Google’s recent changes to their search results pages threw paid search marketers for a loop, but what about organic search practitioners? Columnist Dan Bagby discusses the impact on SEO.
Removing the ads from the right rail of Google search results pages was a long time coming (well, a long time for digital). An eye-mapping study from last year showed that people have gone from viewing the SERPs in an “F” pattern to doing a quick vertical scan down the left side, mostly ignoring the ads on the right side. People are also scanning the page faster by taking only eight or nine seconds to click, down from 14 to 15 seconds in the 2005 study.
It only makes sense that Google would eventually react to how searchers are adapting to the line of links they are used to by taking away the right bar. This is also further evidence of Google’s continued gravitation toward being a mobile-first search engine, since the right column of ads was not visible on mobile search.
While I understand why SEO professionals might worry, I don’t think the recent move to showing up to four ads above organic results will have a profound effect on organic search. The extra ad will only be showing on “highly commercial queries,” and there are several keyword types that remain ad-free or only have one or two ads on top, like e-commerce keywords with PLAs and no text ads, or long-tail keyword phrases.
All that said, no one trying to improve organic search traffic could be happy with the addition of extra ads before the 10 blue organic links. While we can’t change the SERP layout, there are a few ways we can react to maintain a solid SEO strategy. Here are a few ways you can adapt to the ever-changing SERPs.