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Google's Big Change to Paid Search Means More Competition

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A big paid search change by Google will now make PPC much more competitive. The search engine has increased the number of paid search advertising slots which appear at the top of search results, but at the same time has removed advertising entirely from the right side of the pages.

The change has already been rolled out across a wide range of search results and will have a big impact for any business using Adwords for paid search advertising. Google has stated that the new approach to advertising will be used for 'highly commercial queries'.

In the example above, the right hand column continues to display paid Product Listings and Google Knowledge Graph information where relevant, but the red box shows where Adwords PPC Paid Search might have appeared in the past.

The result is that there are now a maximum of 7 advertising spaces available on the first page of a search term (3 will show underneath the search results), rather than the 11 previously allowed. And examples of 'highly commercial queries' given by Google include 'Hotels in New York City' and 'Car Insurance', meaning that if someone is searching with an intent to buy from a business, they're very likely to see the new Adwords layout on search results.

How the PPC Change Impacts Small Businesses:

The bad news is that reducing the advertising inventory on the first page of search results is likely to increase prices. Less slots to bid for will naturally mean more competition. There are some suggestions that the first paid space will actually reduce in price, as more 'banner' advertising will be available, but whether this happens or not is open to debate.

It also means that the 'organic' or 'natural' search results may be pushed further down the first page. In the example above, the paid advertising and map listings mean users will have to scroll further to see many of the organic results. But potential customers may be less distracted without the right hand column advertising as they move down the page.

How Small Businesses Can Benefit:

It's now more important than ever to ensure that you're using Google's Product Listings if relevant, and also keeping your Knowledge Graph information current and correct.

The change to paid search also means that the strategy needs to change for every business. Rather than focusing on a wide range of keywords at a variety of prices, the smaller amount of inventory should encourage a focus on a smaller number of high quality terms, with better advertising to match. Studies have shown the 'banner' type of advert gets a much higher rate of users clicking through to visit website and purchase, so by concentrating your efforts, you may well see an increase in the return on your investment.

With a smaller set of target keywords, you'll be able to increase your bids and potentially overtake much bigger, more established companies. And reap the rewards when you do.

That will increase the time you need to thoroughly research, test and measure which keywords work best for your business, which is an area we can help with. Our experience and expertise in paid search means we know the options and tools inside out - and can ensure you make the most of your advertising with site links, reviews and other additional chances to stand out and improve your return on investment.

But what it doesn't mean is that organic search engine optimisation is any less important - in fact, it makes appearing at the top of the 'natural' search results even more important to be visible to potential customers. More experienced searchers and the rise in ad blocking software means that many users will already scroll past paid advertising to reach the organic search results, and that number is likely to increase as more people get used to the new layout.

The essential element for success will be making sure that your paid search, organic, social media and other digital marketing efforts work together effectively to give you most coverage in search results, and you're capturing the best number of customers for your business. Which is why working with a full service digital agency with experience of bringing together all those specialisms makes more sense than ever before.