By now you’ve probably heard that Google recently removed the sidebar ads from their SERPs. Everyone who I’ve talked to about this is worried about the potential for higher CPC’s and more competitive bidding for advertisements. While I agree with the speculation surrounding the paid search ads, I also see this change really impacting the organic search results.
How so? Well, here are the top three ways that this change in search will shape the organic search results.
Keeping Above The Fold
Over 35% of users have their display screen size at 1366 x 768 pixels big. The addition of a fourth ad above the organic search result means that the organic results get pushed down even further down the screen, making them more difficult to view and in many cases, entirely below the fold, requiring people to scroll to view them. SEO folks have even less real estate to compete over, despite the number of organic results being the exact same, meaning that best practices will have to be adhered to more firmly.
While it is too early to tell exactly how this will shape desktop searches, there is one thing that is clear. Mobile is king.
Go Mobile Or Go Home
One of the common theories for why Google made this shift is they wanted the desktop experience to mirror the mobile experience. With mobile users more likely to view the second or even third page of a search result, maybe Google thought that changing the desktop layout to mirror the mobile layout would increase the likelihood of that behavior. Or maybe they wanted a seamless experience between mobile and desktop searches.
However, prioritizing how your metadata looks on mobile devices and how your website looks on mobile is more important than ever. With mobile searches surpassing desktop searches last year Google will continue to place heavy emphasis on adapting the desktop experience to mirror that of the mobile.
Structured Data Markups
When there is less real estate available on a SERP, there is one thing you can do that will increase your traffic while decreasing your competitors’ traffic: take up more space. That’s where rich search snippets and structured data markups come into play.
Structured data markups enhance your organic listings by including anything from reviews of your company, to photos, to phone numbers for people to call you directly. Not only do these results take up more physical space on the page, they also increase the relevance and positive user experiences, making users more likely to click on your listing. In fact, Yoast has reported that the use of rich snippets increases CTR’s between 20-30%.
Not only do structure data markups improve your user experience and take up more real estate in the SERP, it also gives you access to the knowledge graphs. The knowledge graph is simply more information found in the righthand side of a SERP. It features prominent answers to questions about brands and searches. If you’re able to get your website as an authority for these answers, then you gain the trust of your potential customers, more opportunities for people to click on your organic listings and even more real estate on the SERP. It’s a win/win situation.
Perhaps there is no group that this change impacts more than ecommerce companies. The only type of paid ad that will show up in the right-hand sidebar are shopping ads. Between the rich search snippets and the shopping ads, it makes ecommerce SERP’s look overloaded.
What are Ecommerce companies to do? Throw in all of their efforts into paid search ads and forgo all SEO efforts? Not in the slightest. It’s always been a best practice in SEO to focus on long tail keywords over generic terms because it drives people down the marketing funnel. Just look at how different the SERP looks when we use a longtail keyword.
Not only are there two additional results above the fold, the space is less competitive than the original SERP, with Pinterest in the number one spot, but the search is more relevant to buyers than a generic “tennis shoes” search will be.
A lot of people are panicking about SEO’s impending doom… again. However, the game has not changed. As long as you’re still running the best practices for SEO, then you will not have to worry about fewer organic results above the fold. Focus on long tail keywords, mobile searches and keeping your optimizations relevant to the buying funnel and you’ll see an increase in organic traffic month over month.