Google Removes Right Hand Sidebar Ads


By now you may have heard that Google has updated its search engine results page (SERP) by removing right hand sidebar ads. As of February 16th, 2016, Google’s SERP now displays anywhere from one to four ads above the fold and three ads at the bottom of the first page.  Consequently, organic results continue to be pushed further down the page. This makes having great content and a focused keyword strategy more important than ever.

Why did Google make this change? Well, anyone familiar with Google is aware that it is always testing and experimenting. Google’s hope is that the new layout will offer a cleaner and more natural user experience. Also, while the right hand side ads provided visibility, the overall performance from a click-through rate perspective left a lot to be desired.

What will the implications and opportunities as a result of Google’s change be for advertisers who use paid search and/or organic online marketing?

Paid Search Impact

As mentioned, up to four ads appear at the top of the page, while three ads appear at the bottom. In addition, ads appearing in the top four spots are equipped with additional features like callout, sitelink, structured snippet and location extensions. These features aim to make ads look like organic listings.

The full four ads at the top of the page are reserved for highly commercial queries only.  This means there could be an increase in bid prices as marketers fight for visibility for a reduced number of positions. At the same time, organizations may be unwilling to pay for positions 5-7, which now appear at the bottom of the page and may completely drop out from auctions. The lower their ad position, the lower their click-through rate.

You should use Google’s update as an opportunity to review your keyword and landing page strategies. Appearing outside the top four positions represents a larger drop-off than before and ad extensions will become more important. With this new layout, having a proper and effective paid search strategy can provide a significant positive difference.

SEO Impact

With paid search auctions expected to become more expensive, organic rankings provide marketers an additional affordable and effective ranking resource. Focused content and proper keyword research will ensure that their organic listings are able to pick up the slack from missed paid search auctions. You need to review your SEO strategy to ensure that you are ranking organically, as high as possible, for the most relevant and important terms.  Keep in mind that even though organic listings are further down the page, they are still extremely important.  Research from Moz shows that on average, 71.33% of searches end with a page one organic click.

What Should You Do?

First, take a deep breath. Anyone familiar with Google knows it regularly updates its platform and experiments with new layouts. This change is just the latest example.  Over the years, Google has shown a desire to maximize paid ads and try to make them appear as natural as possible. Considering this is how Google makes the majority of its revenue, organizations who want to succeed with Google will have to play by its rules.

If you are unsure of the impact that this latest Google change will have on your organization and its brands, have additional questions, or are unhappy with your current digital marketing strategy, contact us today. Cornerstone is working with each of our Clients to ensure a smooth transition to Google’s new layout. We will help you leverage the opportunities available to you and ensure your online marketing presence remains unchanged.  

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