Big Changes to Paid Search Ads on Google’s Desktop and Tablet Search Engine Results Pages



On Friday, February 19, Google released the following announcement:


As of Monday (2/22), Google will no longer be serving ads on the right hand area of the SERP. This change only affects desktop and tablet devices. In some cases, for highly commercial queries we will be serving up to 4 tops ads. We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might have seen it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.


Automotive searches may qualify as highly commercial, meaning that desktop searches will only include four paid search ad slots at the top of SERP and three ads at the bottom. You may not immediately experience this new format as Google rolls it out nationally.


How does this affect me?


Changes in the core set of paid search KPIs.

A. Cost Per Click (CPC) may increase given the more limited supply of available advertisements and, therefore, the increased competition around those placements.

B. Click Through Rate (CTR) may increase as well, given fewer choices available to the end user.

C. Impression share may decrease as the greater competition paired with reduced supply means the same budget will not earn as many impressions.


Desktop will behave more like mobile.

A. This supply strategy has been the case for mobile searches from the beginning.

B. As of July 2015, over 60% of’s global paid search traffic and clicks originated from a mobile search query or device.


What is doing for me?


Paid search best practices:

A. We will continue to enable full ad extensions for all paid search clients, since the extensions provide more visibility, qualified users, clicks, and conversions, while also factoring into ad rank.

B. We will optimize your bids in order to be competitive and serve your ads in the top three or four positions on SERPs.

C. Our focus is SEM optimization coupled with best in class automotive SEO to monetize and monopolize SERPs for our clients.


Diversifying your reach, focusing on ROI:

While Google has a strong presence in automotive search, their January 2016 percentage of desktop searches was 63.8%. With Google’s now more restricted supply, will leverage our other premium partners, Bing and Yahoo, to increase performance and maintain a strong ROI in our clients’ search portfolios.


Adapting strategy, efficiently and effectively:

A.’s extensive client base allows us to review the largest set of automotive search data in the industry and reset performance baselines and benchmarks (CPC, CTR, impression share) faster and more accurately.

B. We will leverage our new baselines and benchmarks in order to adapt your digital advertising strategy to this new marketplace and maintain strong performance and ROI.


As always, if you’ve got questions about these changes, please reach out to your Digital Advisor.


Eric Mayhew is the senior director of advertising products at