Google Removes Right Hand Sidebar Ads

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Google Removes Right Hand Sidebar Ads

Google has officially started rolling out an update to its paid search layout. Starting today, Google will begin phasing out the right hand gutter (sidebar) ads. Instead, Google will only show 1 – 4 ads above the fold and force the rest to the bottom of the results page.

google right hand ads

It appears that Google will confirm the update only retroactively. According to The SEM Post, multiple AdWords representatives have confirmed the update, calling it “global and permanent,” but Google has yet to publicly announce the change.

High volume and general search terms have been most severely affected by the update so far. Long-tail and niche terms will begin to see their right hand ads disappear in the coming weeks. In addition to the ads at the top (above the fold), Google has added ads at the bottom of each SERP as well:

Google Removes right hand sidebar ads

The update is limited to desktop search results pages, so your desktop traffic may be affected. Ads that appear beneath the third or fourth position may see a decline in click-through rate. The layout of mobile ads will be unaffected for the time being.

Featured image via Shutterstock. Screenshot taken Feb 2016 by author and Kelsey Jones.

Dusty Vegas

Dusty Vegas

Digital Marketing Manager
Dusty is a digital marketing manager for, where he grows and maintains paid search marketing accounts in highly competitive niches. He also owns and... Read Full Bio
Dusty Vegas
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  • Hannan Ahmad

    That means Ads are going to get more expensive. Never mind, Google revenues going to grow since they will create a hole in the pockets of major brands who desperately want to occupy the most space in Google SERPs. Small players going to get out of the race now.

    • Dusty Vegas

      I agree wholeheartedly, Hannan. How are you reacting?

  • Sam Cottier

    This has a major impact on search engine marketing in general and could cripple lots of business with smaller marketing budgets. My question is why? They’re losing money and all the white space isn’t helping anybody.

    • Dusty Vegas

      Good question, Sam. I am not sure, but I suspect that Google will fill that white space with the knowledge graph and other owned and operated content. What do you think?

      • Sam Cottier

        Increasingly more Google Shopping results could be an option for product searches. But for queries that involve services I’m really not sure. Google has tried out new concepts and has returned to it’s predecessor before so this might not be a permanent move. I think another reason might be the urge to move away from the cluttered look the side ads were imposing on the search results. But still too much white space for me to make sense.

      • Shashi (

        I doubt, Google is losing money. Top ads generally have an order of magnitude higher CTR than side ads. Google has simply take away all the clicks from side ads and awarded it to the top #4 ad. Earlier, 8 advertisers could get one slot each from position 4 to 11. Now they will be competing for one slot. Easy to see, it will drive the CPCs up.

  • Cornelia Tiplea

    might be related to how mobile is developing, more and more people give up desktop for tablets..

    • Dusty Vegas

      What impact do you think this rollout will have, Cornelia? I am not sure that I follow. I do agree that the desktop SERPs now look a lot more like the mobile ones.

  • Oliver Gilllies

    Could be me being cynical but I think the reason why Google is doing this is quite simplistic, to increase their earnings per click on every search.

    Before this change if you were a creative copywriter you had the potential to create a really compelling ad, differentiate yourself and still get a good CTR, even if your ads were on the right hand side bar.

    Now with this change competition for these 4 coveted spots are going to be that much higher and I expect the resultant affect will be a jump in CPC’s which is awesome if you’re a Google exec, not so much if you’re a small business owner trying to compete with the huge budgets of multinationals.

    Oliver Gillies

    • Seoily

      Yes, You are right. Google looking for more profit rather than best possible matches.

    • Dusty Vegas

      I agree with everything you have said, Oliver. It will be very difficult to compete if you are a small business. Some of my contacts are looking to expanding into Bing, where the CPCs are much cheaper.

  • medchrome

    My concern is not how it will affect google and readers, but how it will affect CTR of the organic driven websites. Is no body seeing this aspect?

    • Dusty Vegas

      Organic isn’t my expertise, but I hear mix things from SEO specialists. Some thing that it will help CTRs because clicks that would go to the right hand side will instead scroll down. What do you think?

      • medchrome

        certainly that is true, if right side bar remains empty. Google must have another plan.

  • ballparkbob

    #SEO has just become even more important.

    • Dusty Vegas

      What makes you say that? I am not as up to speed in organic, so please share!

      • Alex Alexakis

        In my opinion Google is foreseeing the future. Mobile searches are growing and desktop searches shrink, removing the sidebar seems like the first step towards removing pagination and implementing scrolling results with ads in between organic results (like in mobile devices). All SEO the past couple 2 years has been about quality content, great design and building sites that are using multiple sources for traffic not just Google. We need to get ready for smaller niche search engines, websites and apps and understand how to make our sites work with them or add them in the specific niches. This update might clear all the black hat and scam artists. It will be a time for designers, marketers and SEO’s that understand great design, architecture, content and how things work and they will need to be able to provide an even better customer experience than ever before.

  • Design A


    • Dusty Vegas

      It may not be all bad! We’ll have to see how it shakes out.

  • Randy Downs

    Great move for keeping the results more pertinent. Top 4 ad prices will go through the roof.

    • Dusty Vegas

      It is definitely going to be rough for companies with smaller budgets and margins to compete, that’s for sure. Hopefully it helps the end user experience, though.

  • Shiv Reddy

    This update will really affect desktop traffic. Now, SEO goes up

    • Dusty Vegas

      Why do you think SEO will go up, Shiv?

