aware of the much smaller percentage of users who make it to page two of Google's SERP. 

How does this affect you if you’re in Jersey?

Smaller businesses

In Jersey we have less online competition than larger territories, and smaller local businesses should notbe greatly​ affected by this change.

Larger businesses

However, for larger local businesses, those in more competitive industries and those vying with international competitors, bidding will have to be more aggressive in order to reach the top four positions. They may notice a significant drop in CTR if ads are not displaying in positions 1-4. This will affect keyword quality score, and consequently bid prices will need to be higher.

How will Webreality react to this change?

Monitor campaigns

We will be regularly monitoring our account's campaigns to see if ​and ​how our their ads are affected by this change. ​We will provide updates to our clients if any of their campaign's performance has been affected.

Audit AdWords

Now is the time to get your AdWords ​account audited and refreshed ​to ensure your campaigns aren’t negatively affected by this change.​

Optimise SEO

We also recommend having your website audited for SEO to ensure it’s optimised for Google and isn’t missing out on lost search impressions.

Talk to us

If you have any questions, or would like to talk about your SEO or ad campaigns, please contact Mark Evans.