Add3 – Digital Marketing Agency with offices in Seattle & Portland

Add3’s Point of View

On Friday February 19, 2016, Google gave official word that the search results page layout would be changing to no longer display ads on the right side bar. broke the news which was confirmed to them by Google. Testing of this new format has been going on for several years, but as of February 22, the right bar ads are entirely gone.

What exactly is changing?

  • Text ads will no longer appear on the right hand side of search results
  • 4 ads (max – for “highly commercial queries”) will appear above organic listings instead of being limited to 3
  • 3 text ads will appear below organic listings
  • Total number of text ads goes from 11 to 7 (max)
  • Ads below organic listings will display ad extensions
  • Shopping ads (PLA’s) will still show on the right hand side

Potential Impacts

  • Increase in overall CPC’s
  • Improved CTR for position 4 (when shown)
  • Lower CTR’s on positions 5-7
  • Decrease in impressions on keywords in positions 8-11
  • Increased visibility for Shopping Ads

One of the biggest questions is by how much do we expect CPC’s to increase. Wordstream’s Larry Kim did some analysis, which Search Engine Watch reported, and found that even before this change only 14.6% of total click volume came from ads on the side and bottom of SERPs. Based on an analysis of a handful of Add3 clients, the percentage of clicks from below position 3.0 really varied. Advertisers with a larger portion of traffic coming from ads on the right side will be the most impacted by this change and require the most attention to bidding strategy shifts.


With less than a week of data, some changes are already being seen in percentage clicks by position. The graphs below represent desktop only, non-branded traffic.

Sample of B2C Client Data:

  • Percentage of position 1 clicks increased
  • Percentage of position 2-3 clicks decreased
  • Percentage of position 4 clicks increased slightly
  • Percentage of position 5-7 clicks decreased slightly


Sample of B2B Client Data:

  • Percentage of position 1 clicks increased (more dramatically than B2C)
  • Percentage of position 2-3 clicks decreased (more dramatically than B2C)
  • Percentage of position 4 clicks decreased slightly
  • Percentage of position 5-7 clicks increased slightly


How Add3 Will React & Evolve SEM Strategy

  • Monitor changes in impression volume & CPC’s and update bidding strategy accordingly
  • Have all possible extensions activated
  • Consider testing in position 4 based on its new location on the page

Reactions Specific to CPC increases up to levels that turn performance ineffective

  • Re-consider keyword lists with focus on long-tail
  • Place importance on day-parting to focus budget on best performing days & hours
  • Revisit bid multiplier strategies (device, geographic) to also focus budget on very best performing segments

Speculating Reasons For The Change & What May Take Up the Empty Side Bar

  • Layout is more similar to mobile for a seamless cross-device experience
  • Expansion of Knowledge Graphs into the right bar space with possible sponsorships opportunities
  • Video ads may begin to appear on the right bar

The biggest take away is that close monitoring of accounts over the next several weeks is crucial as other advertisers react to their own perceived impacts and expected impacts before the marketplace settles down and fully adjusts to the new layout.

Check out another great article from Search Engine Land summarizing the change.


Nora Park

About Nora Park

Nora Park is an Account Director at Add3. She has been doing paid search marketing for 8 years; the past 5 with Add3. Outside the office, Nora enjoys running, cooking and spending time with her husband and 2 year old son, Tyson.

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