There has been a bit of a panic over the recent changes Google has been making to SERPs (search engine results page), with more ads appearing at the top than before.
Panic ye not. This is not the end of organic (non-paid) search as we know it. It’s just Google rearranging elements to better suit mobile users.
Here’s what’s happening, how it affects SERPs and three good reasons not to worry!
SERPS: a little more on top, sir?
There have always been paid ads at the top of Google search results. Always. What has changed is that Google have been trialling placing 4 ads at the top rather than the expected 2 or 3. Chances are, you won’t even have noticed until mid February, when the trial rolled out to almost 40% of results pages shown.*
PPC ads: a little less on the side, sir?
On a PC screen, you may be used to seeing PPC ads in a right hand column. That right hand column has now gone. We suspect this is because mobile devices don’t like multi-column formats much, preferring a single column.
Where have all the adverts gone?
Obviously, those right hand column Google Ads now have to go somewhere. Guess where - yes, the top and bottom of the page of results. Hence the rise in numbers of ads at the top, and (coming soon we reckon) the bottom too.
This is actually good news for organic searches for one very good reason. The overall number of ads has dropped. In the old page format, the right hand column used to contain 8 ads per page, PLUS the three on top, making 11 total. Now, there are just four at the top max, plus those at the bottom (3 or 4), making 8 in total. Less ads means more chance for your organic listing to stand out.
Where have my Google PPC adverts gone?!
No panic here either. The ads are now neatly embedded in the listing page at the top and the bottom, placing all PPC ads in the same column as the organic searches. Ads are still marked with the little yellow “Ad” box, but they integrate better with the overall results. Yes, you might have to pay a little more to ensure a page 1 position, but overall, it’s a cleaner and neater way of showing ads.
The Google Snack Pack: 3 a Page is Plenty
One change you’ve probably noticed already is the reduction in the number of places listed under a map when you search for a geographical result, such as “personalised gifts Oakville”. Formally, there were seven locations listed; now there are three. It’s variously called the “3 pack” or the “snack pack” but the effect is the same; to see more businesses, you need to click on the “More places” button.
This is Google trying to be more efficient and focussed, we think. However, it can be worrying for a ‘bricks and mortar’ business that had previously appeared in the top seven, but doesn’t always appear in the top three. Don’t worry too much - geographical results are dependent on the location you are searching from, and will be adjusted if the person searching is out and about in Oakville or searching from home in Strathroy.
Topping the Three Pack
We’ve no hard and fast evidence (yet) as to what (if anything) boosts one business over another in the 3-pack, but we always recommend doing the following as a minimum:
- claiming your business’s Google listing if you haven’t done so already
- completing your Google My Business profile to the max
- posting a couple of articles to your G+ page
- adding photos
- getting two or three reviews
More details on this blog: http://www.akirastudio.com/blog/entry/how-changes-to-google-plus-affect-your-business
All change at Google = business as usual
Google is a dynamic company that changes what it likes, when it likes, how it likes. People get really upset about this, but Google is a commercial company, not a national service or charitable organisation. At Akira, we choose to keep up to date with the changes, check out what they mean for you, and write about them here at our blog, rather than railing against the big G.
So, here’s our advice on the removal of PPC ads from the right hand column: don’t worry, be happy. Keep your online marketing strategy fresh, varied and not 100% PPC based or search based, make your website the best it can be, and Google will like you.
Enjoy your day.
* According to Moz: https://moz.com/blog/four-ads-on-top-the-wait-is-over