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Google Moves Paid Advertisements Out of Sidebar

Have you Googled anything recently? Notice a difference?

Go Google “los angeles personal injury attorney,” or just click here and we’ll do it for you.

The huge swath of white space on the right side of the search engine results page (SERP)? It used to be chock-full of pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements.

Still don’t believe it? Here is the picture for the Google search “Saturn vue 2013” that we used on our blog post describing SERP basics. This shot was taken in December:

SERPs and Legal Blogging
Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.


Here’s a screenshot of that same search, taken earlier today:

Saturn Vue 2013 Google search without sidebar ads
Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

What Happened?

On Friday, February 19, Google made another change to how it presented its search engine results. It wiped out the sidebar of PPC advertisements, and now only allows paid ads at the top and the bottom of the search results.

The ads that used to be on the sidebar are still around, though. Google just moved them to the top and the bottom of the main listing of search results.

Why Did This Happen?

Unfortunately, when it comes to search engine marketing, Google doesn’t owe explanations for what it does, and rarely provides one.

Google is, of course, a business, and its AdWords program – which runs the PPC ads in the search results, including those that were removed from the sidebar – is its big cash cow. Eye-tracking studies had shown that sidebar ads were not very effective: By tracking where people looked after searching for something on Google, it had been found that only rarely did people even glance at the sidebar. What’s over there was just too obviously an advertisement. By scrapping the sidebar and moving more ads into the main listing, Google is probably trying to maximize revenue by putting ads where fewer people expect them to be – in the main listing of results.

How Will This Affect Your Firm’s Online Marketing?

The reality is that no one knows for sure. The movement of a lot of those paid sidebar advertisements into the main results area has shoved organic listings even further down the page. For many searches, like “los angeles personal injury attorney,” you have to scroll down a fair distance before seeing the first organic entry. Non-savvy searchers are notorious for not realizing that these are advertisements, and might not even get to your site if it’s buried beneath so many PPCs. However, Google has stated that it would only increase the number of paid results at the top of a search if that search is “highly commercial.” What that really means will only be made clear with time and study.

Myers Freelance Monitors Online Marketing Developments, Like These, So You Don’t Have To

You have a law firm to run. Worrying about how your online marketing efforts are doing, after Google shakes up its methods once again, shouldn’t affect your day-to-day life. Myers Freelance is a professional legal blogging outfit that maximizes your firm’s online presence for you. Contact us today to get started, and follow us on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.