Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) are the pages displayed by search engines in response to a query by a searcher. Google recently made significant changes to move text ads from the far right side of its desktop search results to the only the top or bottom of the page. With this change, Google reports an additional ad may show above the search results; showing four instead of three for “highly commercial queries.” The ad placement change has had a lot of attention, but according to Google’s reports, there were little changes in advertising costs.
Comparing Google’s numbers reported from February 2 to March 16, 2015, to the same time in 2016 when the SERP changes took place. 2015 showed a 0-2% increase while 2016 showed a 0-15% increase. Two observations from these numbers: 1) rising fist page bids for non-brand text ads due to the total available text ads decreasing from a minimum of 11 to 7 per page, and 2) reducing the top of the page minimum bids for non-brand text ads due to the total available ad inventory above organic results increased from 2 to 4 for some searches.
It is possible the minimum bid updates are taking some time on Google’s part and in the end, there may not be significant changes. It is also possible that some advertisers are upping their bids to move ads that fell off with the change to show on the first page again. If this is the case, then it will reach a plateau when they reach the limit of how much they are willing to pay.
Top of the page minimums declined for approximately two weeks after the SERP changes because more advertising slots are available at the top of the page. The first week of March they increased and continued to climb according to Google. The dip and rise could be due to advertising changes following the holidays, or it could reflect advertisers working to gain the top of the first page to increase their click traffic. This could lead to them paying more for the top page ads.
Two factors have kept the cost stable. Ad ranking is decided by Google’s minimum bids for the top of the page ads and the bottom of the page showing above the organic line or the highest auction competition for the ad spots. The SERP changes would more likely impact the price of traffic for some keywords that moved above the organic results or those at the bottom of the page and not necessarily the top of the page. Another factor is the bottom of the page ads are picking up more traffic than expected with a 10% increase in both ad placements.
Overall, there have not been significant changes in costs yet, but there is a small change to the top and bottom auction advertising prices. It is too early to fully assess, especially with the change happening after the holiday advertising shift. There may be more changes in the weeks to come.
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