On Friday, our Google team let us know that Google is dropping the ads in the right-hand sidebar column on their desktop results pages. We thought about writing a blog post immediately, but nobody reads blogs posted on Friday night. Our plan was to get a blog out first thing Monday. Over the weekend, several sources in the media have now reported this: The Verge, Search Engine Watch, and Search Engine Land.

Of course, there have never been sidebar ads on mobile phones because there’s no sidebar. In light of that, this switch makes sense from a consistency standpoint as we are at the point where 55%-60% of search results are done on mobile phones. What will remain in the right-hand sidebar are Google Product Listing Ads. These are ads for items that are sold and shipped mostly via the Internet or consumer packaged goods.

Google has not published on their blog but confirmed it in response to the media articles.  Google did give an official statement:

“We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”

Our contacts at Google went on to say that this test did not show any material changes in cost per click metrics. However, some skepticism on this is healthy since Google continues to have Adwords as their largest source of revenue.

Google goes on to say that in some cases there will be four ads on top of the results, compared to the current three, but that is only for “highly commercial” searches. Currently, one example of a search that is considered highly commercial is a query for hotels. The team at Google is working to gather information about whether Apartments, Senior Living, or Self Storage are considered highly commercial for these purposes. In the past, such searches did not fit Google’s definition of highly commercial searches.

Despite this change in the advertising real estate on a  Google search engine results page, high ad quality scores, relevant landing pages, and well-architected extensions still rule when it comes to earning top of page positioning at a lower cost per click.


Yesterday, I wrote in this blog about how in the past searches in Senior Living, Multifamily and Self Storage were not usually considered high commercial intent by Google, and therefore, four ad spots above the organic listings might be unlikely. However, as you can see, on a couple of searches done today there are indeed four ad spots at the top of the search engine results page.