What Google’s Latest Update Means For Your Business

by Rick Elenbaas
29 February 2016

Google updates are like swooping magpies, they come out of nowhere and strike fear into the hearts of many. 

In typical Google style, the company’s latest update was introduced on 18 February without any formal announcement, leaving many to question how it will impact them.

The search engine now shows four ads in the top positions for “highly commercial terms” and no longer shows regular search ads in the right-hand sidebar. Google will, however, continue to show Product Listing ads (PLAs) and ads in the knowledge graph in the right-hand sidebar.

So what will this mean for your business and how you can limit the fallout? In this article I will address these concerns and give recommendations on what you can do to reduce the impact on your business.

Google Search Results Page


Google search result page showing fourth Ad in the top position and product listing ads in the right hand side

What could this mean for the visibility of your business in Google?

For paid search advertising, this change is likely to drive up your average Cost Per Clicks (CPC) for the top four positions as the competition for these slots increases. We also expect to see an increase in the Click Through Rate (CTR) for ads in position four when shown in the top position and a decrease in CTR for ads in position five and below.

The right-hand space will still be used to display Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which appear when users search for products on Google (as shown above).

The organic space becomes even more precious, which leads to an even bigger focus on SEO

However, the Knowledge Graph will remain on the right-hand side. For branded and local searches, this is a great opportunity to get displayed at the top right-hand side of Google search pages for free. The Knowledge Graph is Google's system for organising information about millions of well-known "entities": people, places, and organisations in the real world.

Google Knowledge Graph


Search results page showing a knowledge graph on the right-hand side

So why is Google limiting the amount of space for advertisers on its SERPs?

There is no official statement from Google as to the reason for this change yet. This change comes on the back of an experiment that began in back in 2010. It brings the experience for desktop users in line with mobile users, who never saw the right-hand side ads.

We speculate that due to the low CTR from the right-hand side ads, this change would allow Google to maintain its ad revenue (due to the expected inflation in CPCs for the top positions), while freeing up the right-hand side space for other elements such as the knowledge graph and product listing ads.


What can you do to limit the consequences for your business and keep your traffic up?


We recommend continuously monitoring your paid search activities and readjusting your spend and bids where necessary to get the best outcome for your business. We would advise keeping a close eye on how this change impacts your account and react accordingly.

Your SEO and Paid Search teams should work closely together to catch any changes across each channels and align spend and strategy to support each other.

Continue to look at low commercial search queries opportunities (so-called long tail keywords) that are suited for your business website. Monitor your local presence in both the Knowledge Graph and Google Maps, to make sure these organic positions are leveraged to their fullest potential.

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About the author
Rick Elenbaas
SEO Operations Manager

Rick Elenbaas is the SEO Operations Manager for Salmat with more than four years of digital agency experience, working for strong brands in competitive markets across Australia. Specialising in technical SEO operations, Rick is passionate about continuously improving and automating processes to accelerate the optimisation and organic growth of his client's websites. He has also strong web analytic abilities and advanced knowledge of web based technologies, including Wordpress.

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