Google's Adwords changes - time to panic?

by Mark Cunnah on 29 February 2016

Google have got rid of the "right rail" which I'm sure has seen a few of you panicking about what is going to happen to your adverts. It's worth taking a deep breath first however, to work out just how much of a problem this is going to be, and how much it will actually affect you.

What's changed?

As mentioned above, the right hand adverts are no more (unless you are bidding for products) and rather than have a top 3 results, the SERP will have a top 4 (for all searches and not just top queries as you might have heard) with the rest of the results coming up at the bottom.

So far so good. But is there more to worry about besides the obvious changes?

It looks like Google is continuing to push mobile optimisation as a priority.

Why have Google done this?

Last year Google told us that more searches now happen on mobie than ever, with over 50% taking place. Some of you might remember the mobilegeddon update which affected sites that were not mobile ready.

Given the adverts on the right have never been in mobile, it looks like Google is continuing to push mobile optimisation as a priority.

How much mobile traffic do you get?

If a lot of your traffic comes from mobile users in the first place, then you don't need to panic.

To find out how much mobile traffic you're getting, have a look at your Channels report, and then pull up a Secondary Dimension of device category.

Adwords changes 1.png

If mobile takes up a significant proportion of your Paid Search traffic, you can start to panic a little less.

What positions are getting clicks?

If your adverts were coming up on the right rail, were they ever clicked? The likely negative answer to this question is why I'm sure Google decided to get rid of the whole section.

This is where our Google Analytics comes back into play and looking at the ad slot dimension, which works a little better when you set up a Custom Report. You can see an example below.

Adwords changes 2.jpgThere is also Ad Slot Position - however it looks like Google are getting rid of it so don't pin all your hopes on it for the long-term. If you are doing remarketing you will see abbreviations such as RHS, which stand for Right Hand Side.

Adwords changes 3.jpgYou might start to see that actually you don't get a lot of clicks when they come up in the side anyway, so you may find more reason to calm down.

Would your strategy even change?

For us here at Webcredible – as well as for many of you – we're not expecting to find much of a change in clicks.

If you are not getting the clicks you used to, then you'll need to start looking at the campaigns you have up and running, reviewing all the details (click through rates, landing pages etc.) It's likely your account will need more regular and active managing, so try and get a little time put in to do this more often.

Additionally, it's worth looking at the keywords you're currently targetting. If you're throwing money away on keywords that are too general or just not working for your site's purposes, it's best to reallocate your budget to more productive keywords.

Finally, an under-used report that can help you make decisions around your PPC spending and strategy is the Top Conversion Paths report. Have a look, as you may find it takes people a few sessions (started by PPC and other channels) before they engage with your content and/or convert.

Adwords changes 4.pngOnce you've gone through the above, you may find that you don't need to change too much, so you're safe to "keep calm and carry on". However, if you're finding change is required, make sure you can dedicate enough time to implement it.

Does my SEO need a look as well?

Now that PPC results will be taking up 4 slots instead of 3, you may want to do a review of your SEO performance as well. On my screen at least, when there are 4 paid results, the natural search ranks are not visible when you load up a Google SERP.

Adwords changes 5.pngIt's worth reviewing how your page might show up in results depending on a users screen resolution. My screen above is 1280 x 800 (the 4th most popular according to Statcounter below). I've also included sample screenshots at other resolutions for your reference.

Adwords changes 6.png

Other screen resolutions

Adwords changes 7.png1366 x 768

Adwords changes 8.png1920 x 1080

Adwords changes 9.png1024x768


You can see that the top postion might be even more important in the near future.

Hopefully the above questions have helped you to either calm down, or convert your panic into a productive exercise to manage your PPC and SEO optimisation.

Mark runs our Google Adwords training course.

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