      • Shiv Reddy

        Cost for the top Ads goes high and for obvious reasons advertisers will focus on organic results which is done by SEO

  • Deepika Singh

    Good for us..SEO experts. Top 4 ads prices will go high and people will move back to SEO.

    • Dusty Vegas

      Good point, Deepika. I imagine that a lot of the clicks that would go to the RHS will go down to organic now. Also to the top 4 ads.

  • Jackk Thomas

    This seems to appear a good move for the SEO experts.
    Thanks for providing an informative update.

    • Dusty Vegas

      Why do you think it’s a good move for SEO, Jackk? I am more invested in paid, so I don’t keep up with organic as much these days.

  • vivek

    but it still showing in some of search !!! whether the algorithm is still not rolled out fully

    • Dusty Vegas

      You’re not alone, vivek. A lot of people are still seeing the side ads because the rollout isn’t complete yet.

  • Josh Whiten

    We’ve been seeing the new top 4, then PLA in RHS, then 4 more ads under that on RHS. Could just still be partial roll out or else could be affected by screen size resolution?

    • Dusty Vegas

      Good questions, Josh. I don’t know the answer, but I have seen a lot of change happening on the RHS. I suspect that the knowledge graph will take the place of the ads in a lot of cases.

    • Kelsey Jones

      I have read on other articles it is a partial roll-out. For me personally, it’s completely gone.

  • Dusty Vegas

    I remember that, too! A change of heart?

  • socceruci

    I disagree with all the speculation here. “What is this going to mean?”

    Guess what? Google is trying all kinds of weird stuff ALL THE TIME. Just because this is happening on a few queries, or a few places doesn’t mean it is going to be the norm.

    • Dusty Vegas

      Good point! I think it helps to look forward and hypothesize, but nobody knows for sure. I have heard it confirmed by Google representatives that the change is global and permanent, though.

  • Ky Christensen

    This will push organic results “below the fold” probably in an attempt to shift more traffic through the ads. Also the higher quality scores will raise the average..and push out lower q scores

    • Dusty Vegas

      I think so also! Quality score is going to become much more important to keep those CPCs down in the spots. Thanks for the input.

  • Ryan Stewart

    I noticed this change couple days ago in the Ad Preview Diagnostics Tool then tested it in real time and witnessed it as well. In regards to SEM, this is definitely gonna hit the pockets of clients who prefer the “No Matter What Always Top” strategy. This should also adjust keyword discovery tatics by putting greater emphasis on niche targeting and finding more Blue Ocean search behaviors. Not sure about decreasing clickthrough rate of bottom ads.

    • Dusty Vegas

      Great points Ryan. Nobody knows for sure, and you may be right. My main concern with the ads near the bottom of the SERPS is simply visibility. The sidebar ads allowed marketers to write stellar ad copy and perhaps siphon some clicks away from the top. It’s going to be much more difficult to do that so far down that page. What do you think?

      • Ryan Stewart

        One of my clients is already feeling the financial pressure of this as the average daily cost to stay near top went up by over 25% in certain focus keyword groups. Ad copy that frequents the bottom will need to heavily focus on calls to action and CTR boosting text like assuring user they don’t need to see page 2 etc.

  • Samm

    Yeah! it has been changed.

    • Dusty Vegas

      Where have you noticed the change, Samm?

  • Dusty Vegas

    You’re welcome Rabbi. Thanks for reading. Are you an SEO expert? If so, how excited are you?

  • Khalid Hussain

    I use google search option a lot, but because of my busy schedule, I did not notice this big difference and a welcome change at last. Now google search serves our purpose better. Thank you dear Blogger and specially Team Google.

    • Dusty Vegas

      You’re welcome, Khalid! I am glad you enjoyed the post. I hope your schedule isn’t too hectic!

  • Tamil Vanan

    I think RHS Ads are high price and its disrupts the organic search algorithms.. this will be great help to turn back Proper SEO..

    • Dusty Vegas

      You may be right, Tamil. Hopefully the organic spots aren’t pushed to far down the page now!

  • Dusty Vegas

    You’re probably 100% correct, Jahirul. Gotta keep that QS high to avoid the huge CPCs that are probably coming.

  • Dusty Vegas

    I am afraid you might be right.

  • Shoaib Ali

    HI @dustin_vegas:disqus, great article indeed. So initially there used to be 10 placements (3 Top and 7 RHS) but now they have been reduced to 7 (4 Top and 3 Bottom)? which may mean that this update has costed min. three “low budget or mediocre companies” their placement which in result for sure has increased the competition among remaining bidders and a war for top placement. Not to mention the fact that addition of another ad in top results and presence of local listings can further push down the organic results. But on the flip side, a some questions:

    1- If the companies do not increase their advertising budget (in the war to remain on top) which can burn their budget in 2-3 weeks, will it give an opportunity to the left out companies to get the desired placement towards the end of the month? how likely will the left out companies be benefited from this?

    2- Should we see an increase in the organic traffic towards the end of the month because the ads are not there anymore?

    This is just a thought and I would love to know the results. I am learning PPC.

  • Rapidsoft Technologies P. Ltd

    Seems to be good move! Let’s see what Impact is poised by it. For now the notices would not be quite observable by common uses but yes SEO guys and those who are in digital marketing will quickly catch them.

  • Amit Kumar

    nice information sir .

  • Hagins

    a what about % traffic for ads position now?
    60% or 80% for 1-4 position traffic?))))

  • Mobil Mindz

    Perfect. But this is a marketing tactic i suppose. The more the paid companies gonna pay the top their search result will be. I think this will effect you PR too. Traffic will be effected according to the position of ad.