Google Drops Right Column Ads

Google still hasn’t made an official announcement about this change, but if you’ve seen a difference in Google AdWords performance this past week, it’s because they’ve made a major change to how they show their ads on desktop computers.


Is this change worth freaking out about? Probably not.  As long as some of your keywords are in the top 4 spots, you’ll probably be fine.  The right column only represents about 15% of all paid search traffic. If your numbers fall off a cliff it’s because most of your keywords are lower than the #4 spot.  Raise bids slowly & methodically & you’ll find that traffic again.

What does this mean for you? It depends.

  • If you primarily advertised in the top 3 spots (what I call “the jetstream), you probably won’t see a much of a change.  It might cause a spike in your cost-per-click while the 85% of advertisers fighting over the 15% of affordable traffic in the 8 ads in the right column are now fighting for the newly coveted #4 spot. Keep on managing bids as you normally have been doing & you’ll be fine.
  • If you were bidding in the #5 to #10 spots (the right column) for all of your keywords, you’ve probably noticed a massive drop in traffic.  The good news is that if you can eek your way up to the #4 spot (whether with better ads, better quality scores, or higher bids) you’ll get more traffic. A lot more because keywords in the top spots get 2x to 20x as much traffic as ads in the right column.  Don’t do this for all of your terms! Just your best ones. (Keep reading. 😉
  • Your ads in the #4 spot are probably what were impacted most, but in a good way.  Why? Because ads in the jetstream get 2 to 20 times as much traffic as ads in (what used to be) the right column… So your ad that used to get a 1% clickthrough rate at the top of the right column will now get a 2% to 20% clickthrough rate by now being in the jetstream of Google traffic.
  • Bonus: If you’re using an arbitrage strategy such as only advertising on mobile phones or small segments of the display network, this recent change won’t impact you at all.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that those 4 spots are going to be a LOT more competitive now. Here are a few tips to make the adjustment as smooth as possible:

  • If you haven’t been split-testing ads, start. Clickthrough rates are going to be more important than ever while fighting for those top spots.
  • If you haven’t been advertising on mobile phones, give it a try. Mobile search layouts haven’t changed at all and given how much more competitive desktop traffic is going to get, there will be better opportunities available from mobile traffic.
  • Do you have optimized headlines for every single keyword? How about display urls? Landing pages? All of these directly impact quality score, and quality score is now going to be more important than ever.
  • Don’t get hung up on Cost per click.  Less competition means conversion rates will probably to go up.  The $1 click that got a 10% conversion rate buried among 8 competitors in the right column might now have a 15% conversion rate when in the top 4. Raising bids to $1.25 might feel uncomfortable, but if your conversions jump from 10% to 15%, you’ll actually get more traffic from the same number of searches, more sales, AND more profit per visitor!

If you’d like help with your online business, let’s talk.


Want more sales for your company? Schedule a free consultation with Joel by emailing [email protected], or calling 303-906-8790.