Google’s Recent Update: Kind Of A Big Deal

Google’s Recent Update: Kind Of A Big Deal

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On February 19, 2016 Google released an update to their search engine that has changed the way we know search (at least for the time being). As a company ever evolving to stay ahead or at least keep up with how people are searching today, they set the bar once more in regards to AdWords. Google confirmed that they will no longer show text ads in the right sidebar or “rail” on their website. Instead of removing these ads, they will show up to four ads above the organic listings or maps and three ads at the bottom of the page bringing the total amount of ads from a maximum of 11 potential ads to 7. This update was a global change which means it affects positions with all countries as well as all languages on Google’s search as well as it’s search partners.

A WordStream customer data study determined that right rail and bottom ads accounted for just 14.6% of total clicks. So if the Top positions were garnering 85.4% of all PPC traffic, it makes sense for a Google to change their dynamic to increase profits. Another benefit of this update means that campaigns can now use call-out extensions, sitelink extensions, location extensions etc. which couldn’t be done on the right rail of SERP’s. The real questions with this change are twofold:

  • Why was this done?
  • How does this impact me?

Most analysts concur that the change was necessary on Google’s end to marry the mobile and desktop search results to have a uniformed look no matter what device you’re using. Google cares solely about making money and the end user experience. Not always in that order. 2015 was the first year that mobile searches surpassed desktop searches and so it makes sense that Google’s results on desktop mirrors what a user would see on their mobile or tablet renderings.

This impacts a company currently participating in paid search and optimization a great deal! It’s too soon to tell if this will impact the bid rates and if fewer ads will lead to higher prices (think supply and demand). But I challenge you to think of it this way in a macro sense. Keep in mind is just an example so don’t get all crazy on the comments sections. Let’s say a keyword costs $11.00 per click for top position and the lowest search placement on the right rail cost $1.00 per click and every spot was filled and it was incremental for each position. Usually all of this real estate is filled by everyone in the AdWords community bidding on those keywords. Eliminating 4 positions essentially removes $1.00, $2.00, $3.00 and $4.00 and now due to limited inventory these same 11 customers need to raise their bid rates to get the real estate value of 7 positions. These 11 advertisers still want to be found and chosen, so the only way to bump 4 people is to pay more money for these keywords! Simple economics.

Tens of thousands of businesses directly use Google AdWords or use agencies as a proxy to do this for them to drive impressions, clicks, leads, phone calls, downloads or whatever goal they use to determine the effectiveness of PPC.  If you’re a small business today participating in this program it is a safe bet that you now need to lower your expectations of an ROI on AdWords because you will be forced to compete with larger companies with bigger ad budgets for less position. The PPC budget will become too high for an acceptable ROI with small/medium size local businesses.

This also impacts your business in regards to your website and SEO. Each year google updates their website hundreds of times. While many of these changes are minor, some are very significant. Marketers have been telling their clients that Mobilegeddon is upon us.  With this recent update, Google has essentially told the end user the same thing! They are rendering their ENTIRE FREAKING WEBSITE to fit Mobile search results. You need to have a website that is adaptive and responsive to fit their needs and the demand of the clientele using search engines like Google!

A study from Stone Temple Consulting further solidified this when they looked at over 15,000 search queries and the resulting top 10 results concluded that Google’s algorithm did give a big boost to mobile sites.  Mobile site URL’s outperformed non-mobile URL’s in both a greater number of sites that gained rank and fewer sites that lost rank.


30.1% of mobile friendly sites gained rank compared to only 19.5% of non-mobile friendly sites.  And only 25.4% of mobile friendly sites lost rank compared to almost 50% of non-mobile friendly sites.

There has always been a debate with marketers and business owners if they should participate in SEO or PPC. They love that immediate gratification with PPC but have to understand they are forever at the mercy of Google. When Google makes a change like this, they have to understand their ROI got smaller and the cost per click got larger. The best opportunity to have a strategy that incorporates PPC and SEO. Even more important would be budgeting some of those resources to Google’s Display Network  for re targeting campaigns or aggregate sites like Yellowpages.com, Findlaw.com, Lawyers.com, Dexknows.com, Superpages.com, Yelp.com etc. to make up for lost traffic.

Work with a website or advertising agency that can understand the goals of your company. Make sure they have an effective strategy for paid search and can take the data learned from it to incorporate into a search engine optimization strategy. The goal would be having your website showing up on page one of SERP’s instead of being forced to rent your space with websites like Google.

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