Big Changes to Google’s SERP

By February 22, 2016Miscellaneous, News

icon_mediaIt’s no secret that Liquidus’ paid search program has been expanding rapidly over the past several months. With over 100 accounts on board across the education, auto, retail, and finance categories, paid search is quickly becoming one of our biggest product offerings. Due to the volume that we are currently managing, it’s imperative that we stay on top of the latest changes and updates to Google AdWords to ensure that we continue to give our clients the best possible service for their campaigns.

Recently, Google announced a major change to their search engine results page (SERP) – as of today, February 22nd, paid text ads stopped appearing along the right rail on search results pages. For consumers who use Google when conducting searches, it means fewer options to click on. But for advertisers, it also means fewer ad placements to compete for, leading to fears of increased competition. Some advertisers fear that this could be cause for some concern, but a closer look at facts and trends should temper the uncertainty.

Here is a concise list of the changes that pertain to all desktop search results on and Google search partners, worldwide:

  • Text ads will no longer be served on the right rail of search engine result pages
  • Three to four ads will be served at the top of SERPs, above organic listings
  • The fourth ad placement is new, and will only appear for ‘highly commercial queries’ or ones Google assumes would increase the likelihood of purchase (i.e. hotel stays, insurance, etc.)
  • Three additional ads will be served below organic results at the bottom of the page

This is what a SERP could have looked like prior to the recent change:


The previous layout allowed for up to 11 possible paid placements on any given search results page. The new layout (pictured below), only allows for up to seven paid placements. So advertisers are losing approximately 36% of the paid real estate on the page:


An analysis of customer data (thousands of accounts across all industries) conducted by a search marketing website determined that side and bottom ads account for just 14.6% of total clicks. Additionally, this latest change in the SERP only impacts desktop, which now accounts for less than half of all searches. And ads in the top positions get 14x higher click-through rate than the same ad from the same keyword on the right side did. With the addition of the fourth ad spot on the top of the page, and up to three ads appearing below the organic search results, there is still plenty of room for ads to show.

Also, there are noteworthy incremental benefits for PPC marketers. For example, now all ads can use call-out extensions, sitelink extensions, location extensions and so on, which were previously only a benefit of top-of-page ads. Additionally, the ads appear more “native,” which may prove beneficial for search advertisers, since many searchers already can’t tell the difference between organic and paid results.

So what does all of this mean for our clients? We are viewing it as a positive change for paid desktop search and our PPC marketers. While the long term results are not yet clear, we do know that in the short term, ad placement will become more competitive due to the decrease in advertising real estate. But that doesn’t mean CPCs will sky-rocket, clicks and impressions will dip, and the pipeline of potential conversions will dry up. This is where Liquidus shines – our media managers will spend dedicated time with our paid search campaigns. They’ll actively monitor performance to track any changes and optimize accordingly based on individual goals/objectives/KPIs.

Change is inevitable in the digital advertising space. That is why it is so important that we are proactive and collaborate with our clients to find solutions and optimizations that will achieve their goals and objectives with paid search.

Interested in learning more about our paid search offering? Get in touch with us at