The Power of Four: Google Increases Number of Ads on SERPs?

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Over the past few months, Google has been trialling SERPs that feature four ads at the top instead of the usual one, two or three. As with everything Google does, the tests have set the world of paid search talking, with many speculating that this could become a permanent feature — and they could be right.

During the testing phase, data from MozCast — a Google algorithm tracking tool — showed that just 1% of SERPS featured four top ads. This is a pretty standard figure during testing, so it largely fell under the radar. However, since around the start of February, the percentage started to increase. By February 18th 2016, the figure jumped to 18.9% and has been growing since.

According to the data, of the 5,986 page-1 SERPS reviewed:

  • 36% had only one ad at the top
  • 17% had two ads at the top
  • 28% had three ads at the top
  • 19% had four ads at the top

Although nothing has been officially confirmed by Google, because of the high percentage of SERPs with four ads, it looks likely that this feature has gone past the point of testing.

What does it mean?

By increasing the number of paid search ads at the top of the results pages, Google is pushing organic results further down the page. Take a look at our used cars example below—not only are organic results shown below the four paid search ads, they also follow Google’s local search display too.


This reshuffle underlines the importance of fine-tuning both your organic and paid search campaigns. Organic search space has become even more precious, so it’s important to implement a well-thought out, achievable digital strategy to secure the top ranking spots.

Likewise, the addition of a fourth ad creates even more competition in terms of paid search. As a result, it’s important to make sure your advertisement stands out by included features like site-links, contact information and location features.

Is there anything else I should know?

While we’re still awaiting confirmation about the implementation of four ads, Google has recently removed the panel of ads on the right hand side of the page. Officially rolled out on Friday 19th February and impacting users across the world, the space will now accommodate Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and Knowledge Graphs.

By removing the side bar of ads, Google is streamlining the desktop user interface, making it increasingly like the mobile site. Just like the addition of a fourth ad, this change will increase paid search competition, driving up the CPC for many phrases. This could mean many sites will have to increase their monthly spend in order to maintain their traffic levels.

With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to invest in the right digital strategy for your brand. To find out how Mediaworks can help you, contact us today.


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