Google loves users. It wants to give them the best experience of the interweb, ever. That’s why it removed right hand ads in search results internationally from February 19th 2016, right? We’d love to believe in a great, selfless, avuncular Google that just wants us to enjoy uncomplicated, blissful information discovery. In reality, the truth is that Google’s decision was most likely for the user’s benefit in part only. It was also an undeniably shrewd move for Google’s bottom line:
How SERPs Used To Look (And Why Google (Probably) Made A Change)
Search engine results pages (or what we like to call SERPs), used to list results in desktop browsers in both the main panel alongside paid advertisements shown in the white space and down the right hand side of the screen. This made search results a free-for-all for businesses willing to invest in paid ads.
This was all well and fine, only searchers who didn’t want to be wooed in 10-words grew wise to the right hand ad placement. Their off-centre placement meant right hand ads were easy to ignore, and click results weren’t great (not nearly as great as being at the top organically). When you’re the world’s biggest search provider and you’re charging businesses for every click their ads get, you want searchers to click like it’s a Game of Thrones Thundafund.
The bottom line is that doing away with right-hand ads was good for Google’s own bottom line. Businesses hungry for exposure would have to dig deeper into their pockets to get precious top-three placement.
This isn’t to say that Google wasn’t thinking about users at all:
How Removing Right-hand Google Ads Benefited User Experience
Yes, there were revenue benefits Google stood to enjoy by making paid space in search results hotter property. The change also made search friendlier for more devices, though. Mobile search has grown massively thanks to the rapid growth of the smartphone market, and many people use Google on everything from phones to phablets, tablets and 4k TVs. This means that a single-panel search results feed is the most accessible option for the most devices.
The search giant’s change also made Googling a less distraction-filled experience. Even if having top rankings crowded by ads meant that businesses have had to fight harder for the top SERPs, the Google user has a (theoretically) easier time finding relevant, helpful results with this streamlined approach.
Ultimately, it’s likely a win-win situation. Google gets paid for higher click rates, businesses spend less money on ads that hang around unnoticed thanks to sidebar blindness, and users keep calm and carry on.