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Googles ad enough of adverts on the right

Google’s ad enough of adverts on the right

Googles ad enough of adverts on the right

Google’s ad enough of adverts on the right

It’s taken its time in doing so, but last month saw Google confirm that it will be phasing out almost all of its right-hand-side adverts on desktop searches.

If you advertise through AdWords, you might be used to seeing your company’s name appearing somewhere on the right or bottom right of the screen if you perform a search on one of your services, clearly set aside from the main search results. Instead, Google will now be displaying up to four adverts at the top of the page for some of the most popular commercial search queries.

A quick search for ‘office stationery’ performed on the afternoon of Thursday March 3rd, seems to confirm this.

Google’s ad enough of adverts on the right

Here we see the four adverts at the very top of the page, before the actual #1 result even appears. On scrolling down and looking at Google’s organic results, there’s nothing adjacent to them on the right hand side.

“Yeah, but there’s adverts on the right”, I hear you cry. “What about those pictures?”

Those are what Google calls Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes, and they are one of two exceptions to the new display. The other is the Knowledge Panel, which crops up when you Google a musician or author, for example, and might include ads for their latest releases.

Why are ads on the right not right for Google?

It’s perhaps a sign of the times that a lot of internet-savvy businesses and people we’ve spoken to have barely even noticed this. With some calculations estimating that the average person performs 800 Google searches a year, we’ve all become a bit used to how Google displays its information, and are good at locating exactly what we’re looking for on the screen. Indeed, American website SearchEngineLand.com notes that Google users outside the U.S. have been noticing the change for some time.

No doubt a key factor in the decision is that Google AdWords has been going since 2000, and therefore easily predates the rise of mobile web.  Last May, Google confirmed that it was seeing more searches made from mobile devices than desktops. As a result, an awful lot of us are Googling in portrait rather than landscape, so the right hand side of the screen is something of a no-go area. When using a mobile device, horizontal scrolling is hugely off-putting, and nobody is going to go out of their way to do it just so that they can look at a few adverts.

Have we been ad?

Google ads have caused some controversy in the past, because some users are a little naïve and trusting of the internet to present them with exactly what they want. Our Technical Director, Darren, has written about the DVLA con on his blog, and people looking for ways to renew their passport online have also been known to unwittingly fall upon a passport ‘checking’ service, which means they end up paying not for a new passport, but for a service that makes sure they’ve filled in all the spaces on the form correctly. The Post Office will do this for you free of charge.

Another point to consider is that, while many Google users have trained their eyes to jump straight to the search engine’s organic results and bypass any ads, many people have not done this and simply presume that the first result Google presents them with is the best possible result for its search term. In reality, it’s often just the company that’s paid Google to be there, and even the yellow ‘Ad’ logo next to the ads seems to skip some people’s attention.

It would be easy to assume that it must only be silver surfers making this mistake, but a study by Ofcom last year suggests that it’s actually young internet users who are least able to recognise adverts, with less than a third (31%) of children aged 12 to 15 able to correctly identify Google ads, and only around one in six (16%) able to make the distinction in the 8 to 11 age group. This will be eyebrow-raising news to those with concerns about the way internet advertisers could target children.

Ultimately though, Google’s new placement of adverts should work better for both users and advertisers, because the right-hand-side ads have always made the search results appear a little fragmented. With both the results and adverts now confined to one neat vertical block, yet clearly separated, it’s to be hoped that Google users will benefit from a clearer page of results, while advertisers get the prominence they pay for.

John Murray
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