Congratulations, PLAs. You’ve been promoted.
On Saturday, Google confirmed reports that text ads would be removed from the right column of the search engine results page (SERP) on desktop searches. The right column will now be the exclusive domain of PLAs (as well as ads in the knowledge graph).
Text ads will now be found only above and below organic results, similar to the layout on mobile devices.
But don’t cry for text ads. They aren’t getting the boot. In fact, for “highly commercial queries,” Google says it will expand the normal layout of three text ads above the organic search results to include a fourth text ad.
This is a big deal, right?
Yes and no.
Overall, this shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Google has been testing this approach for several years and has been tweaking the format as it went. The separation of text ads and PLAs is in line with two key trends we’ve been seeing for a while now:
- PLAs are increasingly popular and, therefore, important to Google
- Mobile searches are increasingly popular and, therefore, important to Google
This change now gives equal weight to PLAs and more closely aligns its layout with the mobile SERP.
So is this move surprising? Not really. Is it significant? Yes.
What does this actually mean for retailers and brands?
1. Increased competition for text ads
If you’re using text ads, this change could result in stiffer competition for text ad space and an increase in CPC. By reducing the number of ads that show up on desktop searches, Google claims that it’s creating a more seamless user experience across all devices, delivering more relevant ads at the top of the results and, ultimately, improving ROI for advertisers.
If you have a low-price bid strategy, keep watching your numbers and reassess if clicks start dipping.
2. PLAs are more important than ever
PLAs will continue to grow in popularity, and more retailers and brands will continue to slug it out for those top spots. We’ve already seen that Google is experimenting with an expanded PLA layout that could bring the number of PLAs on the SERP to 16. Any way you look at it, PLAs are a big part of most retailers’ future.
In the meantime, focus on the fundamentals: a clean data feed, engaging ad copy and high-quality, dynamic images. ChannelAdvisor’s A/B Image Tester can help you determine — for each product in your catalog — which image drives the most user engagement.