Google’s New SERP Layout: Best Strategies for Protecting Your Business’s Ad Buy

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Google’s love affair with mobile device search is nothing new. For years now, it’s been urging web site designers to adopt mobile friendly layouts (responsive design) and last year put the proverbial fine-point on it by favoring responsive design pages in search.  Then, a few weeks ago, Google showed more love for mobile display, announcing it was doing away with ad space on the right sidebar of its search result pages. This move, the search giant indicated, was to further streamline SERP display on mobile devices.

As a result, paid ads that typically appeared in the right sidebar would now be relocated down the page, finding a new home below organic search results.  The highly coveted real estate, however, those three or four sponsored ad spots located above search results, would remain in place and reserved, as always, for premium ad buyers.

For small business owners and entrepreneurs, with only modest PPC budgets, this news was met with trepidation.  Would this latest layout change impact impression share and click thru rates?  Would they need to budget more for display advertising?  Would they still be able to, in Google jargon, “Win the moments that matter” now that their ads were situated “below the fold”?

While the initial data is far from conclusive and varies widely on a case by case basis, impact from the ad space relocation doesn’t seem to have a brought about a crashing halt to click through rates that many initially feared.  In fact, when scrutinized, drop-offs in ad effectiveness could usually be attributed to other weaknesses within the campaign and then remedied.

For small business owners, we suggest taking a cautious, wait-and-see attitude coupled with a healthy dose of vigilance. Don’t change your current ad buy until you see how the change effects your click through results… if at all.  In the meantime, here are a few suggestions on how to navigate the new format and continue to net the search results your small business is looking for:

  • As always, keep reviewing historic benchmarks for keywords. Analyze conversion rates and historical data and look for fluctuations in data frequently. If you begin to see a trend moving in the wrong direction, it may be time to set new benchmarks and take stock in the potential of a new keyword positioning strategy.
  • Monitor positions of Search Results on a daily basis.
  • Implement additional ad extensions to increase real estate of keywords in the top positions on the search page.
  • Test new creative regularly to improve your quality score and click through rates.
  • Use analytics to interpret your data and make strategic goals and business decisions. There are many free tools out there – including Google Analytics!

Put on your SEM thinking caps and consider additional search marketing strategies to reach your customers, including RLSA, (campaigns based on whether a user has previously visited your website) PLAs (Product Listing Ads are ads that include product information related to your online search) or Gmail-Sponsored promotions.

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Valarie Collier is the Senior Search Manager at EGC Group, a full service digital agency with creative expertise in digital marketing, brand development, and retail marketing.