Last week, Google released an update to its mobile search engine results page (SERP) layout, aiming to help searchers find the content most relevant to their searches more quickly. Not only are results prioritized differently, with organic results appearing well below ads and rich content (video, hi-res images, questions and answers, related searches, reviews and the like), but the results, themselves, are more robust.
Now, results show the content publisher’s branding with a small “favicon,” as well as 3D action buttons. Additionally, paid placements will be tagged with a subtle black “Ad” designation and URL, replacing the more prominent green of the past, and will appear more like organic results.
As Google states in their announcement, “this redesign is coming first to mobile and will be rolling out over the next few days,” indicating we are likely to see these changes implemented across desktop SERPs in the near future.
While these may seem like minor changes, we believe they carry some pretty significant implications for both SEM managers as well as SEO experts and content marketers.
Brands and publishers can take advantage of the increase in real estate allotted by Google for rich results. With the tools to identify which searches Google pulls this content for (or simply the time to research it yourself), you can optimize your content to be selected for quick answers, video results, etc., putting yourself at the top of the SERP.
The inclusion of favicons – small icons associated with your website that appear in places like browser tabs – introduces visual branding to SERPs for the first time. Though small, favicons are likely to encourage click-through by providing an identifiable visual cue to users.
Make sure your favicons are high-resolution, eye-catching and easily recognizable when implementing favicons on your site.
Changing the color of ad designations from green to black may not seem like a major change, but we believe it could have substantial implications across the SEM landscape.
Many searchers have been conditioned to avoid the green of paid ads. Now that ads appear more like organic content, it’s likely that more searchers will click on paid placements – a clear boost for advertisers.
With increased CTRs, we expect to see cost-per-click (CPC) decrease, at first (more clicks for the same bid). Of course, these additional clicks would likely increase competition, raising the bid amount necessary to win auctions.
Ultimately, we also expect users to recondition themselves to avoid the new, subtler ad formats, potentially restoring things to an equilibrium similar to what we have now.
The net effect will be interesting to monitor. Until then, you might experiment with making your ad copy read more like an organic listing to take advantage of the new format.
Only time will tell how these changes will affect SEO and SEM strategies. Until then, take advantage of the opportunities we’ve outlined here to better position your organic listings and optimize your ads for click-through.
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Tyler is Hawke's SEM Manager, overseeing all things Google and search. He likes to climb things.