Saying Goodbye To The Sidebar In AdWords

Google Removes Right Hand Sidebar Ads:

Google has officially started rolling out an update to its paid search layout. Starting today, Google will begin phasing out the right hand gutter (sidebar) ads. Instead, Google will only show 1 – 4 ads above the fold and force the rest to the bottom of the results page. High volume and general search terms have been most severely affected by the update so far. Long-tail and niche terms will begin to see their right hand ads disappear in the coming weeks. In addition to the ads at the top (above the fold), Google has added ads at the bottom of each SERP as well.

Most of us know that Google loves dropping surprises on the paid search industry. In 2013 it was the forced transition to Enhanced Campaigns. In 2014, PLA campaign types were retired and officially became the "Google Shopping" campaigns we know today. Last year, it was Upgraded URLs which changed the way 3rd party tracking parameters were applied to destination URLs. All of those pale in comparison to the latest AdWords change - the death of right sidebar ads. Though Google had already phased these out on mobile and tablet, desktop was a somewhat unexpected surprise.

Here's a quick breakdown of what has changed:

[row] [column md="6"]

  • Past
    • Top Positions 1-3
    • Side or bottom position 4
    • Side positions 5-7 or bottom positions 5-6
    • Side positions 8-11

[/column] [column md="6"]

  • Future
    • Top Positions 1-4
    • Bottom Positions 5-7
    • Positions 8-11 No Longer Shown

[/column] [/row]

Rest in Peace Right Sidebar AdsBut What Does It Mean?

Basic supply & demand principles tell us that pairing an increasing number of advertisers with a lower number of advertising opportunities, we should expect to see costs-per-click to increase. How much of an increase? That remains to be seen.

Knowing that traffic declines as position increases,  traffic volume for the top 1-4 positions should remain relatively constant. But we would expect traffic for positions 5+ to drop off even more dramatically.

Paid SERP real estate continues to push organic real estate further down the page. In the attached screenshot, everything above the fold are paid placements. Not only does this put strain on advertiser marketing budgets, but it puts continued pressure on the remaining traditional SEO efforts.