Google AdWords Drops Right Hand Side Ads – What It Means

Google AdWords Removes Right Side Ads

This week you may have noticed some changes to Google Adwords in Google search results.  The right hand side adverts on desktop searches have been dropped for many searches.

This change was unannounced before it happened, and discussions on this are a hot topic in digital marketing forums around the web.  But what does it mean to you?

The big thing to do it not have a knee jerk reaction.  Google changes search results hundreds of times a year, and AdWords features many, many times a year – from little experiments you hardly even notice, to more major ones like this.  In the last few months there’s been many changes to local search results (those searches that bring up a list of local businesses) through to many new features within AdWords.  People tend to be in one of two schools of thought : This is a big deal…or hey, there’s no right hand ads on a mobile device, they’re just bringing desktop up to speed with mobile.

For many verticals and countries, mobile traffic dominates nowadays so is this really a big deal?

Here’s my thoughts on the changes so far.

Google AdWords Removes Right Hand Ads


Google Always Changes – Don’t Panic

Some changes are better than others, although constant changes aren’t always good.  It’s frustrating having to explain all the changes to Google Places / Google+ Local and now Google My Business but to be honest, if you’re an AdWords professional, you’ll be used to all these changes.  Some of these changes are what makes it interesting, and it allows your ad agency to stay on top of them, and make a difference.

Costs May Go Up For Google AdWords

In the short term, I think the costs of Google AdWords may go up.  Many advertisers may panic and go to increase the bids on all their ads to increase their position.  This may seem like an obvious move to make, but if you’re Quality Score is crap, you’re throwing more money after bad results.  You’ll just pay more than you need to because you’re not watching your budget.  You’ll increase your cost per acquisition, which may make your campaign less profitable.

One way to tackle this is to improve the match between keywords, ads and landing pages to improve your Quality Score.

It’s Time To Approach Your Digital Marketing Holistically

I say this a lot in presentations, courses and talks.  You need to have a holistic approach to digital marketing.  The structure of your website, content layout and technical elements affect your SEO, and the quality of your land pages also affects the costs of your ads.  If you design and develop a website, then decide you want to advertise, then decide you want to do search engine optimisation, the whole process will cost you more in the short and long term.

If you’re building a house, you’ll know it costs more to change the wiring, and build an extension later.  The same goes for digital marketing.  You need to spend your budget wisely in line with your goals.

Your Campaign Structure, Website Content and SEO Matters

Do you know the Quality Score of your current keywords and campaign overall?  Do you know the returns on your AdWords spend?  Sadly, many booking engines and third party ecommerce sites for tourism and hospitality make this process very difficult.  It should be a no-brainer but many of them don’t support conversion tracking which makes your advertisers job very hard.  One thing you can measure is the Quality Score of your campaign.

The higher your Quality Score, the lower you’ll pay for your ads.  If you are willing to spend some more time getting a good structure for your AdWords campaign, good copy for your ads, and invest time in creating specific landing pages, this will improve the Quality Score of your account, and make your money go further by reducing the cost per click.

Recently I restructured an AdWords campaign for a UK client and halved their cost per click from £2 to £1.  Yes that meant I turned their £500 monthly spend into the equivalent of £1000.

Whilst this can happen purely due to having a better structured account, to take it further requires a bit more effort.

You can drive traffic to a website by spending money, but if the content doesn’t match the ads, your visitors won’t convert.  If you’re Quality Score isn’t improving just by restructuring your ad account, you probably need to change website content to increase it further, and many businesses don’t realise this affects your costs, and don’t really see the connection to advertising.

Don’t expect your ad agency to perform miracles.  If you invest wisely, it will set you apart from the competition.

Will This Really Affect You?

Update : 27th February 2016

Wordstream have already had a look at their client accounts and think that only 14% of ad clicks will be affected by this change.  Given that mobile traffic matches desktop in many sectors and countries, and this change only affects desktop, then this change may only affect 7% of clicks.

This is why you shouldn’t overreact to the change by increasing your bids, especially if you are already averaging a top position.  If everyone does this, ad costs will just be artificially inflated for no reason.  Sometimes advertisers don’t have enough budget to run a ‘top spot’ campaign and be cost effective so rushing to increase bids may just make your campaign unprofitable.

Audit Your AdWords Account Today

Worried about spending more money?  Check the structure of your account today.  Do you have enough ads, does the copy match, and are your keywords and ads specific enough?  Although this takes time, if you know what you’re doing it’s a relatively straightforward process.  You need to ensure you are using all the AdWords features to lower your costs.

Overall, don’t panic too much about this change, especially if you are running your AdWords campaigns yourself.  There’s a good chance you’re spending more money than you need to already, without this recent change.

Any thoughts?  Leave your comments below.

If you’d like me to audit your AdWords account, there’s a good chance I can make changes to more than overcome this change.  It’s not unusual for me to quickly spot unused AdWords features that can save you money, badly structured accounts or other issues that are way bigger than this change.   Get in touch today for professional Google AdWords audit.


Darren Craig

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Shashi - February 25, 2016 Reply

According to WordStream, on an average 15% of the clicks happen on side ads. There will be accounts for which this number is far higher and will be affected by this change.

Rand Fishkin of Moz suggested that organic results are unlikely to be affected.

Here’s an AdWords script that will help you identify accounts and keywords that could be severely impacted. This script goes through your account (or all the accounts if you use it at MCC-level) and finds out the keywords that received a lot of clicks from the side positions.


Darren Craig - February 25, 2016 Reply

Thanks for the link to the script Shashi!
Note to others – I haven’t tried this script.

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