How To: Prepare For Recent Google SERP Changes

Google recently announced the most substantial change to its SERP (search engine results page) since the introduction of Product Listing Ads. This change will be 100% implemented globally by Wednesday, February 24th. Here is a recap of changes coming in the near future:

– Traditional paid search ads will no longer appear on the right side of desktop search results globally.

– The only advertising Google will display on the right side will be optional PLA (product listing ad) units.

– A fourth ad unit will be displayed above the fold for highly competitive search queries.

– Additional ad units will be displayed at the bottom of the page below SEO results.


So what do these changes mean for advertisers?


It’s extremely hard to predict without a few days of live data; however, the underlying assumption is that costs are going to increase. The supply for above the fold, high-click-through-rate ads is going down while demand remains constant. Increased costs for advertisers will not simply be limited to desktop search.  As desktop campaigns lose efficiency, media managers will begin upping spend in PLAs and mobile search to make up the difference.


How can brands prepare themselves for these changes?


More data – Anytime a significant change is released, data is your friend. Brands need to know their exposure. How much site traffic and primary KPIs are coming from PPC ads in position 4+? How much will it cost to have all non-brand keywords at an average position of 3.5? What about premium position mobile ads? How much could be spent in PLAs and other shopping engines outside of Google? Without the proper insights advertisers are flying blind, especially in times of significant change.

More Media Strategy – This may seem obvious, but strong media strategy is imperative. Many brands confuse strategy with smart tactics. Strategy means allocating budgets effectively, managing multiple channels to achieve one holistic goal, uncovering compelling insights used to attack key competitors head on, etc… How can we increase spend in PLAs and shopping efficiently? What is the point of diminishing returns in mobile? What retargeting opportunities could provide additional opportunity? What is the most cost effective way of increasing our retargeting pool via other digital channels? Answers to these types of questions will go a long way to improving digital marketing results, even in the midst of future changes.

More Media Testing – In a new world with increased costs, efficiency becomes essential. Brands that have ignored testing offers, landing pages, copy, new keywords, and alternative bidding strategies need to get back in the game. Brands whose competition is better and more creative at testing are going to be in a rough spot.

More Channel Diversification – Although many direct response advertisers despise the thought, there is more to life than Google. In the wake of upcoming changes, many brands will simply not be able to stomach the increased costs without sacrificing traffic and revenue. Business limitations, fixed budgets, expected returns, company profit margins, competitive behavior and many other factors will dictate to what degree brands can adapt to these changes. So where can brands look for more revenue?

Organic Search – According to the most recent click-through rate study, users click organic listings in positions 6-10 a whopping 3.73% on average. This is significantly higher than most brands are seeing from right rail ads in PPC (positions 4-9). Keep in mind that these CTRs will most likely increase with less clutter above the fold to distract users.

Facebook & Instagram – The world’s largest buyer of online media spends $1 dollar on Facebook for every $4 it spends on Google. This ratio is up 13% in the last year. With more advanced targeting, tons of flexibility, and better mobile ad options, Facebook will become an even larger piece of digital marketing budgets.

Content Marketing – Paid media is the most cost efficient form of advertising for capturing bottom-of-the-funnel consumers. The only problem is that the majority of potential customers sit in the awareness and consideration phases. A smart content marketing strategy enables brands to get in front of these customers with compelling, value added messages. It also improves retargeting campaigns by supplying a constant flood of fish into the retargeting pool.




Upcoming changes to the Google SERP are going to have a significant impact on brands selling products or services online. Increased cost and fiercer competition will necessitate smarter digital campaigns. The more data, strategy, testing, and diversification brands have the more they will prosper both now and in the future.

For additional information on how your brand could be affected or to explore ways to diversify your media mix, please don’t hesitate to email us or call 404-475-0853.

Response Mine Interactive