Farewell, Right Rail Ads: How Google’s New SERP Helps Advertisers

Posted by Amber Kazalbash on Feb 25, 2016 2:31:50 PM

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By now, you’ve probably noticed the removal of ads on Google’s right rail of search engine results pages (SERPs). What you may have not considered, however, is the opportunity this update provides for both advertisers and Google’s core search competitors. In this blog, we explore the new SERP landscape and strategies to explore to keep ahead of the competition.

Desktop to Mobile

The update started rolling out last week and was confirmed by Google. Now, officially, sidebar ads in the right rail have been removed in all languages indefinitely on desktop interfaces to resemble a simplified mobile UX. In “highly commercial cases,” one additional ad will be added to the existing three ads hovering over the snack pack and organic search results (as seen in photo above). Additionally, three text ads will appear at the bottom of SERPs.

Mobile Search Results
This update should not have come as a surprise to any seasoned advertiser. Mediative recently found that only 0.7 of users were clicking through on right rail ads, versus a whopping 3.16% over ten years ago TWEET THIS. With the permeation of mobile and tablets into the lives of what seems like every consumer, banner blindness and the ignorance of seemingly extraneous information were likely the main two factors that influenced Google to make this SERP update.

Real Estate Opportunity

Whether it be on desktop, mobile or tablet, advertisers can agree that SERP real estate is a competitive space and any changes, especially on Google SERPs, should be a wake up call for brands executing static strategies. With possibly one extra space up top for more commercial searches, Google has essentially reinforced the influence of top-line paid search ads and giving a special real estate opportunity to tenacious advertisers who understand the science of personalized search ads.


Google Commercial Search


Advertisers who are taking advantage of this update will have to assume that because of scarcity of space above the fold and increase in competition, costs per click (CPCs) across the board. This is a great time to refresh your current PPC, keyword and long-tail strategies to focus on what users find more personalized, resonant and valuable. Blanketed efforts will break the bank and generate traffic from customers with lower intent to purchase.

Interestingly, we’re are seeing that Product Listing Ads (PLAs) are still appearing on both the right rail and sometimes above organic results. We can assume that the visibility of product listings should continue to be a high priority and help brands (especially those utilizing ecommerce) convert customers online.


Other Traffic Drivers
The journey of the connected customer is more complex than ever before, and the competitive search landscape is contributing to this complexity. Comscore reports that on desktop, Bing has increased its search share to 21.1 percent, almost twice Yahoo who ranks number three in search share. As we’ve discussed in a past post, this engine is actively working to understand the customer journey of both mobile and desktop customers. Bing has already been serving four ads above organic and five right rail ads within SERPs. Knowing this, advertisers and marketers should continue to distribute their efforts in order to reach the maximum amount of users and drive conversions.

Aside from search competitors, this SERP update should encourage marketers to solidfy all organic efforts as well. Whether that be by implementing social and review feedback on dynamic location pages, responding to customers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or even simply refreshing your local data to optimize a user’s shopping experience, organic strategies should be revisited to ensure that, even if you are not in the ad results, your brand is appearing at the top of organic listings. 




The reality is that between Google and its competing search engines, the race to satisfy user behavior will never stop. Because of this, it’s a marketer’s responsibility to diversify efforts, understand the nature of user intent, and capitalize on the real estate that search engines deem available to brands. To learn more about how you can start optimizing your ads to get to climb to the top of prime real estate, contact us today.

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Topics: Local Advertising