Goodbye Google Sidebar Ads, Hello Product Placements
Jenni Lee | February 26, 2016
The Takeaway: Google no longer features sidebar ads on the right side of search results. Product content will now be shown for 3.5 billion searches per day. That means 3.5 billion new opportunities to sell products on Google Shopping.
Google recently announced a major change to its search results page: Sidebar ads, a longtime staple of desktop Google searches and the AdWords platform, are no more. In their place, Google is offering Product Listing Ads (read: enormous opportunity to sell more stuff).
This is a big deal, and you've probably got some questions. Let's try to answer them.
When is this change going to be made?
The new approach has already started to roll out. Take a look at what happens right now when you do a search for "reclining chair."
See all of those product listings on the right side of the screen? That's where text ads used to show up. You won't see product listings for every search, but they're definitely there and they're bound to become more common over time.
Who does this affect?
Obviously, this is going to have an impact on anyone who uses Google to search - which is to say, hundreds of millions of people from around the world. More specifically, these people are consumers.
Just as importantly, Google's new approach has huge implications for brand manufacturers and advertisers, and any organization that has embraced or is interested in paid search or search engine optimization. All of these entities are going to need to seriously rethink how they approach digital marketing and advertising in order to overcome new challenges - and take advantage of new opportunities. Brands and retailers advertising their products on Google will also need to improve their product content because since products will be seen faster and presumably by more consumers, rich product content is your first line of defense when giving shoppers what they want- information about the product they are looking at.
"That means 3.5 billion new opportunities to sell products on Google Shopping."
What does it mean for brand manufacturers?
Speaking of opportunities: Google's new approach is great news for brand manufacturers. When people conduct a desktop search for anything via Google or one of its search partners, there's a chance for them to see product recommendations. That's an amazing degree of visibility that really can't be beat. Brand manufacturers' products can be first-page optimized all the time.
The only catch is that as a brand, you have to be prepared by making sure your ads on Google are optimized to show up on the top of product list ads.
Before, Google users needed to acknowledge that they wanted to see product recommendations, or else they wouldn't show up. By removing that step, Google has drastically increased the importance of product placement ads.
Again, all this means that brand manufacturers need to invest more in product ads, and rich product content more broadly. After all, there's going to be a tremendous amount of competition for users' attention among these product ads. Ads will need great imagery and text to stand out. Additionally, once consumers are on your product page(s), you need to make sure they are getting what they want and need - adequate product content to help them on their purchasing journey. You can't force consumers to buy your products, but as a brand, you can be more supportive and helpful as consumers figure out what to buy. Your efforts will be rewarded.
What does it mean for advertisers?
For traditional advertisers, the update is not as promising. The maximum number of text ads visible on a single Google search results page has dropped from 11 to seven, with four ads appearing above the organic results and three on the bottom. According to Marketo contributor Mike Tomita, one effect of this development will be a major surge in the cost per ad, as companies fight over the small pool of ad space.
Ultimately, advertisers are going to need to adjust to a new world where product placement ads are increasingly key for reaching out to consumers. Text-based ads will remain important, but companies are going to need more comprehensive product content strategies to maximize their visibility and influence.