Still Confused About Google's Recent Changes? Erin Sagin Explains [VIDEO]


If you're still confused about Google's recent SERP shake-up, check out this quick five-minute video, where I explain the changes and how they'll affect your AdWords campaigns. For more information, check out Larry's post, which shows that right-side ads weren't getting many clicks anyway, and Mark's post with a bunch more data on how this layout change has affected (or not affected) CTR, CPC, and more.

Video transcript:

Hi guys! Thanks so much for joining us here. Today we’ll be talking about the huge changes that Google has made to their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This happened a few weeks ago and advertisers have been going absolutely bananas over what this means for them and their businesses. In this video, I’ll walk you through the changes that have happened to help you understand exactly what Google has changed and what the implications are for you and your business.

First things first, let’s look at a copy of the old Google SERP. We’re familiar with this layout; it’s something that has remained unchanged for years. But, Google has decided to finally switch things up. Here’s what changed: rather than continuing to show three ads at the top of the page, they’ve moved ad number four below ad number three, so now we have four ads at the top of the page above the organic listings.

Next, they removed the rest of the ads from the right hand rail. Ads five through seven were shifted to the bottom of the page, below the organic results, and ads eight through eleven were evicted from the page altogether. Now we have a completely streamlined SERP with no right-hand ad bar. The new SERP looks almost similar to what we see on mobile devices – one straight line.

So, what do these changes mean for you and your business? There are a couple great side effects from this switch up and a couple losing factors, unfortunately. But first, let’s talk about what has NOT changed. So far, there has not been a major change in CPCs, which is something we’ve been pretty surprised to see. When this news initially broke, advertisers were very concerned that their CPCs would start to skyrocket as competition for the top spots would be even more aggravated. However, our data shows that they’ve barely shifted. It’s important to continue to watch how this data changes over time and keep an eye on how this may be impacting your account. The key is, it’s nothing to freak out about right now.

A couple of positive things have come out of this change. If you’re an e-commerce business who is running Shopping Campaigns, your Shopping ads will continue to appear in the right-hand rail. We’ve actually seen both click share and click-through rate increase for these, making them the winners of the new SERP rollout. Another unexpected change was an uptick in CTR for ad number three. To be honest, I have no idea why! A lot of people expected that ad number four would see a big increase in CTR, as people may mistake it for an organic listing, but its position 3 that’s really showing a heightened CTR.

Now, on to what you should be concerned about, or the “losers” of this shake-up. First things first, ads five through seven have been perceived largely as the losers, as they’ve moved to the bottom of the page. However, we’ve noticed that there hasn’t been a very significant change in performance for these ads. They’re not performing super-well but, in reality, they didn’t have great performance on the old SERP, either! So, I wouldn’t be majorly concerned about this shift and would continue to focus my efforts on the top positions. Of course, ads eight through eleven, which got evicted from the first page all together, are also the losers of this change, but it’s important to keep an eye on any new data coming out about their performance on page two.

Finally, the absolute biggest loser that advertisers SHOULD be concerned about is the organic listings. SEO will certainly take a hit from this change. Why? Because the listings have been shifted further down the page. You may have ranked above the fold before and are now finding yourself far below it. As always, organic listings can be volatile and this is yet another change that Google introduced that will have a negative impact on organic. The bottom line is, you should be focused on running both paid search and organic optimization efforts for your business. A two-pronged approach to the SERP is key to ensure you’re protecting yourself from changes like this.

As this change becomes global, it’s critical that you’re on the lookout for more and more data. As this change becomes more universal, we’ll see more data come out about it, so you’ll be able to make smarter decisions for your account. For the time being, don’t freak out; as we talked about here, aside from organic you’re not going to see a huge change to your paid search efforts. Thanks so much for joining us and if you have other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team here.


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Mar 04, 2016

Thanks for the great webinar! Quick question...

I noticed that while searching for "online colleges" (a highly commercial keyword where you'd expect 4 ads to appear) I was consistently only seeing 3 ads while I was in incognito search, but was seeing 4 ads while i was signed in on Google.

Since you mentioned that "Ad 3" was surprisingly seeing better performance than "Ad 4", do you think Google (in the last 4 days) could be using incognito/not signed in users to test 3 Ads?

This would explain why "Ad 3" was performing better than "Ad 4".


Erin Sagin
Mar 07, 2016

happy to hear that you liked it! we've actually seen that Google has been gradually rolling out this new format over the last few weeks--which explains why you've had different experiences in different browsers. this certainly could impact the data that we initially pulled. as advertisers, it'll be important for us to keep an eye on what happens as more SERPs turn over to the new structure. thanks for commenting :)

Mohan Raj
Mar 07, 2016

Thanks Erin, Now I Can Point to The Pretty Pictures (graphs) While I Explain This to My Trainees.

Erin Sagin
Mar 07, 2016

ha, happy to hear it! having a picture available definitely makes it easier to explain what went down :)

Mar 08, 2016

Great content in the video. Very helpful. One comment... I know that's the room where you have a nice big whiteboard, but it has TERRIBLE acoustics for recording voice. If you HAVE to record in that room, a clip mic and some EQing would really help viewers more easily discern what Erin is saying.

Erin Sagin
Mar 08, 2016

Thank you for the feedback! We are looking into getting some new recording equipment :) !!

Mar 11, 2016

That may the most acoustically live room in existence. The audio was so bad I couldn't watch the video. On the other hand, thank you for a written transcript - not everyone does that.

Amit Roy
Mar 14, 2016

Hi Erin,

Quick question: When we deep dive into other SERP's, we also have seen Google rich answer snippets and query box showing "People also asked for". With these SERP layouts and snapck packs, what do you think about the impact on ads five to seven as they would be pushed further down the ladder. No doubt, the biggest gain should be for the 4th slot of the ad, still need a lot of data to make predictions. I was waiting for such analysis on the SERP layoyt changes. Thanks!

Alex Dwight
Mar 14, 2016

A good introduction to marketing.

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