As of February 19, there is a new Google SERP layout for desktop searches. With this new desktop format Google search engine results pages will no longer show AdWords text ads on the right hand column of your search results pages. If you haven’t noticed, Google anything from your desktop and you’ll see a much less cluttered SERP page. Now Google your industry in your city and you’ll really notice a difference in the layout.
Google Search’s desktop users will now see that the side text ads have been removed and this space is now reserved for product listing ads (PLA) and knowledge graph boxes.
The new look of Google’s desktop SERPs layout and what it means to local search visibility.
No Side Text Ads Means Higher Cost and Less Impressions for AdWords Campaigns – Probably
It seems ugly and cut-throat but this isn’t the end of AdWords for small budgets – remember that less than half of all searches happen on desktop computers. Presumably businesses using AdWords will see a marked rise in competition (and presumably price) for paid ad space. An impact that might be huge for CPC (cost-per-click), especially for smaller businesses, as ads are now limited to up to four spots above organic search results in general searches and one (or none) above the Local Pack on local results pages.
It’s not all bad though. With the new layout comes more native looking ads, meaning they blend well with organic results. Additionally, there are also up to the three ad spots at the bottom of the first page of SERPs on desktops where you can use the location and sitelink extensions like top of page ads for more robust and clickable ads if you are using paid search.
Getting Into the Local Pack Is the Best Way to Be Seen – Desktop or Mobile
With this new change, the Local Pack remains atop local search results. But remember that back in August 2015 the Local 7-Pack became the Local 3-Pack. So you have three chances to get your business at the top of the first search results page where it matters most. This shouldn’t be your full strategy for competing in the new SERP desktop layout, but rather one of the tactics you should incorporate into your SEO. Mobile search has a tremendous impact on customers finding your business, and the Local 3-Pack shows up in both mobile and desktop results so getting in there is a game changer for any local business.
Since the Local 3-Pack is effected by the location of the user and/or the locator specified in the search query the best way to rank high is to localize your SEO, optimize your Google My Business page and get as many five star reviews as you can posted.
Ranking No. 1 in SERPs is More Important than Ever – Kinda
There may well be larger impact on organic (unpaid) search for small business and local results as businesses compete to stay above the fold and visible without scrolling down. What use to be No. 1 in organic search results is now No. 4 of ad space on SERPs with the full four allowed ads. That means that on desktops search the top organic search result may be the only one that shows up above the fold. If the user is on a tablet, there is a good chance the No. 1 organic result won’t be seen at all without scrolling down.
It seems Google has been chipping away at the limited space given to organic search results forever. The keep adding features to “enhance” search, but if you aren’t ranking in images, videos, ads, news or the local pack your business is not benefitting from these enhancements. But… if your SEO game is as diversified as it should be organic search results is not the only place your business is ranking high.
If you are new to (or struggling with) Local SEO – Reputation Loop has informative resources to help break it down and give you steps to take to get your business ranking higher in local search:
- Beating the Competition with Local Search Engine Optimization
- Local SEO Ranking Influence – Rank Quicker without Backlinks
- How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
- Mobile Optimization for Higher Local Search Visibility
- Better Local Search Marketing – Your 3 Step Guide
- The What Why and How of Business Listings and Citations
OK… The New Google SERP Layout is Here… What Do You Do Now?
If you feel like giving up on SEO, get that out of your head immediately. Search results are still a major contributor to the health of your business so if anything now is the time to step up your focus on SEO. Google keeps most of the “WHY” of the things they do a secret but the data is out there so we can make some “best guesses” on what is important to Google and not.
One of the best-guessers out there MOZ and they are quick to share what information they have to help the rest of out. The graphic above borrowed from their 2015 Search Ranking Report should serve as your local ranking cheat sheet on where you should get started with your local SEO efforts to show up higher in the new Google SERP layout.