The death of Google sidebar ads – how will it affect your Adwords Costs?


“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. This change is global and impacts all languages.”

From now on we will only see a maximum of 4 ads above the organic search results, none in the sidebar (except PLA) and 2 or 3 below. Meaning that according to the laws of supply and demand cost per click is most likely going to increase for many advertisers particularly those in high competition industries.

Previously, there were more than 10 ad slots on the first page of Google, now we have just six or seven. This change comes just a few months after Google reduced the amount of available slots in the local business results.

According to a spokesperson from Google “Product Listing Ads – PLA will be the only ads which will show in the sidebar”.



Remember Google’s ultimate aim

To provide the best possible answers to a user’s search query

If you have been running your Adwords campaigns with little concern for metrics like  CTR and Quality Score, now is the time to re-evaluate the goals of your advertising and start optimising your campaigns for relevance.

A good rule of thumb is that all of the keyword phrases in your Adgroups should have at least two words in common, so for example if you are targeting ‘restaurants in Michigan’ your keywords should look something like:

  • Top restaurants in Michigan
  • Restarants in Michigan
  • Michigan restaurants
  • Best Restaurants Michigan

Try to keep your ad groups as tight as possible and make use of the search terms tab on a regular basis to find the exact keywords which are generating impressions of your ads. You can add both positive and negative keywords to your ad groups directly from the search terms tab.

Quality score is now more important than ever as Google ranks ads based on their quality score, max CPC and expected CTR – in previous times, not paying attention to quality score meant that you would pay a higher cost per click. You now risk not even making it onto the first page of the search results or paying a massively inflated cost per click just to appear at the bottom of page one.

Make more use of features like retargeting people who leave your website without converting. Bring them back to a page which is specifically designed to solve the issues which made them leave your website.

Use Adwords to help push your web traffic into a sales funnel and aim to gather as much information as possible from each visitor so you can target them based on their specific interests.

Always remember that each Adwords campaign which you run should have it’s own business goals that make up part of your overall goal.


The short answer to this is, I’m not sure – all indications point to the fact that Google are now demanding higher standards from their advertisers if they want their ads to be shown on the first page.

Anyone who is running Adwords campaigns purely to drive large amounts of search traffic to a site with little consideration for return on investment seriously needs to consider improving their game! – GP.


Many advertisers know that having an organic search result and a paid search result both on page one of Google can increase the CTR on the organic search result by up to 20%. This has always enabled advertisers to ‘bid down’ on their paid result and let it float around half way down on the side bar ads for the purpose of gaining a higher CTR on their organic result. It seems like these days are over, and it will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming months.

What effect will this change have on SME’s?

This change could easily diversify organic and paid results massively as many small to medium businesses who are already ranking well organically may decide that it is not necessary for them to compete heavily for paid search results when these just make up a small proportion of their overall traffic.

However, in some industries I’m predicting that we may see smaller companies being pushed out of the paid search results all together as they are unable to compete on budget with larger brands.


So, in the last 9 months we have seen Google reduce the amount of local business slots on the first page to just three. Adwords sidebar ads have been removed, are we going to end up with a reduced amount of organic page one places? Could this be the next step, we are already seeing a mix of result types on the home page, and is this recent change yet another sign that marketers shouldn’t put all of their eggs into the Google basket?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below or if you need professional support please visit our page on Adwords management.

Understanding what type of learner you are

As a child I remember thinking, I can’t wait until I know everything and I don’t need to learn anymore. How wrong can you possibly be? Life is one long learning curve, a process that only really ends when you die which is why it’s important to understand the type of learner that you are and how to make learning work for you.

group of people learning

The old saying “you learn something new everyday” couldn’t be more true and I make a point at the end of every day to recognise and record the new things that I have learned.

Learning is generally defined as relatively permanent changes in behaviour, attitude, skills or knowledge.

If you learn something and then forget it fairly soon afterwards then you didn’t really learn it. It’s really important to understand why the new things that you learn are important, that makes them easier to remember.

If something doesn’t seem important then it will be more difficult to remember, our brain automatically prioritises the things which are most important to us (if you forget the birthday of a close friend or relative, don’t be surprised if they are upset as we perceive forgetting something to mean that it isn’t important).



If you can learn to understand what type of learner you actually are then you can ensure that you get the most out of any educational experience.

