The Breaking News is that Google have changed the way that their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) look. In short, Pay Per Click Ads, or Google Ads, have been removed from the right hand column of these results pages.

The structure of Google SERPs previously looked something like this;

Google old layout

Following the recent changes the right hand column is now predominantly bare.

The exceptions to this being PLA (Product Listing Ads) which will continue to appear to the right, which are generally seen on very specific searches. Shopping ads will remain unaffected for the time being.

So how will the new Google SERPs look?

It is widely believed that Google will now display FOUR ads at the top of the page, ahead of organic listings, instead of the historic three.

This will not always be the case, as Google’s statement on the matter is that this will only be relevant to “Highly commercial queries”. This is all down to interpretation, but is likely to apply to searches whereby the user’s intent is to make a purchase.

So the belief is that, much of the time, Google will display 4 ads at the top of the page. This will be followed by the top ranking organic results and then a further 3 ads at the bottom of the page.

Interestingly this means that Google SERPS will now display a maximum of 7 ads per page, whereby up to 11 ads could previously be seen.

You can see, below, a couple of examples of how the new search results may appear;

Below, shopping ads at the top of the page, followed by two ad listings;

Google new layout 2 ads

Here we see four ad listings at the top, along with the “shopping” results still on the right hand side;

Google new layout 4 ads

So what is behind this move?

I’m sure we will soon be reading many varying views on the reasons behind these changes, has it been done for commercial purposes etc? i.e. Driving up the cost of successful ads.

One thing that we do know is, that by changing the layout in this way, the result is more in-line with how we would see the same results displayed on mobile devices.

This would make sense given Google’s major “mobile-friendly” update last year.

With mobile search now outstripping desktop search, this becomes even more relevant.

The new layout could also be said to provide a cleaner, less cluttered, output and therefore enhance the user experience.

What do the changes mean to us?

It’s still early days, thus extremely difficult to predict what affect this will have on Pay Per Click and SEO. There are, though, a number of questions that we could ask;

  • Will fewer ads on pages increase competition and, therefore, push up the cost of Pay Per Click advertising?
  • With the advent of the fourth ad pushing down the position of the top organic result, will this have a noticeable impact on the, aforementioned, organic results? At the end of the day, if the user is aware of ad listings, skipping 4 rather than 3 may not really make much difference.
  • Compounding the above point, with sites such as Wikipedia or Amazon monopolising many of the top organic results, will it even lead to users potentially skipping straight to Page 2?!
  • Will these changes drive advertising budgets towards other means? Such as Social Media advertising or even re-targeting marketing.

A couple of things that we are fairly sure of at this stage;

  • If you are running a PPC campaign, it is vitally important to keep monitoring the average position of your listings. After all, from now on an average position which drops below 3 or 4, means you are likely to appear at the bottom of the page or even on Page 2.
  • Your cost per acquisition should always be kept in mind.

SEO and affecting organic search results remains as critical as ever, if not more so!

Where four ads appear on a page, the top organic position becomes even more vital.

When less ads appear on a page, organic results take up a more prominent position.


At the moment it’s a case of “watch this space” and we will update this topic as we learn more about the changes.

If you’d like to discuss this in further detail, please feel free to get in touch – Call: 01492 460 460 or email