No PPC ads in Google desktop search – What does it mean for you?

A few days ago Google did something long expected yet unexpected. They’ve phased out the pay-per-click advert column you used to see on the right hand side of the search results. The search engine giant has apparently been mulling the decision over for a very long time, as well as quietly testing the concept. Now it’s for real. So what does the news mean to website owners and digital marketers? Here’s what you need to know.

PPC ads removed from desktop search results – the implications

Google has been thinking about it since 2010. Now the new-look search results page has rolled out and, over the last few days, gone mainstream. And it happened without an official announcement. Did you notice? We just Googled ‘cats’ and it’s true – no pay-per-click ads in the right hand column.

What has replaced the PPC ad column?

Now, only a few paid adverts appear ‘above the fold’ – in other words in the top part of the search results page, the area you see before you scroll down. There may be more PPC ads towards the foot of the search page too. It depends on the nature of your search.

The only exceptions seem to be Google Shopping ad product listings for Google merchants, and Google Knowledge Panel, the  large colourful panel to the right of the search results that pops up when you search for, say, a business, showing the location, images, and detailed information about the business.

The low-down for site owners and digital marketers?

Optimising your content for search is more important than ever, because it’ll directly drive what appears in Google’s Knowledge Panel. The panel is a brilliant little mini-marketing campaign in itself, and getting it right will reap rewards in terms of better search visibility, tightly-targeted visitors and better conversion rates.

In real terms this means:

  • Making sure your entire website is properly optimised for Google, from the bottom up
  • Getting to know your audience and their intent better
  • Carefully mapping keywords to all new content
  • Claiming your Google Business listing to add more detail to Knowledge Panel

None of this is onerous. In an ideal world you’ll be doing all this anyway, as a natural part of your ongoing site management and maintenance.

What if you’re a PPC advertiser?

Competition has always been stiff in PPC, with fierce bidding for the most valuable keywords. The change in Google’s desktop layout will put even more pressure on advertisers, with cost per click predicted to go ballistic in partcularly competitive sectors.

Why has Google done it?

Who knows why Google has done it. The decision was probably multi-factoral rather than based on just one of the reasons being bandied about: more relevant search results, better performance for advertisers or simply a streamlined visual experience designed to unify mobile and desktop search.

Will they replace the old paid ad column with another kind of paid advertising, for example Compare? Who knows. Unless Google announces their intentions, only time will tell.

What if you’ve ignored search engine optimisation so far?

The long and short of it is, you can’t ignore on-site SEO. It’s essential if you want a healthy, well-performing website that people will finds when they search for businesses like yours.

SEO at the heart of every site we build

We always optimise the websites we build for search engines, sticking to digital marketing industry best practice, which is laid down by Google itself. If your existing site doesn’t take search engines’ needs into account, we can make it so in its next iteration, thanks to our talented and experienced SEO partners and to the WordPress platform, always on the SEO ball.