Google’s new layout: the impact so far

Last week’s hot topic in the world of digital marketing was the rollout of Google’s new layout on desktop. The new layout sees up to four text ads displayed at the top of search results, right hand side text ads removed and up to three text ads displayed at the bottom. Both product listing ads and the knowledge panel, however, will still appear at the right hand side of search results.

Some insist that there will be little impact for PPC marketers from the new layout, as ads at the right hand side and bottom of search results account for just 14.6% of total clicks. In addition to this, desktop now accounts for less than half of all searches, suggesting that the new layout will effect just 7.3% of search queries.

According to some, the change will provide improved usability and a better user experience due to its’ presentation. The new layout unifies mobile and desktop, synergising the two. In addition, it reflects a feed experience like those on Facebook and Twitter that we’re all so used to. Similar to Google, ads displayed on the right hand side of the Facebook feed have an extremely low CTR in comparison to those in the feed.


Ad extensions, such as sitelink extensions and call out extensions, were exclusive to ads at the top of search results and unavailable to ads at the right hand side prior to the new layout. As this is no longer applicable, the change resolves the top ad versus side ad issue, where in some instances text ads included ad extensions and in others they didn’t. This enables more accurate reporting.

Fewer ad positions also means more accurate reporting when looking at average positions. Prior to the new layout, there were up to eleven ad positions up for grabs. For advertisers with strong average positions, their average position was skewed by their most frequent position by ads which appeared further down the page. This previous inaccuracy will be reduced now that there are just seven ad positions available.

What have we seen so far?

As a result of Google’s new layout, most predicted an increase in CPCs. Although this isn’t something we’ve seen to date, it’s perhaps a little too soon to tell. It’s probable that advertisers will adjust their bidding strategies as they react to one another for the top of the page spots, in which case, it’s likely that the smaller advertisers will suffer.

In addition, most projected higher CTRs, something we’ve seen take effect already. Google maintains that the change will improve traffic quality for advertisers at the top of search results, however, some disagree with this due to the fewer click options available. More traffic on high ROI keywords, however, allows advertisers to access more and better traffic than ever before. A focus on conversion rate optimisation is paramount following the new layout, in response to the possibly negative impact it will have on CVR.

Product listing ads

As anticipated, we’ve seen an uplift in product listing ads as high as 32% the week following the change in comparison to the week prior. Similar to text ads, however, we haven’t seen an increase in CPCs, at least for now. This is likely to change, however, as most product listing ads are used by big brands. As a result, it’s possible that the competition for those spots will start to become more intense. In response, some suggest that Google is more likely to take advantage of the revenue generated here than improve usability and experience.

Some report that Google will continue to test the layout of product listing ads and that they may take up more screen real estate or move to different parts of search results pages. Others suggest that Google is currently testing an expandable view of product listing ads which takes the total number of viewable ads from five to fifteen!

As product listing ads are becoming more dominant, it’s important for advertisers to proactively respond to this and seek out any feed issues from Google. Other than bid adjustments, an improved feed is vital following Google’s recent change and one of the key ways to maintain or improve performance following the change.