Are Google’s Search Page Updates Hurting Your Organic Search Results?

Want to drive more qualified traffic to your site?

Of course you do!

You probably are aware that search engines are the first channel you should tackle. Of the 5 digital marketing channels (Organic Search, Referral, Paid Search, Social and Email), the search results pages drive Organic and Paid, and are the best for driving new users.

These users go to search engines to seek out answers to their questions and needs – thus it is important to create a presence for your business within the results. If you are not present, your competition will fill their needs.

Before the recent change to Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page), the search results page were split with a nearly equal distribution of Organic and Paid results.  With the recent change to Text Ad Format, however, the playing field has changed greatly for many businesses.

Ad Format will now be directly influenced by your ad position. Previously, text ads serving between the first 3 positions were eligible to include a range of Ad Extensions. These include Sitelinks, Call, Callout, Location, App, and Structured Snippet Extensions. Ad Extensions not only provide searchers with more information about your business, but most importantly allow you to maintain a larger ad real estate. A larger ad real estate is important because with more space dominated in the SERP, your business has a better chance to capture more traffic than your competition. As ad extensions serve on a rotating schedule, there was no way of knowing when and where your extensions would serve within the top ad positions. At times, this allowed advertisers ranking lower than you to serve with more extensions, which effectively would give them a better chance of raking in the traffic.

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As you can see, Google has finally made a decision on how ad extensions will be served. Ads serving in higher positions are now given an Ad Format with more real estate. This is either a ploy to incentive first position bidding strategies by Google, or Google’s assumption that ads ranking well are more relevant to the search triggering it.

But now you ask, “What does this mean for me?”

Remain calm, because depending on your business and competition in the ad auction, you may not see a huge impact. The instant result of more ad real estate is a higher expected Click Through Rate (CTR). If you have done your AdWords homework, you know that expected CTR is the most important factor in your evaluation of Quality Score (QS), which directly affects the cost of your ad position.

Let’s think about this for a second. If you have a better CTR with more ad real estate and your expected CTR was based on position, the new change makes position one even more important. Strategically, you could use the recent change to temporarily pay higher average Cost Per Click (CPC); which, if done properly, will help you accrue a higher QS. After your QS is desirable and performance is right, then you could scale back and achieve equal traffic at a lower cost.

No matter how you choose to move forward after this change, you need to take another aspect of this change into account; one that nobody is even talking about yet. Organic results have effectively been pushed below the fold for many bottom of funnel searches! Is this Google’s attempt to sway unknowing ad clickers to ignore Organic search results, generating more paid click traffic? I’ll let you decide.

The most lucrative searches to position well for are searches with bottom of funnel search intent. This means users are near the end of their decision making process and potentially ready to take action. For example, the search, “book hotel portland” is a user looking for a hotel in Portland tonight. Depending on their price range, the first few results are the most important because this user is ready to book. Now that the SERP has 4 ad results and this particular search includes Google Hotel Finder, the Organic results are pushed below the fold.

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Any digital advertising decision should be informed by data, meaning you should never react based on gut feeling. Remember, Google is making changes in their best interest in order to gain financially off of your businesses decisions. The recent changes are a perfect example of this. By removing right side column ads it instantly created higher competition (aka higher spend) to remain above the fold. By reevaluating Ad Format, Google is hoping users will compete even more for position 1, which gives them the best chance to eat your daily budget. The best way to approach these changes is to first evaluate your account and see if performance is shifting. If you are unsure of the next move after that, please reach out and we will be more than happy to advise you on how to improve your marketing efforts in this ever-changing field.

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