Google Search Results Changes February 19, 2016

Today Google rolled out some changes to their search results pages (SERPs) that should affect the way you think about SEO, AdWords, and Google My Business for local search results.

The new layout for local search results pages for desktop users shows these items:

  1. 4 ads at the top of the page instead of the previous 3
  2. No ads along the right sidebar
  3. Google Maps listings
  4. Organic search results
  5. 3 ads at the bottom of the page

That's right, if you advertise in position 8-10, you're now on the second page and not likely to get clicks on your ads.

keep reading to see the new layout below ↓

Advertisers who target position 4 should see an increase in clicks, now that they are in the mix at the top.

The new layout for search results pages for mobile users shows these items:

  1. 3 ads at the top, versus the previous 3 or 2
  2. 3 ads at the bottom

The mobile search results may include Google My Business results, and we've seen these often at the top of the screen

The history of Google SERP changes

Of course, this is not the first time that we've seen a change in the search results pages. In August 2015 Mitch Palm wrote about the ever-changing SERP's, and how it might positively affect paid AdWords (PPC).

We found a great infographic that details the changes since 1996:

google search result page history infographic

As you can see, there has been an annual change, starting with the original 1996 BackRub search engine that lived on Stanford servers. If you're not aware of the history of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford in 1995 and began collaborating on the search engine the following year. Read the entire Google company history at

Does this affect all search queries?

According to Search Engine Land, this change is geared at highly commercial search queries. They quote an official statement from Google:

“We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”

Based on this, we can conclude that if you are counting on local search results to send traffic to your website, this change will impact searches that are useful to your business. For example, if the search "lawn care richmond va" is likely to send qualified prospect to your website, here is how you can expect the results page to display:

google search results sampleNew Layout for Local SERP

What should I do to help my business?

If you're already advertising on AdWords, you should audit your account and take a look at your average position for converting keywords. You'll need to adjust those bids to take advantage of the changes in some cases, especially if your average position is greater than 4. Position 4 could be a new sweet spot, and if your ads are already displaying there you might just sit back and monitor the results from this change.

If you've been counting on search engine positioning to fuel leads, this change could have a negative impact on sales leads. Now may be the time to start an AdWords campaign, to precent losing valuable sales leads.

And if you've not paid attention to Google My Business, you've already been missing valuable traffic and should work on your listing now.


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