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Google AdWords Switching to 4 Ads on Top, None on Sidebar

     
11:55 pm on Feb 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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http://www.thesempost.com/google-adwords-switching-to-4-ads-on-top-none-on-sidebar/ [thesempost.com]

Google AdWords Switching to 4 Ads on Top, None on Sidebar

It seems that Google is rolling out a change to Google AdWords that sees 4 ads at the top of the search results, none on the sidebar at all, and an additional 3 ads at the bottom of the search results. This replaces the usual mix of top, bottom and sidebar-heavy AdWords ads, depending on the specific search result.
5:14 pm on Feb 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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LOL, what a mess. I believe they started rolling this change out on February 16th. I pick February 16th as the date because that's the day my conversion rate fell through the floor and hasn't recovered.
12:57 pm on Feb 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Option 1: one design for desktop and one for mobile is just too much effort...
Option 2: getting them coming and going is more profitable than hanging out at the edges...
Option 3: people know we're almost a paid inclusion answer ad server so why pretend...
Option 4: all of the above.
12:59 pm on Feb 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I can't wait till all ten results are paid ads. Then there will be an end to all the myths that surround organic search changes, except for the one that is about profits.
1:01 pm on Feb 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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For money? No. For MUCH MORE MONEY!
1:07 pm on Feb 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Our best converting ads (highest conversion rate) have always been in the sidebar, will be sad to see that go.
1:39 pm on Feb 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Quite clearly, this is to get more paying ads on the page, it's a s simple as that.

The sidebar will stay, for the time being.

From an advertiser point of view, it has been needed in some competitive sectors as some ads struggled to get onto page one frequently enough to make a difference.

It's becoming pretty much a paid page, and I wonder how many people will now click through to page two and see page two ads, too.

Interesting, very interesting.
4:55 pm on Feb 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Here is what I noticed.

1. Removed ads from right side
2. Increased the max number of ads on top to 4
3. Reduced the max number of ads on a page to 6 or 7
4. Pushed SEO results below the fold and way below the fold when local results and other types of results
5. PPC ads that fluctuate between 4th and 5th position is now a huge jump from top to bottom of page instead of 1st or 2nd on right side.
6. Long tail PPC results reduce the max ads on to top to 1 or 2. Ranking 3rd in this situation used to put you on the right side now your on the bottom
Right now you can see how ads used to look if you go to [google.co.uk...]
9:46 pm on Feb 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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All that empty space, seems so wasteful, from a user-friendly design point of view.
11:21 pm on Feb 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Dear Google,

We regret to inform you that Google search results no longer comply with Google policy regarding spam. Specifically we, the spam team, have determined that all Google results contain nothing but paid or affiliate content above the fold. For that reason, and in compliance with our stated mission, Google results will no longer be appearing online in order to better serve our user base. If you feel this was in error you can submit a request for inclusion after taking significant steps to remove all spam and assuring us you won't do it again.

The spam team

note to self: On a more serious note, now is the time to begin focusing on alternative traffic sources, Google is displaying little interest in actually sending traffic to the websites they rank.
3:11 am on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The SEMPost article quotes a Google spokesperson as saying "this is designed for highly commercial queries." For many (most?) queries, it's likely to be a non-issue.
4:12 am on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Quite often I see no ads on side or top (Chrome 48.*)
5:51 am on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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They've been reporting CPC decrease for years now. Time to change that by limiting inventory.
6:06 am on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The SEMPost article quotes a Google spokesperson as saying "this is designed for highly commercial queries." For many (most?) queries, it's likely to be a non-issue.


They meant the PLA ads would start showing up for highly competitive keywords. All searches will have only top ads.
9:46 am on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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On my plain vanilla screen resolution, the new 4 on top, 3 on the bottom ad layout leaves around 50% of the screen empty down the right hand side. I suspect the question is not if Google plans to monetise that space, but with what?
10:17 am on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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...the right hand side. I suspect the question is not if Google plans to monetise that space, but with what?
I think the consensus is PLA's, Knowledge graph,and such is tagged for the right hand side.
12:32 pm on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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They've been reporting CPC decrease for years now. Time to change that by limiting inventory.


