The New Google SERP: How to Compete

Posted: July 24, 2017

Changes made by Google have a tendency to throw everyone – marketers and business owners alike – into a panic. And it happened again last month when Google made an important change to is Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) layout on desktops. Fortunately, while the change will necessitate a re-ordering of some digital marketing approaches, there is no need for wholesale panic.

What’s different with the new Google SERP layout?

Google’s redesigned SERP layout for desktop will no longer display text ads on the right side of the page. Instead, Google now displays three paid ads at the top and at least one at the bottom of the page.

Take a look at the image below. Before the change PPC (pay-per-click) text ads would have appeared where you now see the empty red box.

Why the change?

It’s no secret that Google has begun to make significant changes toward a mobile-first design. (We all remember Google’s 2015 mobile update dramatically known as “Mobilegeddon”.) Because mobile does not support right-hand column results, getting rid of them may just be another part of Google’s effort to standardize the platform and results across devices. Others say it’s a power move to get more ad revenue, but that’s all conjecture at this point.

The implications of the Google knowledge graph

Search Engine Optimization:

SEO has been hardest hit by the change. What used to be organic position #1 is now paid position #4.  Because the new layout gives ads more real estate on the first page list, organic results are being pushed down, and fewer organic spots are available on that first page.

As a business, you may notice a drop in your overall SEO metrics due to the fact that ads will be given the top positions and likely attract more impressions ad clicks. That means writing quality content, user-friendly title tags, and engaging meta descriptions is more important than ever to increase clicks and gain top rankings in the new SERPS layout.  And if you have an actual location that targets a specific area, do not neglect local optimization.

Pay Per Click (PPC):

There has been a lot of speculation about how this change will impact cost-per-click (CPC).

The common train of thought is that over time the competition for those few top spots may drive up the cost, but there are arguments against this theory, too. In the end, we will just have to wait and see what happens in the coming months.

The good news is that there are some real benefits for PPC advertisers that have come along with this change. For example:

  • All ads can now use call-out extensions, site link extensions, location extensions, and other Google ad extensions that were unavailable before unless you were a top-of-page result.
  • Ads now appear more “native” or natural, which may increase clicks since many searchers were already unable to discern a paid ad from an organic result.
  • Testing and reporting on ads is also more straightforward since the change.

The takeaway

Google’s redesign of desktop SERP pages will impact organic SEO and PPC. For now, the best actions to take at this early stage are to:

  • Double-down on high quality content creation
  • Focus on local optimization
  • Research this topic as new findings are reported
  • Carefully monitor SEO and paid ad metrics
  • Continuously make adjustments as necessary

About VONT Performance Digital Marketing

At VONT we believe that change is the only constant in the digital world – and that excites us. When tools and environments are constantly changing, new opportunities to help our clients achieve success are constantly arising. Each new advertising technology, social platform, or design approach allows us to improve on the results we achieve for our clients.

We believe in this idea of continual fine-tuning so much that we named our company VONT, which means to achieve exponential improvement in incremental steps. It is our core belief, and the reason why we are not simply a web design company or simply a digital advertising agency, but rather a long-term, single source partner providing a comprehensive array of web development and digital marketing capabilities.

In short, we’re here so that our clients achieve success in the ever-changing digital world. If you’d like to learn more about VONT and the work we’ve done with our client partners, visit our Work page. Or, if you have a question, contact us. We’ll get right back to you!