Implications Of The AdWords Sidebar Announcement

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with another great question set titled “Implications Of The AdWords Sidebar Announcement.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: Now that we have a week’s worth of data, what are your thoughts on the sidebar update? Why?

  • Still too early to tell with competitor movement, and users generally acclimating to the new layout. – Gil Hong (@Gil__Hong)
  • Honestly haven’t seen any negative effects…the exact opposite actually. Still early though! – Davis Baker (@davisbaker)
  • There really has been negligible affect so fat except for the 1 client who really watches “Impressions” as a KPI. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Not much impact, surprisingly. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • No differences, in fact in some accounts I’ve actually seen increased clicks. – Matt Umbro
  • It won’t make a lot of difference to most advertisers in the short term. But some have been simply blown out the water. – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • I’m monitoring, but haven’t seen much of an impact yet. – Andrea Fine (@AndreaFine)
  • Nothing seismic so far. Interested to see what happens in expensive keyword industries though going forward. – Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
  • Ecomm accounts heavy on Shopping ads probably actual gain from this update. – Matt Umbro
  • Positives across majority of profiles, higher avg pos, higher CTR, stable CPCs. – Chris Samson (@ChrisSamson18)
  • Haven’t had a chance yet to analyze the data yet. For the most part, I’ve heard good results like higher CTR. – Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
  • For small business accounts: In terms of clicks some decrease, in terms of impressions much bigger decrease. – Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
  • Unless anyone can vouch with organic data comparison, it seems like more has shifted to ads in general? – Gil Hong
    • It falls in line w/ general mobile experience too, organic space has been limited there forever. – Julie Bacchini
  • We’ve seen some worries on the client side, but little actual change. – Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)
  • It’s early. It doesn’t seem to be affecting much of anything so far in my clients (majority already in 1-3 slots as it were). – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
    • Exactly – the name of the game in paid search these days is to be in top positions anyway to utilize all features. – Matt Umbro
  • By default with a max of 7 ads rather than 10 the CTR will rise. That’s just math! – Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
  • Haven’t noticed much of a change yet, but I imagine bidding will get more competitive as time goes on. – John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
  • A resounding “Meh.” We’re still waiting and have provided POVs & set expectations across the board. – Nate Knox (@nateknox)
  • Some verticals (hotels for example) are going to see the big players dominate even more. Small guys need to get smarter. – Steve Cameron
    • Good point, probably way more competition for franchisees vs. corporate. – Gil Hong 
  • Haven’t seen any noticeable impact on CTR and CPC, although it’s early to evaluate data thoroughly. – Timothy Jensen
  • This will impact biz of different sizes differently. – Julie Bacchini
    • I’m not sure if it’s so much about biz size. I think it’s more about bid strategy & competition. SMB client with limited budget up against big competition who was squeaking by in lower ad slots could be hit hard. – Kirk Williams
      • I somewhat disagree. Opportunities for smaller biz (smaller budgets) keep shrinking. This is a factor in that too. – Julie Bacchini
        • Logically seems to be like it, but my SMB clients just aren’t seen anything negative so far. – Kirk Williams
          • Mid sized biz who was able to be in top 3 w/ big guys might find it too expensive if those slots cost more, for example. – Julie Bacchini
  • Yeah, Ecomm is the biggest winner out of this update. I bet we will see more changes to PLAs in the next few months. – Erika Schmidt

Q2: How did you explain this update to your clients (if you did at all)?

  • We send out a company POV with potential impacts and implications. Mainly we want them to hear it from us first. – Gil Hong
  • Explained to wider business, we used info from Google & Kenshoo, and backed it up with data from accounts. – Chris Samson
  • I wrote about it in my December newsletter. I sent an update the day after the change was rolled out. – Steve Gibson
  • I got on the phone and talked them through it. Then I sent them Matt’s post saying “here’s a good rundown." – Nate Knox
  • Since Google didn’t announce anything before, by the time we had to explain anything we had the data to calm everyone’s nerves. – Martin Roettgerding
  • As with all major Google changes, we wrote up a brief POV to send to clients. – Melissa Mackey
    • Ditto – we basically explained the change, showed data that proves everything is OK, and said we’ll monitor. – Matt Umbro
  • Didn’t bother. Inside baseball goes over the heads of clients. If CPL changes, then we’ll have a discussion if change is factor. – Doug Thomas (@ferkungamaboobo)
  • Tell them not to panic, send them info on blog posts. We’re updating them in another two weeks with real data. – Jordon Meyer (@jordonmeyer)
  • We sent out info showing what changed. Then communicated we’re actively monitoring their accounts (which we do anyway). – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
  • Explaining the impact it may have on lower positioning ads & and increase on CPC’s 4 higher position,tho its a changing industry. – Juan Restrepo (@juanrrestrepo)
  • One client got nervous. I assured them Google wasn’t thinking, “How can we make less revenue next quarter?” – Barry Abraham (@brickwaybarry)
  • Maybe CPCs in paid, but bigger impact in organic. Please refer to [SEOer].
    (I do not feel guilty about deflecting to SEO) – Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
  • Stressed the quick change nature of the industry and assured them everything is still under control. – John Budzynski
  • We sent out a blog to let them know what the update meant in general and to them. – Angelique Glade (@AngeliqueGlade)
  • Curious, is this a matter of “you either have a solid long-tail keyword strategy” or “you need to compete on head terms”? – Kristin McLeod (@kristinmc)
  • Making sure to lead the conversation is important. My clients have enough trust that as long as they know it’s being addressed. – James Hebdon (@jphebon)
  • Waited few days, sent email w/ brief details & noting little/no changes had taken place w/ links for those who wanted more info. – Kirk Williams

Q3: Do you believe the sidebar update was about improving the quality of search results? Why or why not?

