On February 19th 2016, Google updated the way search ads are displayed. This clearly changes things for PPC, but it may also have a knock on effect for the SEO world too…

What Has Google Said?

Google has been testing this release from as far back as 2010, so it has been on the radar for some time, but the sudden roll out has taken the whole industry by surprise.

Google has begun releasing little bits of information to help the industry understand what the impacts of this change will be across Paid and Organic Search.

How Will Search Be Affected?

To understand a little more about the impact, we have looked at what’s been said and confirmed by Google so far:

  • Competitive search terms will now show 4 paid ads above the organic listings
  • Text ads won’t be shown on the right hand side of the SERP’s any longer

Competitive Search Terms

The increased number of text ads above Google organic results from 3 to 4 for “highly competitive keywords” will only be targeting high volume broad keywords, such as “hotels in New York City” and “Car Insurance”. Long-tail terms that Google doesn’t consider competitive should remain the same, meaning organic performance shouldn’t be affected for these terms.

No Text Ads On The Right

This change will impact all queries and could have a positive impact on the competitiveness of the organic traffic in the SERPs. This is because there will be less clutter within them, meaning that if you have well written meta data you could see increased CTRs by setting yourself apart from your competitors.

This is already something that has worked well for organic CTRs in the past, but will become more important now that the SERPs have a cleaner look.


SERP Update SEO Image 1


SERP Update SEO Image 2

SERPs Eye Tracking Study

The Moz team has provided people with some great insight about how users interact with the SERPs in the below heat map:

SERP Update - Heat Map

We can see that user’s eyes tend to interact most around the point that Google have made the change – the top left hand page results.

Essentially, user’s eyes will now have an additional ad to contend with before they are able to get to the organic listings for their search. Depending on the device being used, this may push the organic listing below the fold, making the top 3 organic positions even more valuable for these queries.

Whilst organic rankings may remain stable, the revenue and traffic being driven from these keywords may see a small decline. However, if you are bidding competitively for these keywords you should see an uplift in paid traffic.

This is certainly a game changer for search, but we won’t know the full effect of this change for some months, making it more important than ever to ensure paid and organic are working hand in hand, as they should be already, to ensure your brand’s traffic and revenue is not affected.

4Ps isn’t just another London SEO agency. To discuss how SEO and content are evolving together in order to keep pace with new developments in user interaction and search algorithms, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and user behaviour across all inbound channels.