Notice something different about your Google search results? If you’re searching from a desktop you may notice there are no longer any ads on the right hand side of the page. What happened, and what does this mean for pharma marketers?
Notice something different about your Google search results? They might look the same at first glance but if you’re searching from a desktop you may notice there are no longer any ads on the right hand side of the page. On February 19th Google quietly rolled out a major change to retire the right hand rail ads on desktop. The reason provided was that they want to mimic the experience users get on mobile devices.
Previous Search Results Page
New Search Results Page
Some other important notes about this update:
- Product listing ads and knowledge panels may still appear on the right hand rails.
- Desktop and tablets may sometimes serve a maximum of 4 ads above the organic search results instead of the previous maximum of 3. This is limited however only to highly commercial keywords.
- The ads that were positioned on the right rail aren’t completely gone, some have moved to the bottom of the page.
- Reintroduction of 2-line sitelinks and depreciation of non-brand 2-expanded sitelinks on desktop.
This change comes at a time when we’re seeing a rapidly rising growth rate in mobile searches at the cost of a decline in desktop users. According to Google, in Q4 2015 52% of all healthcare related queries on their platform came from mobile devices while an additional 7% came from tablets . What this means is that with mobile & tablet now consisting of more than half the searches and with this trend continuing on an upward trajectory the reality is that this will only affect a minority segment of the traffic from SEM campaigns and that number will continue to decrease as this shift in device usage continues to trend away from desktops.
Also of note, this does not impact how ads serve on the Google search partners network. Among Klick clients, the partners network accounts for 23% of Google search traffic which may not seem like a large number on its own but it’s only one of a few components that segment how much of the traffic is actually going to be impacted which makes it a pretty significant contributor.
In order to look at the impact so far to-date, Klicks top 3 spending clients were analyzed as they have the most significant sample size of data to work with:
Keep in mind that the post-change results only includes 3 full days’ worth of data most of which were on a weekend where it’s normal to see fluctuations in how campaigns perform compared to week days. Take this data as very preliminary and better insights will be available after several weeks of data can be accumulated. With that said, here’s what can be gathered from this:
- The ads that are impacted by this are not significant contributors to the traffic generated by the entire Google AdWords SEM program.
- In theory this change could prompt other advertisers to be more aggressive in pursuit of the top of results listings. That could mean higher CPCs and bidding wars to retain those positions. While we are seeing higher CPCs, it’s too soon to jump to any conclusions because it’s a small sample size we’re working with.
- Whether ads appear at the right rail of the search page or bottom appears to make little to no difference in the probability of a user to click through.
Klick Health Recommendation
Prior to this change Klick has always adopted a data driven approach to managing SEM campaigns. Depending on each client’s needs and goals, Klick optimizes ad positioning based on performance. This will not change. If an ad did not warrant serving in a top position prior to the change, then this change doesn’t mean it suddenly should. For ads which did warrant top positioning and may now have to engage in bidding wars to retain said position we’ll continue to monitor data and establish our point of diminishing returns to evaluate if we should engage in those battles and to what extent.
Despite owning the largest slice of the market share pie among search engines, Google isn’t the only player on the field. Klick already practices the art of evaluating performance and allocating investments on a performance basis across multiple vendors including Bing and Yahoo!. If this change has a significant impact on Google results and warrants shifting investment towards other vendors, that will be monitored and executed on accordingly.
If you have any further questions or would like to discuss in more detail please reach out to your Klick representatives as our SEM team is ready and waiting to provide additional support on this.