I think u hit the nail. And if u consider the power consumption ( energy costs ) every query needs, uŽll see that meany queries will not even match the costs. So let the advertizers bid on this four spots.
2:03 pm on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yesterday some people in the UK were reporting that they were still seeing ads in the sidebar, today Google SERP Features tool reports at [rankranger.com ] no ads in sidebar anywhere in the world - they're completely gone. I suspect we'll start seeing more PLAs and Knowledge panels, and that Google may be preparing to roll out something new that none of us know about yet. It will be interesting to watch this unfold.
2:40 pm on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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So far I am still seeing no huge change in the cost-per-click for my ads in the top positions. I expect this to happen gradually as people adjust to this change, but how much is everyone expecting to see them increase?
3:07 pm on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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For the very competitive niches like hotels , travel, insurance, legal, loans, download and donate - I can expect upwards of 100% increase. For the seasonal and more niche and cheap search terms you might not even feel the difference year-over-year as some of the low budget competitors will give up entirely.
3:14 pm on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Nutterum - I tend to agree although in certain industries I think many of the smaller competitors will drop off and the CPC will still rise drastically. Many of my clients are in the HVAC/Climate Control industry within the US and even if the smaller competitors drop off, many big box stores and manufacturer's will want to remain at the top and drive CPC through the roof.
12:36 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I believe that if CPCs become to big of an investment, many agencies will just approach 3d party publishers and online local news networks and get the exposure with "native ads" in order to achieve better impression/ CTR rate (not to mention the SEO benefits of fresh non-paid traffic)
6:05 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sorry if I'm stating the obvious here, but why are people concerned with CPC alone? You optimise a campaign by playing with the bid to find the sweet spot where profit-per-week is maximised; increasing the CPC will decrease the average-profit-per-click but will increase the clicks-per-week. So an increased CPC could just as easily mean an increased profit.

Given there are now less ads on the page and I imagine the ads in the side bar were far more susceptible to ad blindness, I believe that increasing the bid/CPC to maintain the same position will on average result in an increase in clicks-per-week. So it's unclear what affect this will actually have on profit, if any.
9:08 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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No More Sidebar Ads in Google SERPs—The Ad Auction Just Intensified is what one digital marketing firm thinks.

But the article also talks about a revival for organic results on the first page, (I'm not holding my breath. I think all of the comments in this thread about how G. will montise the white space hold true.)

However, i.m.o. what I think it will also mean, is that with those top four spaces becoming even more valuable to Google directly, the former sidebar inventory will get pushed out onto AdSense and Doubleclick publisher web sites.

Everyone, watch your stats carefully!
4:22 pm on Feb 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Now that the side bar ads are gone, with little explanation from Google, the desktop screen looks very bare indeed.
I just did some searches on desktop, and even some sectors that used to have a pretty full inventory only have one ad at the top and three at the bottom, and nothing, absolutely nothing else on the right. It's looking very bare. Strangely, the exact same search on mobile has three at the top and three at the bottom.

Comparing the Organic SERPs, there's no comparison at all: Mobile is entirely different from desktop, where it used to match reasonably well.
9:46 pm on Feb 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Been a bit unsettling the last few days, it's like learning adwords all over again. It's sad that we get no less than 5 phone messages from our "adwords rep" of the month every month but they choose not to give any advanced notice of this change to the product we pay for.
11:04 pm on Feb 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"Been a bit unsettling the last few days, it's like learning adwords all over again. It's sad that we get no less than 5 phone messages from our "adwords rep" of the month every month but they choose not to give any advanced notice of this change to the product we pay for."

They didn't know. I had the misfortune to have my largest client in a geo market Google used for testing, so they got this new result on February 5th. My rep had no clue what was going on, he escalated it to a senior Australian Rep who was also unable to explain anything (and I think genuinely so). it wasn't until I got a call from Mountain View that the message came through "permanent change - deal with it".
12:08 am on Feb 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I should have seen this coming. These results appeared in limited tests in that same market around April last year, then again in September, then returned to normal after a few days. Each time the adwords clicks and conversions fell notionally 50% in the adwords stats, but in reality his phone and online bookings fell 90%. Which also occurred this time, and now of course it is permanent. Now this client has been spending AUD$25,000 p.a. on his ads, and his quality scores were 10/10 for 11 of his 12 keywords, clicks @15% and conversions @13%. But despite this he lost big time.

