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Goodbye to Right-Rail Ads: How to Optimize for the New Google SERP Layout

If you feel like something’s been missing from your Google search results lately, don’t worry, it’s not just you. In February, Google announced that it would be retiring ads from the right-hand side of desktop Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), making the desktop and mobile search experience more similar. How will the change affect your SEM, and how can you optimize for this new SERP layout? Continue reading below!

The new face of the Google SERP

According to Google, the change to result pages comes from several years of testing, and is now being fully implemented in all languages, worldwide. This is what the new face of the Google SERP looks like:

  • Ads appear only in the premium spaces above organic results.
  • Exception: product listing ads will still appear either above or to the right of search results.
  • A fourth ad spot will be added to the premium listings, but only for “highly commercial queries.”

Old SERP, with right rail ads intact


New SERP, with right rail ads removed


SEO is now even more important

This new rollout continues to emphasize the importance of SEO efforts. An optimized page for a specific keyword theme creates relevancy for the term being bid on, allowing your ads to be shown more frequently and in higher positions. However, with the added fourth sponsor ad, organic search results are pushed further down the page. This makes achieving space at the top of the organic listings increasingly important to overall performance.

SEO recommendations

With the new SERP layout, advertisers need to adjust accordingly to maintain their relevancy in search results. Here are some useful tips for focusing your SEO:

Prioritize targeting keywords for organic and paid

  • Determine keywords within “striking distance” of the top five organic result positions.
  • Assess which paid search keywords are most important for conversion.
  • Pull keywords together and make them the “Priority Keywords” for your category.

Develop Priority Keyword cross-channel strategy

  • Use your Priority Keywords to lay out the on-page optimization strategy for targeting keywords to specific pages (title, meta description, header tags, images, content).
  • Monitor how the keywords perform in paid search. Tweak on-page strategy as paid search performance evolves (i.e. competitors entering the paid space and bidding aggressively).

Leverage internal linking

  • Use the power of higher-ranking pages in your category by linking from them to the pages that are targeted to your other keywords. This will help boost the importance of the targeted page.

As the search platform continues to evolve, we will continue to update you on changing practices so that you’re always best-equipped for SEO success.  

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