Google Moves To 4 Paid Results & Drop Sidebar. What Does It All Mean?

This week Google confirmed something we already knew. They like to make money. Naturally they’ll be vilified for their latest money-making move, but when all’s said and done they’re a commercial business and what they’ve done will inevitably improve their bottom line. Of course, we’re talking about the death of the side bar in the SERP, and it’s a good move for Google. But what about the marketers? What are the implications to the experts, the advertisers, and the local bookies?

Well, if you have a friend in SEO I’m unsure whether to advise warm-hearted support or cautious distance-keeping. That’s because above-the-fold organic results appear to be a thing of the past on ‘highly commercial’ terms. They’re not happy bunnies. In a world where fewer and fewer people can distinguish the difference between paid and organic results, this will mean increased click-through-rates on the now top-of-page paid results to the detriment of click-through on organic results.

It’s not all fun and games in the land of PPC, though. These changes will place an unprecedented level of importance on appearing in the top 4 results. That means increased competition, increased bids, and of course, increased CPCs. Again, good for Google. Not so good for marketers – especially those with small budgets. Save a thought for advertisers previously content with sitting in position 4 or 5 (above the fold), too. They achieved steady levels of volume for a fraction of the price. These advertisers will see their CTRs slashed, and thus may opt to adjust strategies to something that targets the top 4 positions – this again inflating CPCs and lining Google’s pocket.

It’s not all bad news, though. Businesses now have the opportunity to achieve a higher share of clicks though PPC than ever before (If they have the budget.) That opens the doors to any business within any vertical to challenge the big boys that traditionally show at the top of organic results. In a competitive sense then, this is good news. Anybody can have a shot at driving results, introducing customers to their business, and ultimately converting and making them repeat customers.


Quality should always be at the forefront of any paid search campaign. That has always been the case, but these latest changes heighten the importance of optimising quality scores even further. If your quality score is better than your competitors, you can expect to show higher than them and pay less per click. It’s as simple as that. With CPC’s heading north, being competitive on quality is going to play a crucial role in staying on top of budgets.

Another thing to bear in mind for ecommerce advertisers is the value of shopping campaigns which will still appear on the right hand side of the SERP. Ensure you are showing for key terms by optimising your feeds and product groups within AdWords. Also, the lack of an organic presence above the fold will make it more important to cover all basis and appear both above position 4 in the paid section of the SERP, and high in organic rankings for chosen keywords.

Alternatively it is worth adopting a long term strategy. PPC is not a branding opportunity. Not really. If rising CPCs make it difficult to justify the impact of PPC, put budgets (and efforts) into encouraging audiences to go direct to your site. Become famous within your discipline so that people search for your company name or go directly to your site rather than searching broad terms within your discipline. How? Use smart targeting to engage people with great creative that is remembered, and make the most of the CRM opportunity that converted users presents.