  • Yes. As well as a better UX. I fully admit liking less content/text on the pages. Even the PLAs/Knolwedge Graph is better. – Kirk Williams
  • Less clutter, more quality through extensions… sure, why not. – Martin Roettgerding
  • No. If that were the case, they’d remove everything, knowledge graph, PLAs, etc. – Nate Knox
  • It’s about more click volume and especially for Shopping where we are seeing large increases. – Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
    • Agreed, how can Shopping be further monetized. – Matt Umbro
  • Partly about creating homogeneous experiences across devices, but G doesn’t do anything they don’t think is good for revenue. – Julie Bacchini
  • Overly short answer – of course. What’s quality though? That’s the real question. – Doug Thomas
  • Improvement in at least UX. SERPs are landing pages. LPs with less distractions will better guide the user IMO. – Joe Martinez
  • No. I believe it’s entirely about money. – Steve Gibson
  • No. It’s a lipstick & pig thing. Same ads, just different placement. – James Svoboda
  • Yes. Consistency with mobile. Cleaner look. (People will know where to find the ads if they want them.) – Barry Abraham
  • I think it was primarily a way to squeeze more out of a dying device, with the user trust boost the cherry on top. It also frees up the RHS for more valuable content for Goolge (shopping/knowledge graph)- Andrew McCarthy (@AmccartPPC)
  • Really about money: push organic down a slot for another paid ad = more money.
    Less clutter-y looking SERP only a side effect. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • YES- makes experience more uniform from desktop to mobile. NO- fewer ad slots >more competition >Higher bids >More $ for Google. – John Budzynski
  • Yes and no. Search results page have less clutter but creates more of a chance for more $$. – Angelique Glade
  • I feel that Google was due for a bigger update to the SERP sooner than later with ad awareness and ad blocking on the rise. – Gil Hong
  • Among other things, the sidebar update may be about encouraging organic searchers to look further down beyond page 1 results. – Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
  • Google decluttered the SERPs to focus people’s attention on ads. Plus, we will see expandable ads & more ad variations. – Erika Schmidt
    •  Interesting about expandable ads…this could open up some great oppurtunities. – Matt Umbro
  • I believe Google’s primary concern is Google’s bottom line – but they also want to balance user exp and not blow the brand. – James Hebdon
  • Quality? No. Financial gain for Google, yes. On a screen any wider than 1000px the white space is HUGE. – Jordon Meyer

Q4: In your opinion, would there have been a better way for Google to have sidebar ads stand out more? How so?

  • Add images like Facebook side ads. It would have helped visibility a ton. – James Svoboda
  • What we want/like in search results is learned behavior. If mobile is becoming 1st in usage, reinforcing its format is key. – Julie Bacchini
  • Google may have tried a colored background on the ads, but I know that’s been tried before. – Matt Umbro
  • Could’ve given the right column a larger width, but that probably made everything worse for the main part of the page. – John Budzynski
  • Impossible to say. Clearly all elements on SERPS impact others. I suspect the RHS was never going to pay it way with text ads. – Steve Gibson
  • Doubt it. If such a way existed, they’d probably be doing it. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Apart from images (like Shopping), not really. Now a better way to communicate these changes? Yes, definitely. – Jeremy Brown
  • I was originally going to say add images, but those would get more attention and take away from the 1-4 spots. – Joe Martinez
  • Elephant in the room, everyone is thinking animated GIFs. Realistically – Video ads or wider formatting like Bing has. – Jordon Meyer

Q5: In your opinion, what impact will the 4th top ad have (if any at all)? Why?

  • Lower top CPC’s is one effect. – Martin Roettgerding
  • I *think* there will be more “clicks” in total available to advertisers. Fewer impressions, but more clicks. – James Svoboda
  • Increase in click volume for ads. We’ve already seen it. That spot has higher CTR than side ads combined. – Jeremy Brown
  • More real estate. Definitely good for PPC. – Barry Abraham
  • Biggest impact will be to SEO becuase it pushes organic further down the page. It will also increase costs for 4th pos. – Christi Olson
  • I think it’ll have a higher CTR than pos. 2 & 3 due to being immediately above the organic results. – Davis Baker
  • On mobile it will push organic below the fold and with so much traffic on mobile it will help ppc and hurt seo. – Angelique Glade
    • On mobile organic results were below the fold anyway. On mobile, nothing changed. – Martin Roettgerding
  • The 4th ad is hitting SEO hard. It pushes more organic lists further down the SERPs & organic is below the fold on mobile. – Erika Schmidt
  • Increased CTR over old format position 4. But average CPC of combined 1-4 will be less than old format 1-3. – Gil Hong
  • Increased value of the 4th ad position. Many users are self-trained to ignore the right hand column. – Peter Thistle

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More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Andrea Fine (@AndreaFine)
• Andrew McCarthy (@AmccartPPC)
• Angelique Glade (@AngeliqueGlade)
• Barry Abraham (@brickwaybarry)
• Chris Samson (@ChrisSamson18)
• Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson)
• Davis Baker (@davisbaker)
• Doug Thomas (@ferkungamaboobo)
• Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
• Gil Hong (@Gil__Hong)
• James Hebdon (@jphebon)
• Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
• Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
• John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
• Jordon Meyer (@jordonmeyer)
• Juan Restrepo (@juanrrestrepo)
• Julie Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Kristin McLeod (@kristinmc)
• Martin Roettgerding (@bloomarty)
• Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Nate Knox (@nateknox)
• Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
• Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)

Late and Early Streamcaps brought to you by:

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; works at WebRanking in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Connect with Paul @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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