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Breaking – Google Changes the SERP – Images are King and PPC Holds the Key to the Kingdom

Oops they did it again

We know Google is constantly testing things on their SERP (Search Engine Results Page) with new products, new layouts, new colors etc. But lately it seems that Google has really been focused on not just simple changes, but dramatically changing the basic core of what as SERP looks like. Today Google changes SERP layout in a dramatic way. Check the images below for some examples.

Kate Spade Google PLA Focused SERP

Just earlier today the SERP would have looked more like the image below.  When PLAs first rolled out they looked like the images in that article.

Google SERP PLA layout pre 12/04/2013The way things used to be

Images and PLAs (Product Listing Ads) are much more prominent than they used to be. Even in non PLA focused SERPs images rule the roost as you can see below –

ImageHeavy SERP automotive


Also now all PPC ads  have a white background and an orange “ad(s)” label. If you hadn’t noticed most of those screen shots you are lucky to get one organic result above the fold.


What does this mean for  me?

  1. It looks like the SERP is moving to be more image focused.
  2. Product Listing Ads (or Shopping Ads) are even more important
  3. Expect to pay more for PLAs both on CPC and Budget
  4. Ads are now called out even more (with an image label)
  5. Expect different results than what you used to get for Top VS Other

What has Google said about the changes?

First of all don’t get upset at your account team if you were not notified ahead of time. I have it on good authority they only found out about the change this morning via email themselves. Some advertisers have already been informed and others will be shortly I am sure.

Much of the below information comes from an email I received just a few minutes ago from Google.

What specifically is changing?

  1. New labeling for ads on desktop: Ads will no longer appear on a colored background and instead will feature an orange “Ad” label in the visible URL line.
  2. In conjunction with this change, users will now begin seeing Product Listing Ads show above text ads in top positions when relevant to the user query.

As mentioned above how “ads” are labeled is changing, and Product Listing Ads are going to be at the top of SERPs instead of on the side or underneath the top ads.

The scope of the changes is Global  in nature on desktops. It is currently running on 50% of traffic but is expected be to 100% of all searches by the end of day December 4th

How will this impact my ads, cpc, budget etc?

Expected Impact: Multiple experiments were conducted over a number of weeks, confirming a neutral to positive impact on ads performance. In regards to PLAs specifically, the expectation is that this will increase PLA clicks, so we at our company recommend to increase budgets by 10% to capitalize on increased click volume.

So expect to increase your PLA bids and budget if you want to be in that top position on the SERP now. If you aren’t running PLAs best get your feeds in order and at least test them.

Google did also give a few more details on the two main ad related changes:

Ads Labeling Details
Back in September, we announced updates to the look and feel of our search results page on mobile, including a bright label for “Ads”. We’re adding this label on the desktop to provide a consistent experience with our products across screens.
Top-Screen PLA Details
As part of our continued efforts to create the best user experience, users will now begin seeing Product Listing Ads at the top of the desktop and tablet search results page, in addition to mobile which launched in prior months.  We received positive feedback from users during early tests and have seen an increase in overall traffic to advertisers. As always, we’ll continue to improve the experience based on user feedback.
 – Google is constantly experimenting and revamping the ways in which we deliver our results, to keep our advertisers‘ and users’ best interests in mind. Unfortunately, at this time we are not able to offer any further information on these changes. (emphasis added)
If you think the changes are done, Google wanted to make sure we knew that they are constantly changing “the ways in which [they] deliver [their] results.”
There hasn’t been much info on the non-ad changes with a higher focus on images on the SERP. So if you know more make sure to comment.
What do you make of the changes? Will you be making any changes to the way you manage PPC including PLAs now this has rolled out?

Hat tip to Andrew Bethel for the original heads up.

All images are screenshots taken 12/04/2103 of by author

Category News
Bryant Garvin PPC Dictator & Chief Consultant at Bryant Garvin Consulting

Bryant Garvin has been involved with marketing for over 10 years known by many of his peers as the PPC ...

Breaking – Google Changes the SERP – Images are King and PPC Holds the Key to the Kingdom

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