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Welcome to our blog. Here we'll post news and updates which relate to our core business of helping law firms grow.

Google Removes Right-Hand Sidebar Ads

Google new ad layout

Since launching Google Ads in 2000, Google has shown paid ads to the top, right-hand side and at the bottom of the search results – the amount varying on how many advertisers are competing for the specific search term.

However, on Friday 18th Feb 2016 it emerged that Google will no longer be showing ads in the right-hand sidebar. Going forward, Google will continue to show 3 ads above organic listings, with the addition of a 4th paid result for "highly commercial searches". There will also be up to 3 ads at the bottom of the search engine results.

Google hasn’t publically announced the change yet, but they have confirmed that this update is being rolled out worldwide.1 Furthermore, Peter J. Meyers from Moz posted interesting findings from the MozCast data set, showing that on Friday 18th February, the number of ads showing on the right sidebar decreased dramatically, and at the same time, bottom ads jumped up by roughly 15%.2

Moz bottom vs right ads

Google has continued to reiterate the importance of mobile friendly sites with ‘Mobilegeddon’ in 2015 following the introduction of mobile-only ads in AdWords. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that desktop search results will now resemble mobile searches.

From our experience, and we’re sure any paid search marketer would agree, appearing in the first 3 positions is more valuable than the sidebar as they are above the fold and all ad extensions can appear making these ads even more eye-catching. When reviewing these Top vs. Other stats from one of our client accounts, there is absolutely no doubt that you want your ads to show in the top 3 positions. Despite over 600 more impressions for ‘other’ positions, CTR is under 1% and has a higher CPC.

Google AdWords top vs other

So what does this mean for your Google AdWords account?

The general consensus so far is that competition for the top 3-4 spots is going to increase across industries. For the legal sector, we can already see searches showing 4 top position ads, with none in the sidebar. Some industry experts have predicted a major decrease in impressions3 whereas others aren’t so sure.4

But this doesn’t necessarily mean increasing your bids. Yes, bids are a huge factor in determining where your ad will appear on Google, but it isn’t the sole factor that determines ad rank. Google also ranks your ads based on the quality of your account and website, and how relevant your keywords are to your ads and landing pages. This is all part of Google's ultimate aim to provide users with the most useful results for their searches. Google has been testing out a 4th ad since 2006 and the data collected from these tests have influenced the decision to go ahead with this new layout. Therefore, we need to trust that this is a step forward for advertisers and users alike.5 

We expect that the new layout will bring about a number of benefits for PPC advertisers, including:

  • More opportunity for ads to show in prominent positions
  • Increased use of ad extensions – location, sitelinks, callouts – which didn’t show with side ads. Also, there will be more data on the performance of ad extensions to help advertisers optimise campaigns
  • More paid ads in search results will potentially increase trust from users who usually lean towards clicking organic results
  • Some focus may shift to paid social media marketing to make up for lost traffic if competition and costs on Google increases

However, this change brings about unfortunate news for SEO advertisers as organic listings no longer appear above the fold. Founder of Wordstream, Larry Kim, comments: “Without a doubt, this change is bad news for anyone involved in SEO. Paid position #4 was the old organic position #1."6

With this announcement, we can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have a robust digital strategy which focuses on integrating SEO and PPC, ensuring that your website will continue to perform well when faced with future Google updates.

Contact our Digital Marketing Experts

Only time will tell how much of an impact this change will have on the PPC accounts we run for our legal sector clients. However, we are ready to react to make sure that our clients remain competitive on search. If you have any questions on this, or how we can help generate business for you online, give us a call on 0845 620 5664.


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