There are actually four different types of learners, it’s great to find out which one you are.


are very imaginative, connect highly with their feelings and need to relate the purpose of their learning to real life. If you find yourself asking ‘why do I need to know this’ then you could be a type 1 learner.

If you consider how characters in books or movies may feel rather than the actual story then you are showing all the traits of a type one learner.

Embrace this by finding a reason for learning something and work out how it can help you in your day to day life.


are very analytical and prefer to reflect and think before giving an answer.

They want to have a strong understanding of exactly what they are learning and be able to put it to use.

People who are type 2 learners are able to take what they already know and adapt it to new situations easily and they excel in traditional learning situations such as classrooms.

I (me – Gemma Purnell) am a type 2 learner, who likes to observe what is being taught, figure out how I can use it to my advantage, then go away and try it for myself.


are very physical, hands on types of learners, they are the types of kids who will take things apart to see how they work and become tinkerers who love to play with mechanical toys.

Most people with practical skills such as carpenters or mechanics are type 3 learners. Their favourite question is “how does this work?” if you were the kind of kid who would take your toys apart just to try and put them back together again then you are probably a type 3 learner.

Michael, who runs the PDS branch in Denmark is a type 3 learner, which probably means why he is the ideal person to go to when something is not working and you can’t figure out why.


are very dynamic and creative and prefer a ‘learning by doing’ approach. They are naturally inquisitive and their favourite question is ‘what if’. They want to know how they can change things or to personalise them, to take what they have learned and adapt it.

Modern teaching aims to incorporate all four learning skills into the classroom so that all students can be engaged in the lesson. When I was studying to become a Google Certified Educator, a lot of the topics covered included different types of learners and how you can use a Digital learning environment to cover their needs.

However, if you are doing self-study or learning via an online course it is important that you understand your own particular learning type to get the most out of what you are doing.

What type of learner are you?

I am a type 2 learner, I like to study and absorb information and can often connect together the missing pieces after some quiet reflection. I know that I excel in traditional learning environments make faster, better progress by learning the theory and then implementing what I have learned as opposed to learning by doing.

When it comes to languages I can piece together sentences and easily understand what people are trying to communicate even if I don’t understand every word they are using.

Lifelong learning is an important part of self development and particularly important when you are living in a foreign country which doesn’t always offer the same career opportunities which you may have had in your home country. It may be necessary to learn some new skills or refresh some forgotten abilities and understanding what type of learner you are will make it easier to do that.

Gemma Purnell – Digital Project Consultant

Measuring the results when you update your website

It’s really important to make changes to your website on a regular basis to try and improve the usability, give users what they are looking for and of course increase conversion rates.

But how do you know if what you are doing is working?

I follow a few simple rules to make sure that the changes I am makig are having positive effect on my sites.

1) Before making any changes, I compare the landing page on my site to my two main competitors and ask myself ‘what can I do, to make my page better than theirs?

Can I make the layout easier to navigate or the content more in depth?

Point to remember “Google wants to deliver the most relevant results to its users, so creating a well laid out informative site is a ‘must’.

2) I have a definite goal for the changes I’m making to my site, are the changes being made to directly impact conversion rates or are they being made to improve usability and reduce friction (the time wasted when your users are unsure of what to do next) these kind of changes have an indirect impact on conversion rates by increasing the trust factor of your website. Usually, the longer people stay on the site and the more interactions they take, the better.

Example – The change I am making today is a layout change to make navigation easier, ensure that users understand ‘what to do next’ and make it easier for them to navigate to a page which can answer their questions in detail.

Point to remember – Make sure that you add an annotation to Google Analytics, so that you remember when you made the change.



Increase in traffic?
First, let me tell you a couple of things – HITS are how idiots track success, it’s great to get traffic to your site and it’s definitely a metric that you should be reporting on, but it is far from the ‘be all and end all’

Length of time on page
Again, this is a factor which many online marketers report on without really understanding what it means, people automatically think that spending longer on the page is a good thing. But not necessarily, in this instance our goal is to make navigation to deeper pages easier, so reducing time spent on the page we are optimising would be a positive factor.

Let’s think about this from a slightly different angle, Mr Client Persona A, has minimal knowledge of our product. He knows a little bit about it and he’s pretty sure that he needs it but that’s about as far as it goes.

