The chaos, the mayhem, the excitement!
It all took place last Feb 19th, when Google announced they’d be removing sidebar ads from the SERP and showing up to 4 ads in top position. The change left most PPC marketers scratching there heads, and asking themselves questions like:
- What impact will this have to my CPCs and spend?
- Will my Impression Share tank?
- How does this change the value of certain ad positions in the auction?
- What is Google going to do with all that space on the right rail?
Now that it’s been 3 weeks since the SERP changes, I thought it’d be valuable to take a deeper dive into account performance to understand what the impact truly has been to date (the truth is in the data!). Below is a before & after look of our top 10 spending clients’ data:
Desktop Only / Search Network Only / 1.29.16 – 2.18.16 vs. 2.19.16 – 3.11.16
- More impressions in Pos 1 – 3.9: The percentage of total impressions after sidebar ads were removed from the SERP has changed – our top 10 clients are now seeing a higher percentage of ad impressions in Positions 1 – 3.9
- But clicks still happening in the same top ad spots: While impression volume has moved between positions, the percentage of clicks remains fairly similar before and after, with around 99% of clicks still taking place on ads in Positions 1 – 3.9
- Position 4 is becoming more valuable, as we see CTR has improved for the spot across the board
- Average CPCs have actually increased for lower ad positions, as likely more advertisers who usually were on the sidebar are now having to bid more to take a less visible ad slot to stay on first page
IMPACT TO COST & AD POSITIONING
- Cost has trended upwards since the change on 2/19 — however, when comparing before and after, average account spend is actually down -2% in our top 10 clients
- Average Position change is fairly minimal. Overall average position has been shifting some, particularly in the last two weeks
IMPACT TO IMPRESSION VOLUME & CTR
- There haven’t been major changes in impression volume across our top 10 client’s data set, though there was a larger jump at the start of March (possible due to seasonality or budgeting changes).
- CTR has actually been trending upward in the last few weeks, possibly as a 4th ad more often is shown at top of page on select searches
- Desktop, Mobile, & Tablet are seeing fairly similar cost trends week over week
- What’s interesting to see is the change in Average Position on Tablet devices, which has worsened across our top 10 clients since the desktop SERP changes
WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING NOW?
- Keep Reading & Learning
- If you don’t feel like you’ve got your head fully wrapped around the sidebar SERP changes, check out this extensive roundup of great blog articles from PPC industry thought leaders.
- Want the TL;DR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) version about sidebar ads? Check out Point It’s right rail changes snapshot overview!
- Measure Results
- Continue to monitor your account CPCs & cost level changes
- Monitor your campaign impression share trends using Google’s Auction Insight tool
- If a majority of your ads serve in Position 3 – 5, pull reports from the last 3 weeks, segmented by day and network, to see if there’s been a shift in your Search traffic metrics (impressions, Clicks, CTR, and Average Position)
- Stay In Line With Your Goals!
- Don’t be reactive, be proactive
- Remember that bidding for Position 1 isn’t always right for your account goals.
- Boosting bids out of fear will lead to inflated CPCs and inefficient costs