A couple weeks back, Google confirmed that it was removing ads from the right hand side of desktop search results. This change happened pretty quickly and led to a lot of conversations around what this meant for paid search.

But a lot of questions have also surfaced around how this change would impact SEO. Some are calling SEO the loser in all of this, while others are viewing this as an opportunity for SEO to be a winner.

Google’s Changes and SEO: 3 Facts to Know

It does not appear that these ad layout changes will change search results for most users. In fact, some users will get an improved experience. Let’s look at the facts:

  1. Google is bigger on mobile than desktop: Last year, Google confirmed that more searches happen on a mobile device – which never had the right rail ads – than on a desktop. That means, Google’s top users will not be impacted by this change.
  2. New paid search ad space only affects “highly commercial queries”: That is, searches where Google believes the user’s goal is to make a purchase. The four paid search ads at the top of the page will relate to those types of searches.
  3. Google values user experience: Google made this update to improve the user experience, and it demonstrates they are committed to searcher intent. By focusing on highly commercial queries, Google looks to give searchers with the intent to make a purchase more relevant ads.

Google’s Ad Layout and Organic Search: What Happens Now?

We know that the changes will affect SEO, but it isn’t yet clear to what extent. What we know for certain is that Google will continue to make changes that focus on a better user experience. If you want to stay ahead of the game, you should always put time into implementing a solid SEO strategy.

Let’s review some key points for you to consider:

  • Space just got far more competitive for organic
    What was formerly the top organic search result for a highly commercial query (where purchase is the intent) is now the fourth paid search ad. Research shows that the further down a result appears in the Search Engine Results pages (SERPS), the fewer clicks it receives. Now, organic search results may display below the fold on desktop searches specific to these queries. Previously, organic search results received as many as 70 percent of clicks. It will be interesting to see if this stat changes.
  • Expect to see more from the Knowledge Graph
    The removal of the right rail ads frees up a lot of space in the SERPS for more information to populate in the Knowledge Graph panel. Again, since Google is all about focusing on user intent and getting users accurate information as soon as possible, the Knowledge Graph feature is expected to become more prominent. We’ve already seen different versions of this panel, including the Health Conditions Knowledge Graph, which rolled out last year. So this is a critical time to focus on getting your local search efforts intact and your schema markup in place to take advantage of this newly open real estate.

Interested in developing a better understanding of Google as a marketer? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
Google SERP News: Right rail ads are gone
How to Launch Smarter Campaigns with Google Customer Match