Why? Well the answer goes to who is above him. Smaller companies with smaller spends are ahead of him. However (because this is a small industry and everyone knows everyone's business) those companies are being represented by large international agencies, who work by paying google directly and charging the client. Also on a search that includes a geo identifier "this service + this city", now returns results from interstate, which clearly is not the user intent. In a regional market, one client was 1 - 2 and is now 6, with the 5 above her being an hour's drive away in a major city. The other local businesses she shared the top 3 with have disappeared entirely.

My other campaigns are all suffering the same problem, whereas I had them ahead of national advertisers, they are now behind them. This even where their office is 1000km away and the service is best delivered face to face and the search string included a desire to see local results.

So here are my thoughts, based on 7 years as a certified adwords professional (101, 201 & 301), plus having a few extra weeks over most people to analyse the situation. Google have changed the quality score. Previously it was keyword related, so bid + ad relevance + extensions + landing page for that keyword + click rate. All that still holds. However they have now added an additional parameter - campaign spend. Something like:

Ad rank = ((existing quality score)*.1 ) * (campaign spend)

- with campaign spend being a "spend rank" ordinal 1-10.

This is why I am seeing Yellow Pages ads in first place in competitive, commercial verticals in major markets. I do think Google's senior international partners saw this coming. Most of my clients have reported getting calls from these agencies offering a flat fee, usually $15 - $20,000 to cover website AND advertising, with a guarantee of front page inclusion. Those calls became almost daily in the last few weeks. That would make sense, under the new Ad Rank these people would have high "spend rank" and know to get as big as possible before this hits.

The other reason I say that the large partners saw this coming is because one of my client's competitors said yes to one of these telemarketing calls, and was signed up back in December by what turned out to be a major International Adwords Partner, who promised him that events would unfold exactly how they now have. Their strategy was to rank multiple sites for the same business under different names, so he actually has position #1 and #3 this morning. He has been boasting for weeks before the Great Adwords Carnage of 2016 that he was going to "wipe out the competition" in February and he has done just that.

So I don't know how much use re-learning Adwords is going to be if you have a small agency with your faithful band of clients, a spend rank of 1 is useless to your clients. I also wonder if there are any agencies out there that are small but do aggregate? How have your ads fared? I wonder if "spend rank" is in fact more complicated, and has elements for aggregating-vs-individual google billing, perhaps even a payment reliability score.
12:46 am on Feb 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@CIWebMarketing Ad rank has always been more than just bid and quality score IMO. If we keep bid and on-site stuff unchanged, we see changes in ad rank that can't be attributed to competitor behaviour or seasonal changes. Google (unsurprisingly) does indeed seem to use an additional factor that allows it to tweak results. Not sure it's purely based on campaign spend, but it's there.

Regarding your ads, I don't understand how bookings can fall 90% for the same ad spend. I can understand a slight variation in conversion rate (because side bar ads won't convert identically to ads in the top and bottom block) and I can understand a drop in clicks if the same CPC results in a poorer position and hence there's a drop in cost, but your position relative to competitors should only affect your number of clicks/cost, not your conversion rate. Or am I missing something?
1:39 am on Feb 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hi Simon, thanks for engaging. I mentioned that the clicks were down 50% under the new Ad Rank, so spend has come off 50% as well. Increasing the bids helped a little, pushing him above the fold on some keywords, on others (the money keywords) he simply does not show at any bid - I tried a 300% cpc increase for a test, nothing. So his spend is down 40% overall, but his business 90%. However when you check the stats in analytics - traffic, bounce rate, page views & time on site are unchanged - exactly at statistical averages. The only difference is that conversions measured as form fills or phone calls are almost zero. I don't want to use the z word, but I can see no other explanation for the poor quality traffic coming through post the change.

Like I said, this is the third time this has happened, the other 2 reverted, this one is coming on 3 weeks and appears permanent. I know who is getting the real traffic, the client of Big Agency with 2 websites in the top 3 (didn't that used to be against the guidelines?). I am able to get accurate truck movements for the industry and suddenly his truck movements are up by a factor of 3, so he is doing what he was told would be possible, completely destroying the competition.

I have come on here to see if anyone else is having these issues with the new adwords algorithm. Can I assume your vote is "unaffected". Thanks
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