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Google is currently ‘testing’ a new format of search results, removing the AdWords sidebar results on highly commercial keywords. This roll-out will effect users worldwide in all languages and will bring the desktop experience closer to the mobile experience, although whether the amount of ads shown to mobile users will increase hasn’t been confirmed.


Though it is still early days on whether this will be a permanent update, we can expect the following impacts in both PPC and SEO campaigns.

Increased CPC’s

Even with the proposed extra PPC listing at the top (increasing to 4 ads instead of 3) the ‘above the fold’ area just go a lot smaller. Which will result in more competitors bidding for the top 4 positions, which will in turn, naturally make amount advertisers are willing to pay higher.

Google’s response on this is that they’re not expecting an increase from this change and they’ll be analyzing data on a continual basis as the change launches, and if there are noticeable changes, they’ll advise accordingly.

Advertisers who run ‘bid to position’ strategies on any of their keywords will need to revise their current settings, that alone may cause auction patterns to fluctuate for a period as advertisers react to one another’s adjustments.

Recommendation – closely monitor your PPC campaigns at a keyword level, focusing on the more competitive terms, ensuring your Max CPC’s are set according to your ROI or CPA targets.

Drop in SEO performance

There may also be an indirect impact on your SEO performance, as the new 4 top PPC listings push top organic listings ‘below the fold’ – so anything below position 1 could see a drop in CTR and traffic, however this is difficult to track as GA doesn’t provide traffic to a keyword level for the organic channel.

Recommendation – monitor your sites overall organic traffic levels, if a downward, trend is noticeable after the 19th February, then review your sites SEO campaign to try and improve rankings.

Our thoughts

This update is to deliver a universal search page with the same results for desktop and mobile customers, so it’s an extension on Google’s approach to mobile marketing.

However, the cynic in me also points out that this is likely to have a knock on effect to Max CPC’s which will make it more expensive to be in the top 4 which will obviously make more money for Google…

My main recommendation for any advertiser is to monitor your campaign even closer over the next few weeks, the landscape should settle after this time and we should have a better understanding of the impact.

As always, we recommend making the most of your current traffic levels and focus on improving your conversion rates to maximise every opportunity. This is vital, if this change results in increased advertising costs.