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The Sky Has Not Fallen: A Wrap Up Of Google's SERP Changes

2 MINUTE READ | April 11, 2016

The Sky Has Not Fallen: A Wrap Up Of Google's SERP Changes

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John Stewart

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

When Google announced the removal of right rail ads in the SERP, the digital community went wild. There was talk of CPC jumps, drastic spend increases, and chaos for digital marketing strategy everywhere. As the dust settles from the changes, results are not nearly as stark as originally projected.

We pulled CPC, CTR, and Avg Pos. data from the NonBrand account of a retail client of ours to try to nail down the true impact of these SERP updates to the most important KPI’s in our PPC strategy.

CPC’s Have Not Risen Dramatically

It looks like the one of the largest caveats to the updated SERP fell flat. In fact, for this specific NonBrand account we were seeing CPC’s decrease ~14% after the SERP update.

More Qualified Ads Mean CTR Increases

It stands to reason that less ads, leads to more qualified traffic. Thus, click-through-rate jumps up for the ads in top 7 slots of the auction. 

Average Position Expectedly Dips

Not surprisingly, average position was slightly affected by these right rail updates. Dropping your available ad real estate from 11 to 7 slots will undoubtedly hurt your relative position in the auction. The good news is, however, this drop seems to be minimal (around a 3% decrease overall).

SERP Change Avg Pos

Much of the concern before the right rail update was warranted. If Google is taking away spots for ads to show, in theory this makes the auction more competitive. More competition leads to higher spend. Higher spend leads to a wrench in the budgets, and in turn, overall strategy. Obviously, this slippery slope turned out to be nonexistent. This is not to say that the SERP changes affected everything positively. Search Engine Land reports that first page minimum bids are rising after the SERP changes, but anyone familiar with the PPC landscape will tell you this is nothing new.

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The unaccounted factor that saved all the doom and gloom is quality. Cleaning up the results page seems to be the genuine purpose of Google’s updates to the SERP, and at first glance it would appear consumers are reacting positively to these changes. CTR increases, in conjunction with stable conversion metrics would point to a world free from catastrophic changes in PPC strategy.

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