What Impact has the Google SERP Change Actually Had?

Google’s February Search Results Page Change – What has been the Impact?

 It’s two months on since Google made one of their biggest ever changes to the search engine results pages so we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the actual impact that the search engine results page change has made.

What’s happened? On February 19th, it was announced that Google would be removing all ads on the right hand side of search results page. This sent search marketers into a frenzy of speculation around what the impacts would be. Common themes were that CPCs would increase, smaller advertisers would be priced out and that adding an additional paid ad would push organic listings further down the fold and this impact organic site traffic. So having two months of data available, let’s look at the actual impact the changes have brought.

We have taken a look at answering these questions or assumptions, using our own data since the change has come into effect.

 

  1. Have CPCs increased?

       Not so far.

The most common concern among search marketers was that CPC’s would increase as more brands would be bidding for the top four ad positions. Using aggregate generic CPC data for a pool of clients across a number of different verticals we found that there has been very little impact to CPC’s.

If anything CPC’s have improved, but that is not doubt down to our amazing optimisation work rather than general industry trends! Initially after the change was made we saw a slight spoke for three weeks but that has since levelled out and surprisingly we have seen our overall CPC’s decrease over the last number of weeks.

Have CPCs increased?

 

  1. Has the change impacted Average Positions on my Google Adwords?

      No, they too have remained stable.

Another obvious area of contention was around the impact the change would have on advertisers’ average positions. Now more than ever it became more important to have an average position of no worse than 3.5 on Desktop and 2.5 on mobile.

With more advertisers vying for top spot, would competition for higher average positions intensify? Using our competitor tools and looking at different industry verticals we found the below trend to be typical where surprisingly, there was very little change overall.

Rank Over Time

 

  1. How has Google’s change affected Organic traffic?

       It turns out organic Traffic is down year on year.

Possibly the most interesting trend is the impact the change has had on organic traffic. Obviously the addition of an extra ad, as long as Google My Business pages and news stories indexing high up the results page has pushed the top organic positions further down the SERPS’s and in many cases to below the fold.

We summed a number of clients’ organic traffic comparing Q1 2015 vs 2016. And while there was a drop in traffic in January and February year on year (7% and 3% respectively), the sharpest drop came in March (there was a 12% decrease in organic traffic overall), which is the first full month following the change. It’s an interesting find and a trend to monitor going forward to see if the main outcome of this change will be that Organic traffic will take the hit.

Organic Traffic

So it seems that despite all the speculation, the impact of this change has been limited… for now. We will continue to monitor the trend especially the long term impact it may have on Organic rankings, which we will analyse in more detail mid-way through the year, watch this space!