At the end of February 2016, Google introduced a new layout to SERPs, specifically they increased the number of Ads above search results to 4 listings and eventually removed the right-hand sidebar from the mix.
There was a lot of talk in the industry at the time around how this would affect click through rates and organic performance. Overall we have definitely seen a reduction in traffic to clients who hold key positions in the top half of page one, however we’ve also seen some interesting results for keywords that were lagging between positions 8 and 10.
Click through rates and rankings.
I’m not going to go into much detail as it’s all been said before; we’ve posted/spoken about it and many other publishers have released data. Essentially the industry is confident now that click through rates are used to establish how relevant a result is and rankings can go up or down depending on your performance.
We’re seeing data that fully supports this thinking, in fact the results are pretty dramatic (although more analysis is needed).
A long standing client had been struggling with a core term at the bottom of page 1, floating between 9 and 10, click through rates were ok at around 3.8%. However, when Google removed the right-hand ads at the end of February we saw a huge increase in the CTR, as high as 10%. Since the beginning of March the client in question has gone from an average position of 11 to 6.
The chart below shows some of the assumptions I’m making:
At this stage it looks like higher rankings have been awarded for improved CTRs. Rankings dropped again after the initial lift (likely testing to make sure it wasn’t an anomaly) and again CTRs doubled.
The site is currently in the top 3 for this particular term with no other explanation than the above.
It’s also interesting to note that this website is still awaiting Google Penguin to update, however based on the thousands of keywords we track we can’t see any evidence to suggest this is part of a Penguin test.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who has seen similar improvements/declines since the Adwords shake-up.