Google AdWords Side Ads are Going Away

For about as long as Google has been offering Pay Per Click ads through the Google AdWords platform, side ads have been a staple, but soon…they will disappear. Google confirmed to Search Engine Land indicating they would be rolling out a new version that no longer includes side ads.

Instead, users will now see up to 4 ads at the top of the page, instead of the current 3 ads – but only for what Google calls “highly commercial queries.”

How Should Marketers Feel About This Change?

I have always liked the side ads because they allowed advertisers to receive a discount (ie. a cheaper click) by not being in a prominent location. Besides that, depending on the niche, side ads had a tendency to appear less spammy because the user was not forced into seeing them right away – and people still clicked them even though they weren’t as prominent.

Apparently Google has been testing this since 2010, and if you’ve done some testing for your own clients ads, you have likely noticed that on many occasions, Google would only show 2 ads at the top and 2 ads at the bottom of a number of queries anyway. I always figured that was because of a smaller pool of marketers in that niche, but now we know it was because Google was testing.

The only exception to this change will be Product Listing Ads, which are the e-commerce-like ads that show specific products. These will continue to appear off to the right side, likely because there’s only so much screen real estate available.

If You’re an Advertiser…

In terms of what this will do for advertisers – I’m optimistic that this change will bring higher CTR’s and I would assume this is why Google is making the change. Google’s bread and butter comes from people clicking those little ads, so the more people they can get to click them, the more revenue they generate.

It’s a no brainer for Google.

I have mixed feelings about the change. We believe this new change will give our clients more exposure, I just hope the keyword bidding doesn’t get out of control simply because of supply and demand.

Logic would dictate that if there are fewer spaces available, in theory the cost of each space would go up. For advertisers with big budgets this may have little effect because they’ve been on the top spot anyway, but for advertisers with a smaller budget, this could have a large impact.

I have worked with client’s whose AdWords budgets ranged from $300 per month to many thousands per month, For the small, one-person business (ie. plumbers, electricians, renovations etc) this could have a huge impact to their bottom line and reduce the mileage they get out of an AdWords campaign.

What Should a Small Advertiser Do?

I have always thought that Bing Ads are a great alternative for small advertisers. Whether the clicks are “cheaper” is up for debate, but it does give you another option. It’s never good to have only one supplier for any product and PPC ads are no exception. Test out Bing Ads with a similar budget as your AdWords budget for a few months and evaluate if it’s time to make a switch.

Besides still offering side ads (for now) Bing Ads will also give you a new market to go after.

Bing has never been a huge deal for us, however when you think about who might be using Bing, you can see great possibilities.

Who Uses Bing?

To give you an analogy: I’ve always seen Bing as the search engine my great aunt might use if she just purchased a new computer at Best Buy. She takes it home, gets me to set it up and begins. The first thing she does is click the button that says “internet” on the desktop. She doesn’t know about Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari – she just knows that the button says “internet” so she clicks it.

Here’s what’s interesting about this type of consumer: She has money! She’s ready to buy things online and her computer may have shipped with Bing as the default search engine. Besides that, if she bought an Apple product and decides to try out Siri, she just might end up searching Bing as well.

Bing users tend to be less tech-savvy, older (above 35) and the clicks are cheaper. Seems like it might be a winner, especially for US advertisers since Bing has a fairly large user base there.

Bing could be solid option to guard against increased costs and to reach new set of eyes.

At this point, we can just wait and see what’s going to happen. Keep a close eye on your costs and if you notice that it’s getting out of hand, it might be time to make some changes.


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