Google Removes Ads from the Right Rail: Why the Local Pack Is More Important Than Ever

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By Lenny Pham, Yext Manager, Professional Services.

By now you’ve noticed that Google has removed ads from its “right rail” on desktop search. Months in the rollout, this change to Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) has significant implications, in that now more than ever, ranking in the local pack is critical for businesses.

Although Google has removed ads from the “right rail”, additional ads are being moved in-line with the search results. Users should regularly expect to see 3-4 ad blocks at the top of the page and 3-4 ad blocks at the bottom.

OldVsNewSERPLayout

Google confirmed that they are trying to provide a more consistent desktop search experience to mobile/tablet in order to maximize the effectiveness of its desktop ads.

“Ultimately, we are making this update to improve the user experience on Google Search and to make that experience consistent across desktop, tablet and mobile,” Matt Lawson, Director of Performance Ads Marketing at Google, said in a recent column.

But as Google Ads move in-line with organic search results, the importance of appearing in local pack results becomes critically important for businesses. Here’s why:

In 2014, Mediative conducted an eye-tracking research studying where users look on Google’s SERP.

Google’s-Algorithm-and-Search-Results-Page-Eye-Tracking-708x1030

Not surprisingly, the study showed that users tend to focus their attention in three areas:

  1. Near the top of the page,
  2. Local search results,
  3. and the first organic search result.

In terms of where users click on Google’s SERP, several studies have concluded that organic search listings receive more than 90% of the clicks with users favoring local search results the most.

opinions-on-search-results-chart

The key takeaway is that Google’s new Desktop SERP layout – on most screen resolutions –  pushes organic search results well BELOW the the visible page fold, leaving only the Ad blocks and local pack visible to the user.

As a baseline, if we use a desktop monitor (with a resolution 1920 x 1200), here’s approximately what users will now see in the new SERP layout.

BELOW THE FOLD

The problem with organic results positioning is further exacerbated on retina laptop displays:

Retina SERP

Conclusion: In order to maintain relevancy in local search, businesses need to focus on appearing in local pack results.

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