Google Has Removed Right Side Ads – How Does This Impact Your (Local) Business?

On February 18th, Google began implementing a radical change to the SERPs. It removed right side ads. Before the big change, Google search ads used to show up in 3 places: top, bottom, and to the right of organic search results. By Feb 22nd, desktop search results no longer displayed search results on the right side of the page. The only exception are Product Listing Ads (PLAs).

The Old Layout vs The New Layout

Today, search ads only appear at the top or bottom of SERPs. Google has additionally indicated that it will include an additional 4th ad at the top for “highly commercial queries”. For this, Google increases the number of ads that appear above the organic search results from 3 to 4. This happens when Google is confident the user’s intention is to make a purchase. These are for searches such as “car insurance” and “bridesmaid dresses”.

View of Google SERP Before the Change

Before Google Removal of Right Side Ads


View of Google SERP After the Change

After Google Removed Right Side Ads


Even More Ads at the Bottom of the Page Results

Even more PPC Ads After Google Removed Right Side Ads

Why Google Made The Change

This new layout gives a cleaner user experience when one makes a search. It also make a more seamless experience between desktop and mobile searches. This is because fewer options are now included. One of the reasons for this is Google’s efforts towards a mobile-first design. Google has been prioritizing it for a while, especially after 2015’s major algorithm change. It was a change so massive that it outranked both Penguin and Panda in the scale of impact of search results. It basically came down to rewarding websites, landing pages and blogs that were optimized for mobile. Sites that weren’t optimized saw hits to their rankings on mobile searches. It came to be known as “Mobilegeddon”.

Removing the right-side ads was also necessitated by the fact that, since last year, mobile search queries surpassed queries coming from desktop. Google’s goal is to stay ahead of this trend. IN addition, the majority of paid clicks were from the ads that featured above the organic results. Removing those from the right side had a utility significance, without affecting the frequently used ad units. This has sent the search industry into a frenzy. The big question for businesses is how this will affect your digital strategy and market branding efforts.

The Impact of Google’s Decision on National and Local Businesses

There has been an increase in Cost Per Clicks (CPCs) as a result of the higher competition for top positions. For keywords in the top 3 positions, CPCs increased by an average 9%, according to data from Seer Interactive. This automatically raises ad spending. The Click Through rate (CTR) has varying effects depending on your position. The top 3, CTRs decreased by about 23%, due to increased competition when more ads are showing. However, for those at position 4 the CTRs increased by 527%, and those at positions 5-8 improved by 23%.In fact, position 4 is uniquely interesting in that the CPCs increased by a whopping 337%. The larger effect is on organic search results. When 4 ads are showing, there is potentially less organic traffic. This increases the need for you to consider optimizing for organic search features such as image search, knowledge graph and local search. That’s where Client Surge SEO comes in. At you’ll find these solutions to increase your organic ranking.

Since Google removed right side ads from the right side of the results pages, Google slashed the maximum amount of ads you can see from 11 to 7. Across the 10,000 searches in the MozCast data set, ads max out at 7 per page, returning a total ad count of 25,755. The right-hand column historically contained up to 8 ads, hence this shift represents an overall drop in ad positions. This means fewer clicks for businesses advertising on these pages who aren’t in one of the top 3 or 4 paid positions.

How Your Business Should Pivot it’s Online Marketing Strategy?

If you had right-side ads, don’t panic. You should benchmark and monitor CTR, CPCs and average position. Remember that in order to maintain high number of impressions and clicks on your ads, you’ll need an average position that’s higher than 3 or 4 depending on the keyword. Take stock of your current keyword rankings. In case you’re lower than three or four, you will be pushed below organic results or onto the second page results. This directly translates to less traffic to your site. Check out your “Avg. Pos.” metric from Adwords in the Keywords tab. Take a look at your bid rules and reevaluate strategies for ranks 4 and below.

Focus on increasing your average position in search results for relevant keywords. There are two main ways to do this: increase your bid, or improve your Quality Score. Google bases your Ad Rank on your bid against that of the competition. It also looks at the Quality Score, which is the relevance of your ad and landing page on the search term triggering the results. There are bidding wars for those coveted top spots. In case you’re bidding in a competitive auction and you aren’t willing or able to achieve positions 1 – 4, you should ask yourself if those keywords are worth your time at all. Note that increasing your bid means incurring more costs for your business. Additionally, making bids that are too high means the resulting clicks will generate less profit for your business than the ads cost. Before you adjust your bid strategies, monitor their performance and ROI. However, your main goal should be to get to position 1 of the organic rankings.

For the regular users, the right-hand space will still have Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and Knowledge Graph Boxes. Hence, they probably won’t notice much of a difference there. However, the “pushing down” of organic listings will be an issue for many of the national and local business owners. This has made the organic space on page one of Google even more precious. It has led to an even bigger focus on SEO.

Going Forward

The most impacted are advertisers who received over 20% of their traffic from the right side ads. Consequently, pay per click (PPC) may not be as effective as it used to be. Being in top position in organic results is more important than ever in driving clicks and traffic. SEO is key for long term lead generation. Thus it should be core in your marketing strategy.