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New Google SERP’s Potential Effects on Paid Search

James Connell October 28, 2010 Category Paid Search (PPC)

You’ve probably already noticed the fact that Google rolled out a new look yesterday for its SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for local searches.  As you can see in the screenshot below, the old SERP featured a “7-Pack” of local business listings, interspersed with organic results from the wider web, surrounded on the top and right hand side with paid ads.

Former Google SERP for Labor Lawyer NYC

Former Google SERP for Labor Lawyer NYC

The new SERP looks very different (see screenshot below). The top three ads are still there, but the map is now on the upper right hand side, and ads 4-10 have been moved down the page; many of them are now below the fold, depending on your screen.  The SERP leads with a few organic results from the wider web, but then shows results from Google Places, offering more information than the 7-Pack including pictures, descriptions, and the option to go to the law firm’s website or Places page.

New SERP for Labor Lawyer NYC

New SERP for Labor Lawyer NYC

Predicted Effects On Paid Search Advertising
The key change for paid search is the location of the map.  By moving the map to the top right, Google has effectively de-emphasized any ad that doesn’t appear on the top of the page (positions 1-3).  Moreover, the map stays visible as you scroll down the page, covering up ads in positions 4 – 10 as it moves.  This, combined with the fact that the ads start lower down to begin with, likely means that ads in positions 4 – 10 will suffer lower click through rates and, potentially, higher costs per click (CPCs) due to declining quality scores.  Most importantly,the reduced value of positions 4 – 10 will lead to higher competition for positions 1 – 3, so we expect a marked increase in the CPCs of those positions.  We’ll watch to see if these predictions come true.

Return of Session-Based Match?
One interesting thing we noticed with the new SERP is the renewed presence of session-based match in the ads displayed.  Session-based match means that Google will show you ads based on previous search queries.  We hadn’t seen this occur in months, but we saw it in a number of searches yesterday and today.  Not only that, but, at least in one case, the ads shown were for queries done days ago.  We’ll keep our eye on this development, too.

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