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How Google’s Right Rail Desktop Ads Removal Will Impact the Future of Search Marketing

Posted on Friday, February 26th, 2016 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Consumer Experience, Featured, Mobile, News, SEM


This week, Google stopped serving desktop ads along its right rail. The newly available space will primarily serve as inventory for both product listing ads and Google’s knowledge graph. While the top of the SERP will still generally yield three ads, any query that Google deems “highly commercial” will be eligible to trigger four top-of-page ad results. In addition, desktop will now serve three ads instead of two below the fold. These streamlined changes will bring desktop search further in line with the mobile experience. Google provided examples of what “highly commercial” queries might be – “car insurance” or “hotels in New York” – however, we must remember that Google’s transactional intent algorithms may differ from true customer objectives.

Why Change Now?

Google sees how other platforms are engaging mobile and social audiences and have decided to pare down text advertising in order to support a more dynamic, engaging, mobile-optimized SERP environment.

In addition, before this update, many right rail ads historically underperformed compared to the top three ads, so why not add another in the center view to push more search focus there? This change will likely spur more auction competition, i.e. more $ for Google.

How Will This Change Impact Advertisers?

This update will not be as disruptive to larger advertisers as some may think since most accounts do not rely on the right rail ads for core performance. Essentially 3-4 limited performing ads are being removed from the SERP, so the main disruption will be felt by smaller advertisers on more general keyword sets.

Additionally, expanded sitelinks will allow top advertisers to own more SERP real estate when their ads are displayed in top positions. For those who own these expensive top positions, making use of the right deep link in these spots will be extremely important with less click options on the page. These expanded sitelinks are taking the white space from the legacy paid ad spaces so test, analyze, and optimize sitelinks for key ad groups to help win these valuable SERP clicks.

How to Proceed

Now, with more limited ad space available on the engines, it is important for advertisers to expand their paid media presence on other, developing audience platforms like social and key publisher sites.

As we’ve said time and time again, setting up your account structure to have a positive impact on quality scores is more important than ever. As much of a pain account restructuring is, it is still the most optimal way to have a long-lasting, positive impact on ad rank, thus being eligible for top ad positions on the SERP. Leveraging thoughtful RLSA strategies is another way to maintain important search presence once this core structure is set.

While more specific details are bound to emerge around impacts to CPC, CTR and positioning, the trending concise, media-rich, mobile SERP continues dominating the path forward for Google Search.

About Ryan Jamison

Ryan has been at The Search Agency since 2008 and now serves as Senior Group Director of Paid Search. Past employers include Yahoo!, Inc. and STAR Education. Ryan is a graduate of UC Berkeley with postgraduate study completed at the American Film Institute. Ryan has over nine years of experience in creative advertising for both TV and search engine marketing. His hobbies include sports, music and enjoying the deserts and beaches of Southern California.

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4 Responses to “How Google’s Right Rail Desktop Ads Removal Will Impact the Future of Search Marketing”

  1. David Hughes says:

    Thanks for the post, great to get a summary of this new change

  2. Sridhar says:

    Thanks for the nice post. I really learnt one new thing in the Digital Marketing world.

  3. Adam Davies says:

    I’m sure the change will impact PPC marketing a fair amount. I think the natural search marketing tactics will largely remain the same with a slightly heavier focus on local results.

  4. Great post. Thanks for sharing very informative post… Really great work!!!!


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