Waiting for Google to make a change to their search engine algorithm is literally like waiting for the other shoe to drop… Or, you know, like watching and waiting for a pot of water to boil. You can see the tiny bubbles starting at the bottom of the pot, slowly working their way up.

You know it’s going to happen. You just don’t know when.

For teams that work on SEO, changes to Google’s algorithm happen on a regular basis. Like clockwork, there’s at least two or three major updates that happen annually, while smaller updates happen monthly.

But for teams working within Google’s AdWords (PPC) system, major updates are very few and far between. Recently, Google made quite possibly the largest update to paid ads in more than a decade.

The Dropping of a Shoe

Many marketers (at least the ones paying close attention) saw this change coming (or at least assumed it could happen) as Google began testing this layout back in 2010, with the search results listings for queries related to mortgages. Then, they expanded this test to include terms within other industries in late 2015.

Allowing the Other Shoe to Drop

On February 19, 2016, Google quietly completed the rearranging of how ads are displayed on search engine results pages. And, just in case you can’t readily see the affects of this change, we’ll break it down.

Previous search results pages featured three ads as the top three results on the page, followed by ten organic search results. Then, in the right sidebar of the page, there was an additional eight ad places.

Google Search Results

Now, all the ads that appear on a search listing that sandwiches the organic search listings. There’s four on top and three on the bottom.

Google Search Listings

What Does this Mean for PPC Strategy?

Just in case you’re not a quick math person, the new layout reduces the number of ads featured in any given listing down from 11 to 7. This reduces the real estate for ad listings and in turn makes ad listings more competitive.

Additionally, by moving listings to the bottom of the page it creates a higher demand for the top four paid spots. If your ad isn’t listed in the first four, you need to scroll through 14 total search listings between paid and organic before viewing your ad. Essentially, if your ad isn’t listed within the top four, the chance for your ad to be clicked on drops to less than 14.6%.

It’s too early to tell if this change will be positive or negative for PPC advertisers. But we’ll be watching and waiting to make sure the pot doesn’t boil over for our clients.

What are your predictions for how this will affect PPC advertising in the coming months? Have you seen any adverse affects to your PPC campaigns? Comment below to join the conversation!