Google has never shied away from making changes in its search algorithm. Most changes end up improving the user experience in one way or another. Over the years though, the most important shift has been from natural search results to paid results. Just like the recent change where Google has replaced the paid yellow search boxes that you would get when searching with natural looking search results that are in fact, paid. The move is expected to revolutionize how users interact with Google and user searches.
The Change has perhaps been brought with how SEO has evolved
In fact, during the early days of Google, most of the traffic of the website came through natural search results. This then changed with cut-throat competition and the discovery of the effectiveness of an advertisement that is placed just right at the right time and to the right person. Eventually, this traffic that came through natural search results declined.
Companies today are rushing to improve their rank in the search results. The competition has become such that there are dedicated outfits that do nothing but manage ranks of their client companies on Google. In the wake of such importance given the search engine, any change made by Google affects companies to a great degree, a much greater degree than the average user.
What does this change mean?
The latest change that Google has made has been phased out in February worldwide. Earlier, as part of the search results, apart from the main search results column, advertisements used to be displayed on the right. Now, these are being removed. Only the main search results column will have advertisements in the beginning and in the end, and the opportunity to place advertisements under the yellow ‘ad’ label on the right is no longer there. However, PLAs or Product Listing Ads are still allowed on the right column. Google will even increase the number of advertisements before the natural search results in the main search results column for searches that are deemed to be highly commercial. This will lead to the search results on mobiles and desktops/ tablets looking the same.
It is being speculated that the reason for this change is that the click through rates on the advertisements on the right hand side are abysmal. This move seems to be driven by pure economics and an approach towards an increased revenue stream.
How will this change things?
For the average user, this won’t have much of an effect after all. Earlier, they used to see advertisements on the right, now they will see products. Of course, an increase in the number of advertisements before the natural search results begin (only for searches of a ‘highly commercial’ nature) may have an effect on the users. If too many advertisements are placed together right at the beginning, this has the potential to annoy users. However Google till now has been sound with its strategies and has taken care to ensure that they do not irk the average user. It remains to be seen whether users will adapt to this as well.
For companies/ advertisers, this means fewer spots to advertise. This in turn means cut throat competition. This cut throat competition means that the top spots for advertisement are going to get more expensive. Companies are going to have to fight tooth and nail to get noticed. However since the number of advertisements have increased at the top of the search results, that should help out a little bit.
The reactions of the consumers and the click through rates from these increased number of ad spots will determine whether this move is a success or not.