Google Drops Sidebar Ads from SERP

Google is shaking things up. This past week, they started to eliminate the sidebar ads that appears on the right-hand side in their paid Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This is where the bulk of paid ads from Google AdWords used to appear, with advertisers fighting tooth and nail for the highest ranking placements.

Now when you perform a Google search, you’ll notice that the search engine results pages feel strangely empty, with lots of generous white space.

More importantly, at the top of each page, you will now see only 1 to 4 paid ads before any of the organic — and unpaid — listings appear. The rest of the paid ads are relegated to the bottom of the page. Since advertising is such an enormous part of Google’s business, this is clearly a carefully calculated change.

Google Drops Sidebar Ads from SERP

Why would Google switch things up? In a word, mobile. For the first time ever, most searches now happen on mobile devices rather than the desktop. Ads placed on top of organic search engine results pages perform exponentially better than ads placed in the right-hand column, which used to receive only about 15% of page clicks. But the rationale for the change is also more straightforward — a consistent user experience is better for Google’s users, which in turn, will ultimately translate to increased PPC advertising profits for Google.

The implications of Google’s changes to the AdWords Search Engine Results Pages are significant and far-reaching for digital marketers.

Here are seven implications to carefully consider:

Above the Fold Ads

Competition for ad placement at the top of the page, before the organic search engine results appear, will become more competitive in this new layout. And more competition will drive pay-per-click (PPC) costs higher. For advertisers that fret over the top ranking positions on the first page, this change will hit their bank accounts hard.

Below the Fold Ads

Ads that appear after the search results, at the bottom of the page, will likely see a decrease in click-through rates. It’s not the end of the world, but it will require a change in strategy and expectations.

Organic Search Results

Google’s change will push organic search results a bit further down the page and may drive more traffic through the paid ads, since they are more seamlessly integrated with organic results. Currently, the top three organic results used to receive nearly 60% of the clicks. This portion may even increase moving forward.


Getting ranked organically has always been important. But now, it is even more so because Quality Scores and Landing Page Quality scores directly impact ad ranks. So get your SEO strategy in order, tighten your the focus of your content, and lower your bounce rates.

Smaller Companies

As competition and ad costs rise, it will be more challenging for companies with smaller budgets to compete with the big players.

Long-Tail Keywords

Targeted and focused keyword strategies will be the key to success, and not just for smaller companies or those with more limited budgets. To get to the top of the SERP list, advertisers without deep pockets will need to transition to long-tail keywords (longer and more specific keyword terms) to remain successful.

Bing Ads

With costs and competition rising on Google AdWords, some digital marketers may start to consider other options, such as the Yahoo Bing Network from Microsoft, where campaigns can be easily imported and competition is far lighter.

Have questions or concerns about your search engine marketing strategy, or would like to add your thoughts? Connect with us.

By Mark Abrials CMO + Creative Director Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter