Google has recently taken the step of removing Pay Per Click ads from the right hand side of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP); however Product listing ads- those ads which appear when a specific item is searched for- will remain. To make up for the potential lost revenue from removing these ads Google has taken the step to add a fourth paid ad.
You may well be wondering why Google has felt it necessary to introduce this measure. Two factors have combined to persuade Google to take this decision. Firstly the way users utilise Google is changing, and in fact has been changing for many years. As of May 2015 Google officially announced that mobile devices are now more frequently used to complete Google searches than PCs. This may well have prompted the move to abolish the sidebar in order to make a more mobile device friendly SERP, due to the smaller screen size for people using mobile devices. The second factor ultimately comes down not to user experience, but cold, hard cash. Less than 14 percent of clicks which Google receives come from the right-hand search bar, therefore meaning 86 percent are generated by the three ads at the top of the SERP. By increasing the amount of ads at the top Google clearly thinks it can maximise revenue further.
One of the major consequences of this decision will be for websites which compete organically in areas which Google deems “highly commercial” search terms. For now these will be the only terms to feature a fourth ad at the top of the SERP, however this could very easily be expanded to include more and more search terms. This fourth add at the top of the SERP pushes organic results below the fold- the visible part of the screen without scrolling down- meaning that for these highly commercial terms all the user will be able to see after a search will be adds. This could drive up the cost of adverts due to the even clearer priority they are being given.
The major consequence of this decision will be the need to put an even greater focus on achieving a high SERP ranking. In reality changes will not be monumental to the functioning of businesses, however it is an indication of the direction Google are moving in. Adverts more and more are being made to appear as organic results meaning more importance than ever will have to be place on strong tagging, good landing pages, good website design and a high organic ranking on the SERP.