Google says it will "continue to make tweaks"
Google is switching up how it displays ads on desktop searches, removing them from the right-hand side of results and putting them only at the top and bottom of the page. The change was first reported by The SEM Post with Google later confirming the move. Usually Google's ads are shown all over the page — a mixture of top, bottom, and right-hand positions, based on the specific query — but this change leaves the sidebar free for Google's Product Listing Ads.
Google says the change is global
But while the right-hand side ads are being removed for all queries, a fourth (additional) ad will be placed at the top of the page for certain lucrative searches — those for hotels or car insurance, for example. "We’ve been testing this layout for a long time so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries," said the company in a statement given to The Verge. "We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers."
Google also confirmed that the change is global and affects all languages.
This isn’t a huge surprise as Google has been bringing their search results closer to the mobile experience over the past year, and this definitely qualifies for it.
It also leaves more room for Google’s Product Listing Ads to show in the sidebar – they are still being run in the sidebar even with 4 ads above the fold. And it shows more PLAs since Google often shows two rows of PLAs in the sidebar while only one row at the top of the search results. PLAs can still appear above the search results though.
Until now PPC ads showed like this on Google SERPs:
Update from Google:
Google confirmed to 'The SEM Post' the following.
“We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”
"This change is global and impacts all languages.”
What are Highly Commercial Queries?
High commercial queries are those types of searches where people express a deep intention to buy.
So think of queries where you are not necessarily in the research phase but in the buy phase. For example, “buy laptops” shows the 4 ads above the organic search results.
These are often the highest value keywords as well, meaning it will be important to be in those top 4 positions, but also to work on getting a very high quality score to lessen the impact of the cost per click.
However, with what we are seeing, some of the queries aren’t so much intention to buy as intention to convert with a specific action, such as requesting information.
Reduced Ads on Page
Despite Google going big with those 4 ads on the top of the search results, this change actually means fewer ads overall, since sidebar ads no longer display. The bottom AdWords ads that appear below the search results are not affected by this change.
For example, searching for “health insurance” shows 7 ads with the new Google AdWords layout. But with the old sidebar layout, there are 11 ads. So competition for those limited ad positions just got much tighter.
Product Listing Ads
PLAs are the only ads that would appear in the sidebar on a query that shows the 4 AdWords ads above the fold. PLAs can appear at the top of the search results for queries that do not have 4 AdWords ads too.
Google is still displaying some extensions in the new 4 ads format. They include sitelinks, ratings/reviews, consumer ratings and more.
For some of these types of buy queries, the ads can be more up-to-date than organic counterparts. This could be especially true for ads on trending topics or products.
AdWords has made this change globally to affect all countries, but it seems having been implemented differently as of today (February 22, 2016) in separate countries. The SERP of the search phrase 'Hotels Cyprus' through Google UK reflects the new display:
Now, the same search request 'hotels cyprus' returns on Google Cyprus (www.google.com.cy) still the PPC ads on the right hand side.
Similarly, this change rolls out for all ads, regardless of language. So this isn’t something that affects only English ads.
Percentage of Ads Impacted
Google has not released any specifics on number of searchers or ads that are impacted by this change, despite some reporting otherwise. But simply based on what people are seeing, it does affect a large number of queries.Mobile Versus Desktop
We have seen Google moving towards aligning the look and feel of the desktop results with those of mobile. And one of the most visible differences are those sidebar ads, which obviously do not show up like that when doing searches from a mobile device.
Signed in Versus Incognito
If you want to see the search results before this change, right now the change has not rolled out to those who are not logged in or are in incognito mode. While this could change, it is a current way to compare old versus new… at least until it rolls out to those users too. But as of this morning, some are seeing incognito with the new AdWords change, while I still see the old layout. So it is very likely it is in the midst of rolling out to those searching via incognito.