A side of ads with your Google query, Sir?

WHY ARE GOOGLE GETTING RID OF SIDE ADS? WE KNOW IT'LL IMPACT PAID SEARCH, BUT WHAT ABOUT ORGANIC SEARCH LISTINGS? I'M GOING TO TALK A LITTLE ABOUT THE SEARCH GIANT'S LATEST DECISION AND WHY I THINK IT'S A REAL STEP FORWARD... 

It may seem like a backwards step for Alphabet to remove side ads from their Google search results page. After all, they're decreasing the advertising real estate available to paying advertisers - so what's the deal? I'd be willing to bet that a good chunk of the people reading this article have never clicked on a Google advert. For people of a certain generation who grew up with the search engine (like me), avoiding the top three sponsored slots and the side ads became second nature a while ago, but they do work. While it's true that the top 'organic' spot is still the holy grail for digital marketers, well placed sponsored ads can still yield an insane amount of clicks, clicks that businesses are willing to spend big bucks on. That revenue keeps Google in power, so what are they playing at?

Before we look at their reasons behind the change, let's be clear - this isn't going to affect Alphabet's revenue from Google ads too much. The three to five ads that sit to the right of your search results are very likely low value. They're low value because they only appear on desktop devices, and as of 2016 we officially spend twice as much timeon our mobiles and tablets than we do on our laptops and desktop computers. All this reduction in advertising real estate will lead to is Google's other advertising slots increasing in value, so everything will likely balance out in terms of revenue. Google have even said that they may increase the number of top page advertising slots for popular queries to give users more choice, which leads me neatly onto my next point... 

GOOGLE'S USERS ARE AT THE HEART OF THIS CHANGE, NOT ITS ADVERTISERS. 

I don't think revenue is a driver here, so why the change? Google is a great advertising platform, but many people forget that Google is, first and foremost, a search engine. Like any other product, it has a user base that it needs to nurture and look after. Google needs to be the very best search engine tool on the internet and that has always been its primary objective. When the Penguin and Panda updates rolled out, there was the usual uproar from businesses who  felt aggrieved that their carefully honed SEO strategies were no longer going to work, but they're missing the point. Google doesn't make algorithm changes to make life hard for businesses, it makes algorithm changes to make life better for its users. 

I think the same is true of Google's latest decision to remove sidebar ads. It's closing the gap between desktop and mobile experiences for its users, making the product more consistent and streamlined. The reduction in ads will inflate the cost of advertising slightly, but it will also improve the overall quality of sponsored links, because only relevant, high value ads are ever likely to show. For Google users, this change makes perfect sense, but what about the impact on businesses? 

GOOGLE DOESN'T MAKE ALGORITHM CHANGES TO MAKE LIFE HARD FOR BUSINESSES, IT MAKES ALGORITHM CHANGES TO MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR ITS USERS. 

HOW WILL THE REMOVAL OF SIDE-ADS IMPACT ORGANIC RESULTS?

We already know that Google's changes will have an impact on paid search listings, increasing their value and making them harder to obtain. For big businesses, this is a simple case of upping their budgets and altering their bidding strategy, but what will it mean for smaller businesses and start-ups who are more interested in SEO and their position in organic searches? Should they be paying any attention at all?

In short, yes. We know from existing data that the lower down a SERP (search engine results page) you sit, the lower your CTR (click through rate) is likely to be. With Google putting more focus on the top sponsored slots, and in some cases even increasing them, we can safely assume that this will have a negative impact on organic traffic. It's also important to note that this change is just one of a string of recent changes that have transformed how users interact with Google and extract information from it. Rich snippets and knowledge graphs - a type of 'structured data' - can surface useful information for certain queries which occupy large chunks of the front page, pushing organic listings even further down the page. 

I'm in no doubt that these changes are positive ones and make the Google experience better for users everywhere, but they do present new challenges to businesses who want to maintain their position or make their mark online. Google's top advertising spots will become more coveted than ever, with many popular keywords leading to bidding wars until things begin to settle down again. For those businesses focussed on organic search ranking, the advice remains the same for now and that's no bad thing:

Create quality content, think carefully about keyword placement and, above all, provide a compelling user experience.  Those organic top spots are still more valuable than any high cost advertising position and Google is unlikely to ever change that - if it does, it'll defeat its own purpose.

What do you think about Google's removal of side-ads? Will it impact your advertising strategy? Feel free to comment below and don't forget to follow me on Twitter (@pro_copywriter) to keep up with me latest posts.