The impact of the “most significant change to Google Search Engine Results Page (SERPS) real estate since 2007”, that has seen right hand ads disappear on desktop, is being assessed for travel advertisers.
Instead of the vertical column of right hand ads, Google is now allowing four, rather than the traditional three, paid for advertisements at the top of the page.
This pushes organic listings further down the page, potentially meaning no natural links will appear “above the fold”.
As can be seen on our example the removal of the right hand ads has enabled Google itself to command that space on desktop with its Flight Search tool.
The move by Google brings its desktop SERPS in line with tablet and mobile and has been tested for the last 18 months. The update was rolled out globally yesterday.
Tim Buckman, the newly installed managing director at travel specialist digital agency AddMustard, said:
“To some extent the impact is unknown, but for sure impressions and click for agents lower down the auction will be impacted and needs to be monitored closely.
“Likewise we could see companies driving up the auctions to try and secure top three or four positions out of concerns over share of voice dropping.
“This said, in the holiday space some 90% plus of clicks have always happened in top three positions and remember this is desktop change only, tablet hasn’t had right hand adds for some time now, nor mobile, and holidays sees 55% to 60% users on mobile and tablet.”
In an update on its website AddMustard analysed the implications for pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimisation (SEO).
What this means for PPC:
The click through rate (CTR) for side ads has historically been much lower than for adverts that ranked in the top three positions, in some cases up to 95% lower.
Impressions will likely drop and with the top spots being more competitive and possibly more expensive, advertisers will need to be more diligent in deciding which keywords need to be in top position.
In the coming days, there is a possibility that advertisers will react aggressively and raise their bids in order to secure those top ad spots. This could mean smaller players will get out-bid.
What this means for SEO:
This is the most significant change to the SERP real estate since the release of universal search in 2007.
We are already seeing changes to most verticals in the AdWords space. Our prediction on the effect for SEO is that we will see inflated CTRs for organic results on page one and this will possibly filter on to page two and beyond.
Simply put, SEO visibility on page one is going to be more important and valuable than ever before.
Interestingly, with the addition of a fourth advert at the top of the results, it is possible that there could be no organic results above the fold for lower resolution users. It’s too early to quantify yet.