The Search Results Pages (SERPs) in Google change quite regularly, usually for the better. But what do the latest changes mean for the budding SEOs and PPC pros out there?
Google’s change from 3 to 4 paid adverts
We’d like to talk about the effect Google changing their results from 3 paid adverts to 4 paid adverts. What does this mean for companies and users alike?
How it all came about
Let’s look way way back in time. A time when only the iPhone 6 existed…2015. When you searched for something in Google you’d see 3 paid adverts at the top of the page, followed by 10 organic results. There was even a sidebar to the right which showed things like locations, contact details, products and even snippets of company info, if your company was popular enough. The first organic result was therefore the 4th result, luckily just visible on a computer screen without the need to scroll.
Getting to the top of organic results (position 1, but the 4th result if you allow for paid ads) is far from easy to achieve. Google changes how it ranks sites organically all the time, meaning SEOs have to change their approach all the time, with the glimmer of hope that they’ll get to position 1, or even page 1. Then Google comes along and changes their algorithm, knocking back the SEOs work and making them rethink their entire strategy.
Moving on to a slightly more modern era – 2016. The start of 2016 to be semi-precise. Google changes their SERPs to show 4 paid adverts rather than 3. This has the clear intention of making them more money, sugar coated by Google with “We want people to trust paid adverts more and give the smaller businesses a chance to show in our results”.
We get it; Google is a business and it needs to make money, but let’s not forget the little guys. How does this change work for them?
What’s the effect to businesses with Google’s new 4 paid adverts
Starting with large conglomerates who can sneeze out a couple of words and hit position 1 in Google’s organic results – They’re probably chucking big lumps of money on the same keywords anyway in the form of paid ads, so they’ll show up twice on a single page. They’re organic result will be one position lower, so that can only have a negative effect for them, as there’s a new company in between where they used to be. The negative effect will be slight due to how some users view paid adverts and skip past them anyway.
Next, how does this affect the medium sized business? They’ve managed to get to page 1, slightly down the page but there still there somewhere. Sometimes a few of their best performing keywords will be near the top. Organic traffic is pretty good on the whole, but not really cutting it just yet. They’re paying for keywords which another 4 or 5 massive companies are also competing for, and having to spend quite a lot to show up in the paid results. We actually believe this change will have a slightly marginal positive effect for two reasons.
- They can bid slightly less than they already are and show up at the top in the paid ads
- Unless they’re really unlucky and sitting in position 10, the people who will skip past the paid ads and go straight to the organic results will hopefully still spot them after a short scroll. No doubt there will be some loss of organic traffic, but this should be marginal, and the gain on paid traffic will still lean the overall traffic towards a positive gain.
Lastly, the impact on small business. It’s unlikely they’ve hit the organic results on page 1, and competing with the big dogs on paid ads delivers a weak ROI, so they had to drive traffic to their site using other methods (Social, Email, Referrals or even word of mouth). This was a hard old slog. Adding in another paid advert makes the ROI a little better because they can bid less but still show up in the top 4 results. Google gets a bit more money on the whole as more small businesses will run AdWords, but it still gives the small businesses that chance.
Summary: Are Google’s SERP with 4 paid ads better than 3 paid ads?
It depends on the size of your business.
- Large businesses – No, it’s not better
- Medium – It’s about the same
- Small – You’re in luck
(We should caveat this very broad summary brush with the fact that small businesses are only in luck if their keywords are competitive with some big players around. If they were paying reasonable amounts on paid ads that they could justify and hitting the top of paid ads regularly, having some new company come along and sticking their nose in at position 4 is a slight irritation, but not a deal breaker.)