As you may have noticed, as of mid February Google changed the face of their desktop search engine results page layout — they removed the sidebar ads! There used to be a maximum of three text ads in the top (center) position and the rest of the ads would go all the way on the right hand side of the screen (sidebar) which maxed out to 11 positions. Now there will be only a maximum of one to four ads in the top position and a maximum of three positions at the bottom the page.

Old Google Ad Display Format

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New Google Ad Display Format

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Keep in mind that the shopping (PLAs) and Google knowledge graphs will remain unaffected by this new change in how ads are displayed.

Why Is Google Dropping Sidebar Ads? And How Will it Affect You?

Now that the changes have been confirmed (Google has not provided a specific reason why) many experts have begun to speculate.  Here is what some are saying.

  • PPC may become more expensive for the popular keywords. If Google is dropping the right hand ads, that’s because it expects it can make up the difference with the top ad slots.
  • SEO becomes even harder, as this new format will push down organic search results from what users were seeing. Also, conversion matters even more. If SEO is difficult for your site, it may be even more difficult to rank organically on the first page.
  • Long tail search keywords may become more important since there could be increased minimum bids on the shorter more common keywords.
  • Google is attempting to have a unified device experience, as mobile searches already looks like this.
  • Google is doing this to increase revenue.

Some of these reasons could be valid and make sense. As you research this topic you will see many articles including the themes above. Since we manage Adwords accounts for non-profit organizations that utilize a Google grant, I was looking into that angle — but I couldn’t find any articles written on the subject. Here’s my take on it.

Increased Competition for Ad Spots Could Hurt Google Grant Users

What are Google Adwords grants?

Google has a program where non-profits can apply for help promoting their mission. If accepted into the program, they’re entitled to some perks, one of them being an Adwords grant — free search based advertising on Google. Take a careful look at the rules below.

Rules and Guidelines

  • Your ads will be entirely text-based (no videos or images).
  • They’ll appear only on Google search results pages.
  • All campaigns must be keyword-targeted.
  • Your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) will be $2.00 USD.
  • You’ll receive $10,000 USD (up to $40,000 USD for Grantspro participants) of in-kind AdWords advertising each month.

For more information about Google AdWords and how to use it, read through our latest material here.

Can You Get a Top Ad Spot with the Google Grant Max CPC?

It’s still early, but we can infer that as AdWords search engine marketing becomes more popular and competitive, bidders will have to increase their CPC bids to rank in the top four spots at the top of the page. It used to be top three, but remember there were more spots to be seen on the right hand side. Sure, you may be thinking, “But I’ll still be on the bottom of the page.” That may be true, but think about it: How often do you scroll down to the very last search result when conducting a search?

As competition increases amongst bidders, CPCs could increase, making it more difficult to place on the first page, which is bad for an account utilizing the Google grant. Remember the rules: $2.00 CPC maximum. That means if there’s a $2.50 minimum bid to place on the first page, your ad won’t be seen unless a user scrolls all the way to the bottom of page one and then clicks “next” to get to page two.  Know how many users go past the first page of Google results? Less than 5%.

In a way, Google has created their own sense of scarcity, so keep in mind, just placing on the first page really isn’t good enough for visibility, you now want to be in the top four slots to be truly visible.

What is the Future for Google Grants?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a grant and it’s very generous of Google to offer this program. But, if your non-profit was happy with traffic and conversions based on the old paradigm, you may see less traffic and conversions with the new model. Most of this is due to being locked into a $2.00 CPC. Remember, Google doesn’t make any revenue off the grant account holders.

It might be good for Google to increase the CPC bids for their grant account holders so they will have the ability to rank higher. But then again, does Google want that?

Need Help with Google Grants?

We’ve managed many Google Grant and Grantspro accounts, which are great opportunities for nonprofits to bring in search traffic and engage people online, at minimal cost. If you’re considering taking advantage of this program or would like to learn more about it, feel free to contact us.