How Will Google’s New “Bottom Ads” Impact Search?


Recently, Google announced a new desktop ad placement where certain right-side ads will move to the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP).  Based on user experience per query, Google may push some right-side ads to the bottom (the number of ads on the SERP will not change).  Currently, bottom ads only show for queries with fewer ads.  This change only applies to Google.com (not the Search Partner Network).  It also doesn’t apply to Google mobile search, which already features bottom ad placements.  Advertisers cannot opt-out of bottom ads.

Bottom ads
 
Impact on Paid Search

It’s possible that—based on the query—your lower right side ad could be pushed to the bottom.  But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Google has utilized Eyescan research to determine that searchers’ eyes direct to the center of the page, rather than to the right side.  In testing, Google has found that bottom ads have comparable click-through rates (CTRs) as right-side ads. 

Google has stated that bottom ads aren’t a ploy to get advertisers to bid higher to avoid potentially falling into the bottom ads.  Like always, ideal ad position depends on the query, the competition and the time.  It’s possible that ad traffic and performance, for some queries, may decrease if the ad falls to the bottom.  But, for other queries, ad performance may increase.  For example, bottom ads may be more noticeable based on how searchers scan the page (eyes directed to the center). Additionally, searchers aren’t accustomed to bottom ads on Google desktop and may, at first, mistake them for organic listings and more frequently click on them.  These factors may increase click-through for bottom ads, especially for query types  (like research-based queries) where searchers may completely ignore right-side ads.  To increase visibility, right-side ad features like ad extensions are also available for bottom ads.

The point is that ad performance must be continually evaluated and optimized based on balancing visibility and budget, and falling into the bottom ads may be the optimal position in some situations.  In other situations, bids may have to be increased to avoid the bottom.  In the coming weeks, Performics will pay close attention to abnormalities in CTRs for lower ranking ads.

Impact on the Organic Search Experience

Bottom ads won’t impact how organic results are determined.  Google has also stated that bottom ads will be easily distinguishable from organic listings due to the background color and “Ad” label.  But—even if searchers are able to easily distinguish bottom ads from organic listings—bottom ads could change the organic page experience. 

Essentially, bottom ads make page one of the SERP longer.  This makes first-page search visibility more critical.  For instance, searchers who are focused on the center column need to scan more listings before moving to page two.  Of course, this is already true in relation to queries that feature top-sponsored ads, but searchers are conditioned to top-sponsored ads.  Searchers aren’t conditioned to bottom ads; they may spend slightly more time focused on page one’s center column as they scan past the organic listings to the bottom ads.  By the time a user has scrolled to the bottom of the page, the top ten organic results haven’t provided links that satisfied the query.  Therefore, at the bottom of the page, the user may be more open to reading the copy of an ad, considering the organic results haven’t been helpful.  Searchers may notice bottom ads when they never would have noticed those ads had they served on the right side.  Instead of moving to page two, searchers may click on the bottom ads.  Thus, bottom ads may cannibalize organic clicks from page two. 

As bottom ads become more common, Performics will pay close attention to page-two organic CTRs.

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