Have you noticed the change in Google’s desktop search results? Look to the right-hand side; what used to be filled with Google ads is now open white space.

Since AdWords launched in 2000, the right-hand side of Google’s search results has been filled with paid advertisements. After 16 years Google has decided to remove them and take on a cleaner looking approach.

What is Google’s latest plan for ads?

As we mentioned, Google AdWords isn’t going anywhere. It would appear that Google is attempting to clean up its search engine results pages (SERPs), bringing them more in-line with its mobile search display.

For desktop users, a fourth ad has been found at the top of Google’s SERPs. This recent change seems to have been in the pipeline for some time, as a number of users reporting that Google was testing the use of four advertisements at the top of its SERPs, as early as 2010.

The truth is that the side ads didn’t generate the majority of click-throughs. According to WordStream, only 14.6 percent of paid clicks in January 2016 came through side ads or those at the bottom. From this we can assume that Google is trying to increase its overall revenue from top ads, whilst enhancing the user experience.

How this will affect organic search

Achieving a first-page rank is certainly not getting any easier.

The additional paid position at the top of Google’s SERPs will reduce the number of organic search results by one and knock most organic search results below the fold of the first page. Not only will organic search results have four ads to contend with, but there will also be Google’s other services, including the shopping cart, local maps and wiki text.

How this will affect paid ads

With fewer ads now showing, one worry is that the ads’ cost-per-click (CPC) could increase. While no one can be sure what the long term affect will be on prices, our advice would be to make sure you have an appropriate limit in place and monitor your costs carefully in the coming months.

This update is positive for advertisers who write high quality ads. With fewer positions to compete for, higher quality ads will be shown for competitive search terms. This includes choosing more carefully selected keywords, writing high quality ads and having a good landing page to follow.

All of the top ads and some at the bottom are available for extensions, so this change will increase the likelihood that advertisers’ extensions will be shown.


Like many of Google’s updates, it will take time to see the real positives and negatives from the changes. All we can advise is that you monitor your Analytics and AdWords accounts and adjust your strategy based on patterns you may see over time.

Whether or not this update will cost advertisers more in the long run is still yet to be seen, but one benefit is that those with higher quality ads will have less competition and more exposure on the SERPs.

Users will benefit from cleaner SERPs and will be exposed to higher quality, more relevant advertisements.