Google Confirms Sidebar Ads Being Removed: What You Need to Know

Recently Google has confirmed that the search engine has removed right-hand sidebar ads from its desktop search engine results pages. But, what exactly does this mean, and how will this change impact paid search advertising campaigns?

What We Know

  • Google will no longer show ads to the right of its desktop search results pages for most types of searches, essentially mimicking the way its results appear in mobile search.
  • Product Listing Ads will continue to be shown above and on the right of search results.
  • Google will also show four ads instead of three for “highly commercial” searches above organic listings.
  • Text ads will continue to appear at the bottom of the search engine results page, resulting in a maximum of seven ads shown on a page instead of 11.

Why Google Made These Changes

Google wants to provide users with more refined and accurate results for their searches, especially when they are searching with the intention of making a purchase.

According to Google: “We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.” Highly commercial queries refer to those searches in which Google perceives an intent to purchase.

What This Means for Local Business Owners

Because your competition will be bidding for fewer ad positions, Google’s Cost Per Click and Cost Per Lead may rise. However, early results have been fairly neutral. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Quality Score: If your business is running a paid search campaign, Quality Score is more important now than ever. A high Quality Score can help your ad achieve better placement on the search engine results page while minimizing your Cost Per Click.
  • Conversion Optimization: In addition, a diversified search advertising strategy is key. Optimizing your advertising for conversions across multiple search engines (not just Google) should remain an important part of your strategy.

When looking for an SEM partner, consider asking about Quality Score and conversion-based optimization. Conversion-based optimization optimizes your campaign and its budget for a number of factors, including the search engine, the keywords, and the best page position for individual keywords. It shifts budget to high-performing search engines and keywords based not on clicks but on conversions such as calls you receive, emails and online form submissions. This dynamic optimization can help you maximize your budget and boost overall ROI. Using search engine advertising along with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will also be increasingly important, as top ranked organic results will likely see an increasing amount of traffic and businesses that use both strategies in tandem will see incremental results.

What Does This Mean for ReachLocal?

ReachLocal’s approach to search engine advertising offers a unique response to these types of changes. Our combination of automation technology with marketing experts allowed us to immediately respond to the changes and ensure our clients continue to generate maximum ROI from their campaigns.

We pioneered conversion based optimization, and our platform is constantly making adjustments based on a variety of factors. Thanks to conversion based optimization, our clients’ campaigns are automatically adjusted when Google or other publishers make changes.

ReachLocal has been recognized by Google as having the highest Quality Score among its Premier SMB Partners by naming us its Quality Score Champion. By maintaining high quality scores, we help ensure our advertisers pay a lower CPC for the clicks they are receiving.

What’s Next?

We will continue monitoring the impact these changes may have on our clients’ campaigns and make adjustments as needed as we work with Google to understand how this evolves search engine advertising best practices.


The ReachLocal online marketing blog shares practical tips and advice for those who want to reach local customers online. Learn about online marketing from our in-house experts and thought leaders.

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