Organic search engine optimization (SEO), already an important aspect of website design, may become just a little more important with a change by Google that will affect desktop search results.
Various news sources including the vaunted Search Engine Land have indicated that Google plans to eliminate the majority of instances where AdWords ads appear to the right of organic search engine results. The keyword here is “majority” which has been translated to indicate that Google may still display ads on the right side of desktop screens for valuable, competitive, and expensive queries which account for more search activity than many of their long tail search queries.
The Death Knell for Overloaded Paid Ad Searches?
Paid ads are the life blood of search engine properties and will likely continue to be so. Mobile search interfaces have always typically shown fewer ads but with the explosion of mobile device usage across all demographics and age levels over the past few years, the importance of those ads remains extremely high. More than likely this new approach to desktop search is simply an alignment of Google’s desktop search interface with the current mobile search screens. Make no mistake, changes at Google are data driven and don’t come lightly or without testing. We can conclude that Google must have seen significantly fewer clicks on right-side pay-per-click ads when compared to the top three ads to the extent that the business decision could:
- Justify dropping right-side ads altogether (helps to clean up the user experience)
- At the same time boost the cost of the top three ads given the fewer number of ad “slots” available at any given time since ads will be restricted to the top ad results
While search demographics may vary, seeing as Google is the elephant in the room, it stands to reason that other large search engines (that’s you Bing/Yahoo) will follow this approach or if they’ll continue the old approach to stuffing desktop results with paid ads.
Pay-Per-Click Ad Exhaustion
As we pass the middle of the decade, it’s important to recognize that users have had years to adapt their habits to possibly ignore or overlook PPC ads in search. Some just don’t trust paid results while others have a sense that they aren’t relevant and Google has been pumping its own local hotel/service/retail/dining results which often are more visible or even rank higher than many organic links. With the rise of alternate forms of advertising (i.e. viral video/image-based campaigns across social media channels) and the hyper competitive organic search engine results which have also had to make room for extremely localized search engine listings, this move by Google may be an acknowledgement that those right side advertisements were floundering (not necessarily failing to attract clicks) but perhaps taking away from the user experience while providing little in return as cost per clicks (CPC) drop, even if paid clicks were up in the third quarter of 2015.
Desktop PPC Conclusion
There are a variety of conclusions that can be drawn from this but certainly it will become more expensive to play successfully in the PPC marketplace just by virtue of fewer slots for desktop. Mobile has always had few slots to begin with and it is incredible important to Google going forward so the desktop impact will likely not be felt as dramatically as it sounds to the overall business. This isn’t the first time that Google has made a sweeping change that directly impacts its search interface (think the local seven-pack reduction to the “snack pack” which caused some local businesses to drop entirely from local search engine results). While obvious to some, Google’s move underscores the importance of a diversified online marketing strategy versus one that depends too heavily on any one particular channel for traffic.