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Winner or loser in the Google sidebar change, what should you be doing now?

In our last post, we looked at the potential winners and losers as a result of Google’s latest SERP change. To follow up, once you’ve assessed how you faired, we’ve got some advice on what you should be doing next in a post-sidebar world.

As side-bar ads disappeared and a fourth paid ad started appearing above the organic listings on high value result pages, it’s fair to say that a frisson of panic swept through the SEM community. Now, however, it’s time for a more sanguine assessment of the effects.

Are you one of the winners or one of the losers?

This is the first thing you need to establish. Google has claimed that in aggregate the change has been neutral for small advertisers, while the feeling in the market has been that the change has actually benefited PPC advertisers. In particular, adverts in Position 3 have done well, and PLA’s have enjoyed a boost now there are no longer any text ads on the right hand side.

If you want to see how your own account has been impacted, check your Top vs Other reports across the last few weeks. Most users are finding that their ‘other’ conversions are lower, but as side and bottom ads account for less than 15 percent of total clicks, the impact of this is limited. Additionally, it’s worth remembering that this change only affects desktop searches, which make up less than half the total.

So with more ads in the far better performing top position, the outlook for PPC advertisers should be good. However, there are always losers—and this case, the advertising spots 5-7 have in general seen a significant reduction in clicks, while organic search results have been pushed further down the page, becoming less and less visible.

What should you be doing next?

The advice from Google is as follows:

  • Monitor your reports. You should be seeing CTR’s rising, with impression rates on the ‘other’ segments going down. If this isn’t the case, drill down further into your analytics for more detailed information.
  • Take a look at your bids and budgets and make adjustments to maintain the performance you want to see.
  • Take advantage of the fact that all ads can now use call-out extensions, site link extensions and location extensions.
  • Ad quality measurements haven’t been affected by these changes, so you still need to focus on your ad’s content.
  • Refine your AdWords targeting in areas where competition has increased. Direct the bulk of your spend to the keywords that have proved most successful to you, or use Remarketing Lists for Search Ads to target a high-value audience.

Feelings among commentators still seem mixed at this stage, with most emphasising the point that this is a desk-top only change. However, it has been observed that once more, organic search results are being squeezed—although the number one organic result continues to achieve the most click activity.

That notwithstanding, it’s increasingly the case that businesses are having to pay more for their visibility on Google. Interestingly, this then begs the question: will social paid searches on Twitter and Facebook also become beneficiaries of the change as businesses look to pick up conversions elsewhere?

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