By far the biggest news coming out of last week was Google’s decision to remove right sidebar ads. With every big story comes a lot of questions, confusion, and search marketers wanting to know more about that it means for them.
This post will try to clear up the confusion and answer the questions people have by compiling all of the confirmed information we have to-date.
Is it Confirmed?
Yes, Google has confirmed the removal of right sidebar ads is being permanently rolled out worldwide in all languages. This decision only affects desktop queries since mobile queries were always devoid of right sidebar ads.
No More Sidebar Ads, Ever?
No, that is not accurate. Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and ads within the Knowledge Graph will still display on the right sidebar for appropriate queries.
Three or Four Text Ads?
Going forward, Google will be displaying three above-the-fold text ads for all queries. For “highly commercial queries” Google may display up to four text ads. Google gives the examples of searches for hotels and car insurance when describing “highly commercial” queries. In addition, there will be a section of ads below the first set of organic listings.
Will This Affect The Visibility of Organic Listings?
You can be the judge of that. Here is an example from Twitter where Raj Nijjer of Yext shows zero organic listings appearing above the fold:
Searched for "Content Marketing": 4 pack of Google ads + knowledge graph = no organic results above the fold pic.twitter.com/N8LJIO1jFm
— Raj Nijjer (@rajnijjer) February 20, 2016
These results are not typical, but it certainly paints a worrisome picture. In this example you’ll see Google is displaying four, not three, AdWords ads; as well as a Knowledge Graph panel. The combination has resulted in no organic listings displayed above the fold.
Of course, when only three ads and no Knowledge Graph panel are being displayed, there is more room for organic listings. But the fact is, with the inclusion of a fourth ad, last week’s changes will at times affect the visibility of organic listings.
Will Costs-Per-Click Go Up?
We probably won’t get a definitive answer to this until the change has been in affect for some time. However, the basic principles of supply and demand indicate costs will go up.
There’s now a reduced supply of above-the-fold ad positions, but the demand has not changed. This will make it likely that average CPCs will rise significantly for AdWords advertisers. That’s just speculation at this point, and I’m sure advertisers are hoping otherwise, but it is a probable scenario.
Another probable scenario is that CPC’s may decrease due to the fact there’s more positions, leading to higher impression volume. There’s also the question of advertiser bids, and whether or not placement at the bottom of the page will be valued as highly as placement in the sidebar.
There are a lot of moving parts to take into consideration, and more to learn as time goes on, but those are the important facts we know up to this point.