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How New Ads on Google’s SERPs Impact SEO

Posted on 6.27.2016

:: Blood in the Water: Is Google Circling SEOs?


By Travis Bliffen, Stellar SEO


-Google recently changed the layout of its search engine results pages (SERPs) by removing ads from the right side and adding extra ads at the top and bottom. SERPs for ''highly commercial queries'' (like "hotels in New York City") will now feature an extra ad at the top and three text ads at the bottom.

In a nutshell, Google has increased the number of paid ads showing at the top of certain types of SERPs from three to four. Also, SERPs now feature three ads at the bottom. In total, the number of paid ads on SERPs has been reduced from 11 to 7 ads. Also, the right sidebar no longer features any text ads. Search engine results pages have fewer ads now and those ads appear in different places. 

According to most search engine experts, Google’s new update was long overdue especially in regards to right-side ads. Numerous studies have indicated that searchers rarely click on right-side ads. There is also evidence indicating that Google has been continuously gravitating toward becoming a more mobile-friendly search engine. Given the fact that the right-side column of ads wasn't visible via mobile search, the ads had to go. 

Effects of Google’s newest update on SERPs

With the recent developments, there has been a lot of speculation on how these new SERP ads update will affect SEO and PPC for instance, how do the new changes impact organic ranking? Should website owners change their SEO tactics or is it business as usual? These are some of the questions that have been lingering in the minds of many website owners. Although there appears to be a rushed general consensus that these changes will impact SEO negatively, this is far from the truth. 

On the contrary, Google’s newest update on SERPs has made good SEO more important which is a good thing for business owners with great SEO strategies. For instance, there is more focus on organic search results with the right-side ads out of the way. Furthermore, the update only affects SERPs with highly commercial queries. A number of keyword types have remained ad-free or feature just one or two ads on top. These keyword types include; e-commerce keywords featuring PLAs (Product Listing Ads) and no-text ads as well as long-tail keyword phrases. 

Also, SERPs still feature 10 blue links. The addition of paid ads on the body of search engine results pages hasn’t squeezed off organic ranking positions to other pages. Although organic results have been pushed down slightly on SERPs, the total number of results on all SERPs has remained consistent. Although SERP elements such as answer boxes, related questions, blended image search results etc., can make SERPs include fewer results than the standard ten results, the new update hasn’t lowered the number of organic result count. Navigational branded searches have also remained constant. 

With that said, it is important to recognize the fact that most website owners looking to improve their organic search traffic may not be amused with the addition of ads before organic links. It is, however, important to note that the average searcher scrolls down SERPs. There is, therefore, no reason to think that the new SERP structure will modify searchers behavior negatively (e.g., searchers won’t scroll down as usual because of the ads). 

Nevertheless, it is important to react to this update with a solid SEO strategy since the new SERP layout is here to stay. With the right-side ads out of the way, the click-through-rate for first-page organic page results is bound to increase as searchers focus their attention on one column. Website owners must, however, modify their SEO efforts to ensure they grab the attention of keen searchers faster and better than their competitors. An increased focus on click-earning page titles and meta descriptions is certainly something you should be considering to capture more clicks from your valuable first page real estate.

Strategic keyword research is also more important now, more than ever. Website owners must do thorough research on their keywords to identify the SERP layout they will be competing within for different keywords. Website owners need to find and place priority on keywords and keyword phrases that attract fewer ads at the top of SERPs and between organic results. This does not mean you shouldn’t have topical pages it simply means you need to understand what you are competing against for your primary terms.

Website owners also need to review top keywords (especially ''highly commercial keywords'') to see the effects of the new SERP layout on their ranking position and craft strategies for improving where necessary. This applies mostly to search results targeting images, videos and featured snippets. There is also a need for a full review on local search strategies not to mention the importance of placing more emphasis on mobile search going forward. 

Website owners also need to think about balancing their paid search budgets strategically since PPC ad costs may go up as paid ads get some more attention and the answer isn’t always to spend more when you can’t boost performance organically. 

Looking Ahead

The importance of a solid SEO strategy can’t be overlooked going forward given the above information. Website owners need to work with SEO companies that understand both sides of the equation to be able to navigate the new landscape effectively. Google’s newest SERP update may appear to have negative effects on SEO at first glance however, this isn’t the case. The update makes good SEO more important which is a good thing since website owners and searchers are bound to get more out of Google.


About the Author

Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a Web design and marketing firm located in Franklin, TN. Travis and his team are equipped to handle any size SEO project and have helped numerous businesses to date build a rock solid online presence. When you are ready for more leads and sales, it is time to get #stellarized. Connect on Facebook or Twitter @theseoproz

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