PMG Digital Made for Humans

Google’s Top & Right Rail Ads Impact on Organic

2 MINUTE READ | May 3, 2016

Google’s Top & Right Rail Ads Impact on Organic

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John Greer

John Greer has written this article. More details coming soon.

Google’s late February changes to their ad formats have been much discussed within the digital marketing space. These were big changes – they added a 4th ad to the top of many results, and removed ads from the right rail.

You can take a look at our review of impact this has had on paid search, so this time we’re going to take a look at the organic search impact. Big picture for marketers though is to make sure you are considering your search marketing as a whole channel, as well as diving into organic, local, and paid ads individually.

The Data 

The metric we focused on was click-through rate, which we believe is more indicative of changes due to ad format. We compared 7 days before and after the changes, as well as 30 days before and after. The 30 day window could be influenced by other changes, but it also better reflects the full rollout of Google’s new layout.

The travel and retail verticals were broken out because where user behavior and Google’s layouts can be quite different. For this same reason we also did a separate brand and nonbrand review.


Our Analysis

As you can see, while 7 and 30 day click-through rates were almost unchanged. This seems to have had nowhere near the impact that last Fall’s Google mobile layout changes had for organic search.

The impact on travel was more pronounced than that of retail, though a disclaimer to this finding is that seasonality could be a factor. However, it may be that the extra ad and local pack listings appearing above organic are capturing more clicks.

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One consideration is that not all searches have 4 ads on them. If we isolated only the terms showing 4 ads now, there would likely be stronger changes in CTR. For organic search, consider the ads appearing for any terms/topics is becoming more important than ever.

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