Google’s desktop search results underwent a significant change on Friday, February 19th. It wasn’t exactly a shock, as Google has been messing around with their ad structure in ways similar to this since 2010.  It may mean some significant changes for the way you handle your business listing and CPC ads, though.

Let’s take a look at what those new changes are, and what they mean for your hotel.

top and bottom of new google search results

Here’s what the top and bottom of the first page of search results looks like under the new system – the right hand side at the top may be filled under certain circumstances, as we will address later.

The Changes

Essentially, Google are no longer showing text ads in the right hand sidebar in their search results (on desktop). Instead, either three or four text ads will be displayed directly above organic results, and three will be at the end of the page.

When will four ads show instead of three? It all depends on what people are searching for. “Highly commercial queries,” like ‘car insurance’ or ‘booking a hotel in Malta,’ would qualify. Google is trying to show more ads to those people they think have intent to purchase, or are further along in the buying funnel.

knowledge panel
This is a Knowledge Panel. It’s where your business listing is displayed.

Is anything replacing the ads in the right hand sidebar?  Yes! For relevant queries, product listing ad blocks and Knowledge Panels (see the image below) will show on the right hand side.

Does this mean fewer ads will show? Yep. Previously, the most a page could show would be 11 ads. That’s shrinking down to 7.

Okay, that covers the changes being made. Let’s move on to what those changes mean for your hotel.

What the Changes Mean

There are two primary consequences for hotels. The first is simple, and the second will become clearer over time.

Keep Your Business Listing Up to Date. Since knowledge panels will be showing up in the sidebar for certain queries – which are likely to be exactly the ones your potential guests will be using – it’s important that you give your Google business listing a once-over to make sure it’s up to date and optimised. This may involve the basics like current address and telephone numbers, but it also means making sure you’re focusing on getting guests to review you on Google and adding beautiful photos of your hotel.

Keep An Eye On CPC Costs. No one is sure whether CPCs are going to go up, go down, or if they’ll balance out at about the same. SearchEngineLand has done a brilliant analysis of possible price changes that we’ll go over here:

  • Would advertisers be willing to bid the same for bottom-of-the-page ads as they were for right hand side ads? It seems unlikely, with the rate that attention statistically drops off as readers go down the page.
  • Martin Roettgerding, head of SEM at Bloofusion, points out that more top slots means that people may be willing to pay less for those slots now. Others disagree- with the right hand side gone, the top slots may be more valuable than ever.
  • Andy Taylor of Merkle RKG says they haven’t yet seen much impact on ad clicks or impression volume for non-branded ads yet, but admits that may change.

The bottom line is that there is a lot of speculation, and bids will likely need to be adjusted depending on what page position you’re aiming for. However, it’s not yet clear how those bids will need adjustment.

Do you have any thoughts? We’ll be following any changes to CPC as they happen and optimising our own bid strategies, so keep an eye out for further updates.