Google Is Removing Sidebar Ads: Here’s What It Means For You & For Your Digital Marketing Efforts

Google’s been the major talk around the water cooler. They’re changing how they display right sidebar ads — and when I say ‘changing’, I mean eliminating. Gone. See ya. Bye bye.

It’s caused quite a hubbub, and everyone’s wondering:

Is this for real?

How are Google’s actions going to impact my digital marketing efforts?

Will the changes affect the visibility of my organic search listings?

How is it all going to increase costs, and how much I’ll have to pay to be seen?

Google is important. Google is great, and powerful, and has made the world a much more connected place… But Google is also confusing.

And that’s why we’re here: to help (you, and truth be told— ourselves, too) demystify what’s going on behind the scenes at Google, and to explain the whats, and whys, and hows of saying sayonara to right-hand sidebar ads.

First, the basics:

What exactly is changing?

Google users and advertisers alike can expect to begin to see changes to desktop search results on and on Google search partners, changes that may be more far reaching than realized at first glance. The first is pretty clear-cut; no text ads will be served along the right hand sidebar.

The rest… Well, that’s where things get a little more confusing.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

Will this change the number of text ads shown on the search engine results page (SERP)?

For most search queries, Google will display three text ads above the fold (This is, and has been pretty standard.), but for those the search engine giant considers to be “highly commercial queries,” four text ads will be displayed instead of three. Three additional text ads will be served at the bottom of the SERP, for all queries.

Will this change how my small business appears in organic search results?

The answer is sometimes yes. It might. Take a look for yourself. Here I executed a search for “digital marketing,” which Google has clearly deemed highly commercial. With four text ads and a Knowledge Graph panel displayed, there’s no room left for even a single organic listing above the fold.

Sure, this won’t always be the case. For searches where only three ads are shown and no Knowledge Graph is displayed, more organic listings will appear. But the truth is, I had to do a number of searches (for coffee, and family dentist VA, and car repair, and finally: cat toys) before being served an SERP with organic listings above the fold. And so, yes, the inclusion of a fourth text ad will affect the visibility of organic listings.

Will this change cost-per-click (CPC) rates?

We’re not really sure yet, and won’t be for some time, but our inclination is to say yes. Think about it as basic supply and demand. There are fewer available spots to place ads, but no lesser demand. This makes it likely that average CPCs will rise, but there is an alternative scenario. Some analysts believe CPC rates will decline: More ads displayed in higher positions, higher impression volume, lower cost.

Only time will tell.

But you can bet we’ll be watching, and monitoring the impact these new and (some might argue) disruptive changes to how Google and its search partners display organic and paid search results.