Google is constantly maintaining a healthy tension in its search engine results page (SERP) real estate between more ad space and less ad space. More ad space means more opportunities for advertisers to reach out to their audiences, while less ad space allows for a cleaner, less cluttered user experience.
The latest set of changes Google made, back in February 2016, aimed to address this tension. Google updated the SERP display by removing standard text ads from the right rail and increasing the number of text ads above the organic results to four (up from the previous maximum of three) for certain “highly commercial” queries. This change only applied to the desktop SERPs.
Overall, how does the change impact the market?
It appears that advertisers are spending the same amount of budget for the same volume of clicks. The top ad positions are costing a bit more — no surprise here.
For smaller advertisers who have relied on lower-volume, long-tail terms, the change will cause problems. It will cost them more to attain a top position, and they will see fewer impressions and clicks for the cheaper lower positions. Their overall volume will decline.
In general, the changes continue to push search marketing to a more complex and competitive environment. The ability to manage campaigns manually is becoming much more difficult — the need for machine learning aligned with granular data is becoming the standard (much like automated trading on the stock exchanges).
The change is good: Less clutter and more relevant ads is a good thing. Advertisers will only pay for placements that produce results, which means consumers are getting value from the ads.
Current results should show a slight increase in revenue — granted, this is from the POV of Adobe’s search data. The offsets between fewer impressions, higher CTR and the shift in CPCs across positions give the indication that Google has made a good change.
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