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Notice the difference on the right side of the desktop search engine results pages?

If you haven’t heard, as of Monday, Feb. 22, Google is no longer showing paid search ads on the right side of desktop search engine result pages (SERPs).This means ads will only be shown at the top and the bottom of the page, cutting down the total number of ads displayed from as high as 11 down to a maximum of seven.

Along with the change, Google announced that it will serve four text ads above the organic listings for more “highly commercial queries,” rather than three – a change they’ve been testing for several years now. Overall, the change mirrors what paid search looks like on mobile and will become the new standard for paid search marketing.

So what does the change mean for local marketing? One of our paid search experts Alex Martin broke it down into four tips local marketing pros can use to make the best of Google’s paid search change:

1.) Maintain a High Quality Score

Losing eight ad slots on the side bar will increase competition amongst paid search marketers, which makes keeping an above-average Quality Score more important than ever. Having below-average Quality Scores will lead to a lower Ad Rank and a higher Cost per Click (CPC), which means pricier campaigns and less likelihood of showing up on the first page of search results. Ensuring your Quality Score remains high – and even increases – will help keep CPC low and Ad Rank high.

Fewer ad spots also make keyword selection and analysis even more important. Additional scrutiny of keyword performance  for both national and local keywords will help identify the recommended budget needed to stay competitive and visible in the altered SERP.

2.) Adjust Your Website and Landing Pages

Local marketers cannot afford to neglect their campaign landing pages either. Especially with Google’s recent change, revisiting the content organization and overall usability of landing pages is a critical step that cannot  be overlooked. Since Google Quality Score  is an important component of how Google determines ad rank and cost-per-click, it is a logical conclusion that the limited number of available ad spaces will be occupied by the advertisers with the best performing landing pages (or willingness to spend the most for a click). .

3.) Use Day-Parting or Ad Schedule

Timing can be your paid search secret weapon, and Google’s change brings the need to implement best practices with greater precision than ever before. Start by identifying the most impactful time periods of  each day and week.

When available budgets are limited, which they usually are, day parting or ad scheduling enables marketers to better align their budget to periods of peak effectiveness (which can be different from periods of highest search volume). Adopting a “test and learn” approach will allow the local marketer to identify the optimal timing and budget allocation to maximize awareness and conversion with their target audience.

4.) Consider Ad Extensions

If local marketers still aren’t seeing the results they want due to Google’s removal of Paid Search side bar ads, try ad extensions to stand out from competitors. These extra pieces of relevant information within text ads provide more information to Google AND consumers that can improve the user experience and increase interaction with the ad.  For local marketers, location extensions can include prompts like store hours and locations. Product information and “Call Now” links are also available for no fee – unless a customer clicks the ad extension.

For marketers of all shapes and sizes, Google’s change will have a lasting impact on campaign performance.   Locally, marketers will need to take steps to be sure they are still seen by consumers searching nearby, regardless of the increasing competition. Rest assured the digital marketing team at Brandmuscle will stay on top of this change –  and will keep you posted as to how it may further affect the local marketing space. If you have questions in the meantime, don’t hesitate to email us.

What do you think of Google’s latest change and how do you think it will effect local marketing? We want to know! Comment below.