Google Search: Introducing “The Top 4”

Its 22nd February 2016, Google are in the process of removing all of the adverts that appear on the right hand side of the page on Google Search engines. A view many will think is controversial.

In a nutshell, Google are saying that more searches happen on smartphones today than any other device, so having a system that is designed and geared for desktops is becoming out of date and a universal approach is needed for the future.

A truth about right hand ads:

In every AdWords account I have had access to, you see the same thing time and time again. The 8 adverts on the right hand side get very few clicks when compared with the top three. Position number 4, residing to the right of position number 1 would attract 1/10th of the clicks that position no.1 would get. If No.1 gets a click through rate of 10%, no.4 will likely get approx 1%. The same is true for no.5 when compared with no.2 and so on, with the CTR decreasing the further down the list you go—with position number 11 barely getting clicked at all.

Further to this, so many people tell me that they avoid clicking adverts. When i enquire where they think the adverts are, i am nearly always informed that the adverts are the ones on the right hand side.

Introducing Top Of Page Position No. 4

Now instead of there being 3 ads at the top, there will now be 4. This ad on its own will server several purposes:

  • Pos. No. 4 will have a decent CTR, recovering lost clicks from the removal of the right hand side
  • There is 33.33% more ‘Top Of Page’ space for advertisers optimising for top positions
  • This will also push the maps and organic content further below the fold, making it harder to access
  • This = more bad news for SEO. Getting No.1 in the organic listings is now getting you the less attractive place below the ads and maps somewhere halfway down the page.

As i have been saying in recent seminars, Google is continuing a course of action that heavily promotes the top 5% of all industries, further driving a wedge between them and the other 95%.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 09.55.38

A screenshot of ‘Cosmetic Dentists In London’ showing all content above the fold. No organic listings in sight at all.

But Wait – There is the bottom 3

Google are introducing the bottom 3. We have been seeing this in the mobile searches a lot, where we previously thought this was because there is no right hand room on a mobile device. Again, mimicking the mobile style of inline ads only on a desktop further proves that Google are looking to the future and catering for all devices with one layout.

The bottom 3 ads fit nicely under the organic listings, which must be making adverts even harder to spot, thus increasing advert CTR’s further.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 10.06.55

A screenshot of ‘Cosmetic Dentists In London’ showing all content at the bottom of the page. Organic listings flow very easily into the adverts.


What will the effects be

In terms of stating actual numbers, looking at click through rates of the various positions, if you are advertising on Page 1, you will receive more clicks. Position No.4 being in the top rather than the side will receive a considerable boost in performance.

The bottom 3 will also get more clicks – positions 5-7 will have much higher CTRs resulting in 5-10x more clicks.

The twist – Increasing click prices

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 10.44.37Yep, there is a twist. In your Adwords account, any keyword not appearing on page number 1 will have a big orange status alert stating that the keyword has a “Below 1st Page Bid’. The natural thing to do is to boost the bid for the keyword by 10-20% (upping a £1.00 bid to £1.20) in order to show ads on the first page for that keyword.

Lets do the math. 3 top ads + 8 right hand ads = 11 ads. Now we have 4 top & 3 bottom = 7 ads. Thats 36% of the accounts originally hitting page 1 will now be on page 2. Assuming that these Adwords accounts are being looked at from time to time (page 1 advertisers usually are) then it is likely that the account owners or managers will increase bids by 10% – 20% in order to maintain  a page 1 position.


What this means long term

As the actual click price is based on the ad-rank of the ad in the next position, increasing the cost per click on the bottom ad will push click prices all the way to position no.1. That said, there is only so much a company can afford to pay for a profitable click, so the AdWords ecosystem will adjust in time, giving the companies with the largest profit margins the ability to bid at the top of page 1.

This is why the 95/5 rule (expansion on the 80/20 rule) comes into play.

Is the top now reserved for rich corporations with the cash?

Hell no. With the right management, optimisation and approach, your company can be a top 5% company if you are willing to try. More focus needs to be applied to your whole marketing strategy. In a world of increasing click costs, more effort needs to be applied across the board to increase your quality scores to bring the click prices back down again.

A quick guide: Get into the top 5%, infinite loop.

  1. [Writing excellent adverts | adding negative keywords | structuring campaigns well] Will increase quality score and reduce CPC’s. You will get a higher position for less, but you will receive many more clicks.
  2. If you receive more clicks, you may need more budget. More budget means more clicks and its even more important for those clicks to be profitable.
  3. To ensure maximum profitability from your clicks and website visitors, optimising your website for more conversions becomes the step that catapults your business into the top 5% performers.
  4. When optimising your website & increasing your conversions, you will decrease your bounce rate, increase your quality score reduce CPC’s. You will get a higher position for less, but you will receive many more clicks. —> return to step 2…

Non of your competitors will even know its happening.