chameleon metaphor for google ads

Google’s New Changes Will Impact Your PPC Ad Campaign

Google introduced two new changes that make its pay-per-click (PPC) ads more favourable than ever before. How are these changes going to impact your ad campaign?

Here’s a quick summary of what you can expect:

  1. Expect better click-through rates on your ads
  2. Expect competition to get even tougher
  3. Ads will become more effective, but harder to rank for

There are two changes by Google that drive these predictions: direct changes that improve existing ads, and changes that reduce the effectiveness of other marketing methods.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Ads Are Harder To Notice

Exactly one year ago, we wrote a blog post about Google removing the entire right-hand column of ads from their organic search results. We made a bold prediction: that Google was making paid advertising more effective, yet more competitive for advertisers.

We think we were definitely right with that prediction, the way things are going now.

This is a year-old screenshot from our blog post on the disappearance of Google side ads:


Notice the prominence of ad results two years ago?

Since that blog post, Google has made several changes:

  • They’ve increased the visibility of businesses on the local “3-pack” located above organic results, and below paid ads.
  • They’ve reduced the number of organic search results to less than 10 results per page
  • They’ve introduced Expanded Text Ads to increase ad space of individual ads by 50%

All of these actions have resulted in two results:

  1. Organic results are made less prominent
  2. Paid ads look like, and emulate, organic results

New Changes to PPC Ads

We noticed that Google changed the colour of the “Ad” icon to green several months back. But with their recent update, they’ve reduced the indication of ads almost entirely by taking out the green shading on the “Ad” icon altogether.

Their new ads look like this:


Notice how the site URL, length of text and even the wording can emulate organic search results? In fact, the first website “” looks even more like an ad than the top paid ad result.

Considering over 70% of traffic goes to the top search results on Google, having ads that emulate the first organic position results in the following conclusion:

If you want visibility, you’ve got to pay Google…

It’s Harder To Rank For Local Listings

Google’s second change makes it difficult for websites to gain organic visibility.

The local “3-pack” of Google Map results appear above certain searches, appearing directly above organic results and below ads. Take this search for “chocolate in Vancouver” for example:


The “3-pack” Google Map results take up the majority of space above the fold.

It’s long been identified that Google Map rankings do not necessarily correlate with strong organic search rankings; we’ve seen several cases where a business would rank highly on one platform, but not the other, for the same keyword.

Many studies have suggested several ranking factors for the local “3-pack,” but the most recent tests have shown that proximity is the number one ranking factor for local results.

Proximity as a primary ranking factor means that businesses will want to prioritize PPC ads Click To Tweet

You can test for yourself the validity of these results, by searching for your business’ primary keyword from one location, and then from another location. If you notice a change in the local “3-pack” results, that’s proximity ranking in action.

Why is this a big deal?

The problem with proximity ranking isn’t that it’s unintuitive. In fact, it makes sense that I want to see local results on Google maps!

The problem is that using proximity as a ranking factor takes away quality of results as a primary factor. If there is a five-star service 20 minutes away, and a 2-star competitor just across the street, I’d be willing to take a walk for the better service.

In this case, the local “3-pack” probably wouldn’t even show the five-star service, since it’s technically further away.

This takes away the control a business may have over their local search results. Even if they have amassed a huge number of positive reviews, with strong website content and frequent updates – they may not show up on the local “3-pack,” depending on the customer’s location.

What does this mean?

What this means for the average business is that they will want to prioritize paid PPC ads, if they want the reach they deserve.

The difficulty with organic SEO right now is the fact that PPC ads and the local “3-pack” take up so much space above organic results in a Google search. This means that even if your business has a better website and genuinely better services, you’ll still need to invest in PPC ads to reach potential customers.

How Will This Impact Your Ad Campaign?

The two Google changes above share the same result: Paid ad space is more valuable than ever.

Not only are ads less noticeable (making them seem more legitimate), but organic ad space has dwindled in reach and control over results. If you want proper reach – you’re going to need to pay for it.

And that leads us to the end result: more expensive PPC campaigns.

If your mindset for running AdWords has been “set and forget,” that approach simply won’t cut it anymore. As more and more of your competitors fight for top-of-page visibility, your ads will naturally start to sink to the bottom of page results (that’s a bad thing, since visibility is cut by over 70%!). If you don’t monitor on a weekly, if not daily basis, costs will rise and performance will drop.

On the other hand, these changes will reward the savvy marketers who work hard to place relevant ads at the top of page results. Natural-looking ads will result in a higher clickthrough rate, so it’s your time to shine if you’re on top of PPC optimization.

Do you have any thoughts on Google’s recent changes? Let us know on Facebook, or visit our marketing agency in downtown Vancouver! We always have chocolate 🙂