The impact of AdWords changes on organic search

As we advised a couple of weeks ago, Google will be rolling out some significant changes to the format of AdWords advertisements. In case you missed the story — later this year (possibly as soon as July), ads are going to radically change in size. The current format of a 25 character headline plus two description lines of 35 characters each will change to two 30 character headlines plus an 80 character description.

This new format is called Expanded Text Ads and Google is touting they will lead to increased click through rates (up to 20%).

Maximising click through rates is clearly in Google’s interests, given the company gets paid every time an ad is clicked on, (hence the term PPC or Pay per Click advertising). It’s an incredibly successful model and in 2015 delivered Google US$67 Billion in ad revenues. That’s $185M a day!

With those mind-boggling figures it’s not surprising that Google has overtaken Apple to become the world’s most valuable company with a valuation of $229 billion.

Why should you care?

If your search marketing strategy is based solely on organic search (SEO) and doesn’t involve spending money on AdWords you probably don’t care about the rollout of Expanded Text Ads, (aka ETA).

You should!

The predicted increase in clicks ETA delivers advertisers (and Google) will be at the expense of organic search traffic —  particularly for mobile search. This is because the new ad format will take up more screen space and so push organic listings even further down the page.

Reducing the visibility of organic listings is clearly a strategy Google is actively pursuing. ETA comes on top of Google increasing the number of ads appearing ahead of organic search results (up to four on desktop and three on mobile search results). In addition, Google is increasingly featuring Local Pack listings ahead of organic search results.

As you can see from the example below, a lot of screen scrolling is required before the first organic search result shows at the bottom of the second screen.



With Google giving so much priority to paid search results it’s not surprising organic search traffic has suffered. According to Merkle RKG, US paid search traffic in Q1 2016 grew 33% compared to Q1 2015. In stark contrast, organic search traffic in Q1 2016 declined 7%.

This trend is likely to be seen in NZ too. That means to minimise the impact on your organic search traffic you’ll need to be ranking as high as possible in organic results to have any visibility. If not…out of sight, out of mind.

With this ongoing demotion of organic search results, I can’t help wondering if Google is getting close to overstepping the mark and risks alienating users.  What do you think?

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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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