You may have noticed that Google’s search engine result pages (SERP) look different. This week, Google has been increasing the frequency of its paid search listings, showing up to four ads at the top and bottom of search results page and have removed the ads on the right-hand side.
So what does this mean for marketers and users?
- More reason to use paid ads (which will please Google).
- PPC may become more expensive for the big terms. If Google is dropping the right hand ads, that’s because it expects it can make up the difference with the top ad slots.
- SEO becomes even harder for the big competitive terms.
- Long tail search becomes more important.
- Conversion matters. If SEO is hard or you have to pay more, then it’s vital to ensure that your landing pages convert.
- Branding and retention becomes more important. If people search for your brand rather than the products you stock the squeeze on organic real estate matters less.
- A poorer user experience on Google? More ads can annoy users, which may be a risk if Google had stronger competition.
So what does this mean if you don’t use paid ads?
We should do what we’ve always done and compete again paid ads. If you rank for a commercially meaningful keyword, make sure you do everything in your power to make your organic listing stand out - it’s a good time to have a look at your metatag descriptions (meta descriptions are commonly used on search engine result pages (SERPs) to display preview snippets for a given page) and ensure that these entice users to click through to your site.
Google’s decision appears to be entirely commercially driven, it would be naive to think otherwise, but has Google gone too far in sacrificing its own user experience for the searcher? Or will we eventually get to the point where the entire first SERP is filled with ads and we instinctively click straight to the second page, in the same way we skip past YouTube pre-rolls? Overall, the search engine experts are mixed about this but it seems most are just in shock. The topic on this at Google AdWords Help is "Bye bye small businesses." The folks at Webmaster World are saying "what a mess" and the Local Search Forums aren't into the organic results being pushed down even more.