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Google Update Has Major Impact For All

February 22nd 2016

Never ones to shy away from making technological decisions which bring mankind to their knees…. Google’s latest gift to us all is a refresh of the search results page we have all become so accustomed to.  The traditional layout of 3 paid adverts at the top, and text ads down the right is going….going…gone.  Well’ not gone yet, but almost.

In case you havent been near a computer for 10 years, here’s how the old layout looked.


  1. 3 Adwords results displayed at the top of the page.  These are the best performing adverts from Adwords advertisers
  2. The top organic (non-paid) results.  i.e SEO driven
  3. Sidebar Adwords – lower cost to premium positions 1 – 3

The above layout has been the norm for years, and has become intuitive to users, and almost second nature.  It provides the top paying Adwords advertisers a listing at the top of the page (the top 3 positions), whilst still allowing advertisers with a smaller budget to appear down the right.

If you have spent time (or money) on SEO, you will be most familiar with the organic positions in box 2.  These are the free listings, which Google displays based on quality.

The update shifts the balance of power in a big way.  This is the new layout.

New Google Layout

  1. The top 3 paid results now becomes 4
  2. The organic listings are reduced, in the above example from 3 to 1.
  3. The right sidebar text ads are replaced with just Google Shopping

So what are the implications for you?  Let’s take a few scenarios;

You don’t currently do paid advertising on Google but rank well organically

If this is you, then you will probably be hit the hardest by this update.  These sites will be pushed ‘below the fold’, and require the user to scroll down to get to your listing.  It is proven that sites below the fold receive significantly less traffic, and thus you can expect the impact of this update to be instant, and significant.

You advertise on Adwords using text ads, but don’t normally rank in the top 4 places

If this is you, then your Adwords traffic is going to suffer a major dive.  Why? Because you will now appear at the bottom of the page under the organic listings or disappear from the first page altogether!  The complete removal of the right sidebar adverts means that greater competition for positions 1-4.  We predict this will drive prices up for these positions, and thus cost per click is going to increase.  It will be more important than ever to have a good quality score, and a good bid.  Effectively advertisers are now bidding on just 4 positions, if you exclude the ones in the footer.

You advertise on Google Shopping

Great, you fall into a category of advertiser who may actually benefit from this change.  The reduction in side-bar text ads, and the prominent position of Google Shopping ads means that your click-thru-rate should increase.

Google Local

The above situations impact website owners advertising tangible products.  When it comes to service businesses or non-shopping items, the news is rather bleak.  Look at this example for the phrase “architect in Cumbria”

Google Local Results

As you can see, not a single non-paid website appears on the page.  the user would need to scroll down to see any organic results.  That means even if you ranked in position one, you are going to suffer a catastrophic reduction in traffic.  We believe that the types of business this is going to impact the most, is local based service businesses who do not appear in the top 4 paid positions.

When is this going to happen?

We first tweeted about this change 3 weeks ago.  At that point around 20% of searches were seeing the updated layout.  Now we believe this figure is closer to 90% (as of 22/2/16).  Clearly this update is being rolled out globally, and we would expect to be 100% live within the next few days.

Whilst it is too early to write about the actual impact, it is already obvious this is going to be a huge game changer.  It will change SEO, it will change Adwords, and it reaffirms one crucial piece of advice which no website should overlook……..never rely on Google alone for your website’s traffic.

Let’s take a moment to remember the Google search results of old.  A layout which represented fairness, a layout which represented the ‘little guy’, a layout that personified the David v Goliath attitude of the small trader….and a layout which we will never forget!

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