Google Removes Right-Side Ads – What This Means for Hotels

So, it finally happened – after a long period of speculation, Google has finally permanently removed their right-side ads from Desktop search. Whilst the Search Marketing community are collectively up-in-arms about this massive change, we thought we’d take a look to see how exactly this stands to affect the hotel industry.

Understandably, a lot of PPC marketers are a bit disgruntled by this move by Google, which is seen to them as a way of forcing advertisers to pay a premium price to appear on the first page with their sponsored ads. Google have long been looking to make this switch, which aims to make the distinction between desktop, mobile and tablet devices even more blurred. On mobiles and tablets the right-side ads had always been missing, but finally in the past few days Google turned these ads off for the rest of us. With these changes it looks like Google’s going for a more modern and centred-search approach, with more of a Facebook-style Newsfeed approach based on scrolling then anything else. It’s hard to get away from the fact that for PPC advertisers, this will likely mean a large drop in paid search traffic.

Right side adverts removed by Google

Screenshot showing the changes in effect for a long-tail keyword search

How will these changes affect my hotels PPC campaign?

To see how it affects hotels specifically we should first explain exactly what Google is changing. As part of the right rail ads removal, Google will start to display as many as 4 ads at the top of search results, and then 3 further ads at the bottom of the page (although we’re yet to see this many ads on the page at one time). The 4 ads will only be shown on highly-commercial search queries, and luckily for us that includes terms like “hotels in London”. So in this sense this has created some more opportunity for hotels – opening up space for a further hotel ad at the top of the organic search results.

Hotel search in Google PPC

Screenshot showing the extra top-of-page advert for a “hotel in city” type search query

So based on the above there will definitely be changes to the quite broad (and already very competitive) research-phase searches like “hotels in city name” – but this may reduce the CPC for those top 4 positions very slightly. Ultimately it will depend on the advertisers that were previously happy with their 4th+ positions – will they be happy being pushed to the bottom page or even onto the 2nd page? Will they react with an increased bid, or will they settle with their position and perhaps switch some of their marketing budget elsewhere?

Of course if your hotel’s current PPC marketing strategy is based on targeting specific ad positions then things are definitely going to be changing for you. You’ll need to assess how your market changes and how things adapt – is it now too expensive to maintain your ad position? Is it worth the extra investment or not?

Hotel search results on a mobile

A screenshot showing the earlier longtail keyword search carried out on Mobile

Change Creates Opportunity

As part of these changes it appears that there are slightly more items being displayed on the search results page – including the organic search listings, so this looks to have created more opportunities for visibility on the page for those hotels keen to boost their search engine rankings. And to me this Google change seems to have created some good opportunities for hotels – there are extra positions for very commercial search queries, and there are more spaces available for organic search results. On top of this maybe this will give your hotel the push to try spreading its marketing spend a bit more evenly, and to rely less on Google?

For those hotels worried about the likely increase in cost from PPC ads (brand name excluded), perhaps it will be time to move some of their previous non-brand PPC spend into new opportunities such as Google Hotel Ads, Google Gmail Ads, Bing PPC, Facebook marketing or even YouTube advertising? And if you don’t want to invest directly in paid marketing then surely now would be the time to invest in more content-marketing strategies with a view to boosting your search engine rankings, as an alternative to the PPC approach model.

Whatever you and your hotel decide to do, be sure that you don’t carry out any knee-jerk reactions. Google changes things all the time, and it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve gone back on any changes they’ve made (although that’s extremely unlikely in this case). We encourage you to review how these changes play out over the next few weeks, and be sure to analyse how your PPC clicks, ad positions and of course conversions are affected by Google’s huge update.

Is your hotel looking for help with their PPC campaign? Or are you interested in improving your Organic Search rankings based on Google’s big PPC change? Get in touch with us today for a free review of your account on Google AdWords.

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