Example – if someone searches for lawyer in Bangkok, they know that they need a lawyer to help them fight their ex partner for custody of their child. But many people still don’t type specific queries into Google, instead they type ‘law firms in Bangkok’. They click on your search result and land on a page which immediately enables them to see the service they are looking for and click through to a more detailed internal page.
If they are more tech savvy and they use a search query like ‘custody lawyer bangkok’ then if your site is optimised correctly they should land on the specific child custody page.

So, what would our goal be regarding ‘time on page’? That’s right, we would see a reduction in time on page but an increase in flow to the inner pages as a positive metric.

How about bounce rate?

Bounce rate is an odd metric, and can be misinterpreted easily. The best way to deal with bounce rate is to decide what is classed as a ‘failure’ for your page? If someone leaves straight away and clicks on another search result that is almost always a failure but if they stay on your website for long enough to absorb the information they require then this shouldn’t be classed as a bounce.

You can adjust your bounce rate by adding this snippet of code just before the closing script tag in your Analytics tracking code –

setTimeout(“ga(‘send’,’event’,’adjusted bounce rate’,’page visit 15 seconds or more’)”,15000);

You can set the time allowance to how ever long is appropriate for your site, 15 seconds is usually a good starting point if you are not yet sure of the best time for your site.

I usually advise people to make a decision based on their average time on page , if you want to get really advanced then you can set different adjusted bounce rates for different pages on your site.

If you are changing the layout of your page to improve usability and behaviour flow then you would be looking for a considerable reduction in your bounce rate. In this case, the bounce rate on the Bangkok law firm site reduced by 15% in the four weeks following the change.

Drilling down deeper

Don’t just take your results on face value, make sure to drill down deeper and look at the results from different traffic sources and different locations by setting your secondary dimension. In normal circumstances, organic traffic tends to have the highest conversion rates and the lowest bounce rates. If that is not the case on your site then you may need to do an SEO audit to check for problems.

So, after making any changes to your site, wait for 7 days and then use Google Analytics to check if your changes are having the desired affect.

Continue to monitor for four to eight weeks after the change and make comparisons to the following time periods

  • just before the change,
  • a few months before
  • the previous year

Good luck, and if you need any help with any of the items discussed in this article, please contact me using the form below and I’ll see what I can do to help.

Is it still worth creating a Google My Business Account?

With all the controversy around Google Local lately and the fact that there are now just three local listings shown instead of 7 made me wonder if it is still worth creating a Google Local listing.

The PIN cards seem to be taking forever to arrive these days and on more than one occasion I’ve had map locations randomnly change to a different location sending customers to the wrong place amongst other problems.

It’s getting harder and harder to encourage customers to leave reviews on your Google listing because it’s not a straight forward process unlike Facebook where most people are more than happy to leave a review without even being asked.

However, the signals that a Google business listing can provide are still valuable for local SEO, so setup your page, get a handful of local citations using exactly the same address, make sure to get at least 5 reviews and embed your listing onto your website.

Although Google My Business probably isn’t going to be a quick route to the top as it once was, it’s still worth the effort!

Data Mining for Bad Back Links

There are some jobs that have to be done, no matter how boring and time consuming they are and data mining is one of them.

There is plenty of software out there which can help you, but nothing is ever as good as your own instinct and common sense.

However, it’s not always as boring as it seems, finding the kind of links that are pointing to a specific site can get quite interesting particularly if you discover a certain pattern.

But it does get disheartening when you are following all the rules and creating great content, building relationships with other authoritative sites in your niche etc and you see other people building nasty, spammy links and ranking above you – but for how much longer you ask? Surely sooner or later Google will catch up with them!

It’s amazing the tricks that people are still getting up to, links in the page title, keyword stuffing, crappy blogs, links in forum comments that specifically tell you not to add a link!!!

I always say that you should take every negative experience and try to make something positive from it, so I can use this data to warn people to check their backlink profile on a regular basis. Particularly if you have been paying ‘best seo company in world’, (thanks Carl Heaton for the voice that is now stuck in my head) to build links for you.

Every three months, download your latest links from Webmaster Tools and take a look at who is linking to your content. If you don’t have access to Webmaster Tools you can use tools such as SEO Spyglass or Opensite Explorer by Moz.

The quickest way to take a sneaky peak at your backlinks is by typing links: into your browser and viewing the results – you may be surprised!

Make sure that you do replace domain name with your own actual domain name though!