The real impact of new Google ad displays on natural rankings

The real impact of Google’s new paid search ad layout on organic search

The real impact of new Google ad displays on natural rankings

We've heard a lot about how Google's changes to its paid ad display might impact advertisers, but what about those focused on organic search? Columnist Winston Burton discusses the impact on SEOs.

We've heard too much about the impact of Google's recent changes on advertisers, but what about sites that focus on natural rankings? Columnist Winston Burton analyzes the impact of this change on SEO.


By Winston Burton

Translation: Siyi Europe Foreign Trade Express Marketing Department

Over the years, the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) have changed a lot. Features like news, images, videos and the Knowledge Graph have impacted the display, sorting and order of SERPs, dramatically impacting organic listings.

Over the years, Google search results pages have changed a lot. News, pictures, videos, and knowledge charts affect how search results are presented, categorized, and ranked, which also greatly affects natural ranking.

Recently, Google decided that paid search ads will no longer appear on the right-hand side of search results for desktop users globally, and up to four paid search results will appear at the top of the page (up from a maximum of three previously).

Recently, Google decided to no longer show ads on the right side of the world's desktop users, with up to four ads (previously up to three) above the search results page.

Paid search ads that fall below the fourth rank will appear at the bottom of the page, which has limited visibility to end users, for a total of seven ads per page max.

Ads that fall below fourth place will show up to seven pages at the bottom, and the visibility of the show is low for end users.

This is a big change, but how does it really impact organic search?

That's a huge change, but how does it affect the natural ranking?

The answer is a number of different ways, which I will explore shortly. But before I do, let’s examine why Google is doing this.

This question can be answered in many ways, and I'll analyze it briefly below. But before we do that, let's see why Google does it.

Like many companies, Google has seen mobile traffic grow at an accelerated pace over the past two years. This new layout makes the desktop experience very similar to the current mobile SERP. It will allow Google to provide more relevant results for end users and also provide better performance for advertisers.

Like many companies, Google has seen traffic on the mobile side increase over the past two years. This new desktop-side display of search results is very similar to mobile-side displays, allowing Google to deliver more relevant results to end users and better advertising for advertisers.

The key here is the fact that Google is very good at understanding intent. Google can distinguish a transactional query from an informational query. So, if I did a search to buy a camera and got an organic listing first to download the manual, I would see that as bad user experience.

The point is that Google is very well placed to understand users' motivations and to distinguish between transactional search requests and knowledgeable search requests. So, if I search for a camera to buy a camera, but get the first natural ranking result is to let me download a manual, I think it's a bad user experience.

Alternatively, if I received a bunch of paid ads selling cameras and didn’t even see any organic listings, that would be a better user experience. If four paid ads suit the intent, even if they push everything else down below the fold, it’s still a good experience.

Or, I see a bunch of ads selling cameras, a natural ranking can't be seen, the user experience will be a little better. If the first four paid ads can meet the needs of users, no matter what it pushes to you, it is a good user experience.

How does this impact organic search?

How will this affect natural rankings?

Now that paid search ads are taking up more organic real estate, click-through rates for organic search listings — especially in the first two positions — will probably decrease because the organic results have been pushed farther down the page. Indeed, on mobile, we were already seeing SERPs where no organic listings appeared above the fold.

Now that paid ads take away more space in the natural ranking, the point-in rate of natural ranking results, especially the top two, may fall as ads push them further below. In fact, on the mobile side, we've seen search results pages that don't have natural ranking results.

Since the organic search results will be relegated to further down the list, this will cause more advertisers to get more visibility from the top paid search ads, but it comes at a high cost.

As natural ranking results are squeezed, top-ranked ads gain more visibility, but the cost increases.

If brands really want to get the most out of search, they’ll need to create an integrated organic and paid search strategy with focus on top rankings and paid ads to maintain visibility and be in front of their target audiences.

If brand sites want to get the most traffic, they must adopt a strategy of combining natural ranking with advertising, maintaining the top ranking on the one hand and maintaining its visibility in front of their target audience on the other.

This change will also make local search more important if you have a brick-and-mortar business, because end users will see paid ads, then the local pack, before even getting to organic results. This makes appearing in that local pack more critical than ever before.

This change also makes local search more important if you have a physical business. Because users see paid ads first, and then local pushes before naturally ranking results. This makes it more important than ever to appear in local pushes.

This latest SERP change is going to impact the content that brands produce at all stages of the buyer journey, too. Modern consumer behavior has been characterized by Google as a series of intent-based moments (“micro-moments”) enabled by the high usage of mobile, which can be described as “I want to know, I want to go, I want to do and I want to buy.”

Moreover, this change will affect what companies are providing at all stages of buyer behavior. Given the high use of mobile devices, Google classifies the consumer behaviour of modern consumers as motivational moments ("micro-moments"): "I want to know, I want to go, I want to do it and I want to buy it."

This is where the consumer comes into the fragmented path to purchase; the “funnel” that marketers often refer to doesn’t exist. The path to purchase is no longer linear.

This is the path that fragmented consumers can make to the final purchase, and the "funnel" that advertisers often refer to is no longer there, and the path to purchase is no longer linear.

Therefore, you must have content to reach the user at different stages of the user journey to turn these people into customers. That means differentiating your paid and organic landing pages and creating content that suits each.

Therefore, you must provide content that is tailored to the different stages of the user's behavior and turn them into your customers. This means that you have to distinguish between ad landing pages and naturally ranked landing pages, and create different adaptations.

With more paid listings appearing for “highly commercial queries,” you’ll need to focus paid landing pages towards searchers in the buying/decision-making stages, whereas your organic landing pages should be better positioned (and possibly expanded) to capture visitors in the research/consideration stages.

Since the more "commercially advertised keywords" there will be, the more attention you need to focus on the ad landing page from the purchase/decision-making user behavior stage, you need to better lay out the landing page for naturally ranked keywords to capture the search/consider the behavior stage of the user.

In summary, it will be more important to rank in the first two organic positions to capture the most clicks and visibility from organic search.

In short, the top two in the natural rankings are more important than ever when you want to capture the most traffic and gain visibility from natural searches.

Since the organic results are getting pushed farther down the page now, both paid and SEO must work together to make 1+1=3. Don’t be afraid to compete with yourself and show the holistic value of integration.

Since the natural ranking position is squeezed down, paid advertising and SEO must work together to achieve the effect of 1-plus-3. Don't be afraid to compete with yourself and create overall value from a global perspective.

Final Thoughts


The SERPs will continue to evolve as Google looks for new and innovative ways to make the desktop experience similar to the current mobile SERP and provide the most relevant results for end users.

Google has been exploring new and innovative ways to bring the desktop-side user experience closer to the current mobile user experience and provide users with the most relevant results, so the way search results are presented will continue to change.

Agencies and brands must adapt to the dynamic landscape of the SERPs and put together results-driven strategies and tactics using both paid and organic search together to maximize ROI, capture more conversions and provide end users with relevant content in their moment of need.

Service agencies and brands must adapt to the dynamics of search results, use results-oriented strategies and tactics, combine paid advertising and natural rankings to maximize ROI (roI), maximize more conversions, and provide end users with more relevant content to meet their needs.