It has been more than a month since Google removed the right-hand side (RHS) ads and thus left the space for the Shopping campaigns, or Product Listing Ad (PLA), and the Knowledge Panels only. Alternatively, Google now shows a forth ad at the top of the organic search results and moving the others former RHS ads to either the bottom of the page or the next page.
No doubt that this significant update of Google’s paid search layout has brought out different opinions. Many advertisers express their concerns of increasing ad cost as the maximum number of ads decreases from 11 (3 on top plus 8 on the RHS) to 7 (4 on top and 3 at the bottom). In addition, some others suspect that this change might depress the CTR of the ads above the organic search results because of the additional forth ad.
It has been five weeks since Google changed their SERP layout on February 19th and here are some insights from Dolead based on real CTR data of the high-ranking ads.
The CTR has increased for the Top 5 Ranking Ads
Using Dolead’s database that contains the statistics of more than 750 top 5 ranking ads from February 10th to February 29th, we divided the ads into three groups based on their average position on Google result page:
1) Position 1 to position 2.5,
2) Position 2.5 to position 3.5
3) Position 3.5 to position 5.
After comparing their average CTR before and after the change on February 19th, we confirm that the CTR of all three groups has increased. Although on average, the change of the CTR could be as low as a 1.8 percent increase, all the growths are statistically significant.
As we can tell from the graph, the CTR of all three groups have increased slightly after the SERP changes. It is not surprising to see that the CTR growth is larger for the green group (position 3.5 to position 5) as the new policy has a direct impact on this category. Now, let’s zoom in closer for each group.
Position 1 to Position 2.5: Minor Influence
Since ads placed between position 1 and position 2.5 are usually guaranteed a place above the organic search results, the latest change that Google made has little influence on their actual CTR. Specifically, the average CTR of more than 400 campaigns in this group scores a 1.8 percent increase from 3.97% to 4.04%.
Position 2.5 to Position 3.5: Moderate Change
Ranked between position 2.5 to position 3.5, these are the ads that had switched their places constantly between the top of the page and the RHS before February 19th. Now, with the new SERP arrangement, statistics suggest a 5.2 percent increase in average CTR from 2.29% to 2.41% for this group.
Position 3.5 to Position 5: The Winner
As expected, the campaigns in between position 3.5 to position 5 have had the most significant increase in their CTR. On average, there has been a 10.31 percent growth in the CTR with one account where the CTR increased by 49 percent. So overall, position 3.5 to position 5 is the winner.
So what do all these mean?
Yes, the CTR has increased for top-positioned ads. But no, there is nothing too extreme about this change.
Although the new SERP layout does raise the CTR, the difference isn’t too large. Even the greatest growth of position 3.5 to position 5 has barely exceeded 10 percent and the overall CTR curve remains flat. Therefore, the best move for advertisers at this moment is probably to stop panicking, watch closely the performance of the ads, and adjust their strategy wisely.