Google’s monetisation changes: the impact on your SEO

Reading time: 5 mins


Google’s ongoing changes to search results pages (SERPs) are promoting paid listings and forcing organic results further and further down in prominence, impacting SEO efforts.

Google made $19.1 billion from advertising in 2015

It is worth clarifying that Google, from a revenue perspective, is an advertising company. They are not a search engine, a video-hosting company, nor a mapping company. Google’s very existence relies upon their ability to sell advertising in its many forms, and all the fantastic tools and services they provide are just a side-product of that primary goal: advertising. In fact, Google’s total advertising revenue rose by a fairly chunky 17% in 2015, so they’re doing a good job. Well done guys!

But what does this mean for me? What does this mean for my business?

Google changes for their benefit, not yours

characters-in-queueYou pay Google for advertising and pay-per-click (PPC) AdWords listings. 

You do not pay Google for organic or ‘natural’ search engine listings.

In basic terms, which would Google prefer a searcher to click?

Google can also quite rightfully claim that they make changes to benefit users: if users like it more then they are more likely to use Google, and therefore more likely to use Google services and interact with their ads.

However, users have been repeatedly shown to not appreciate the difference between paid and organic search listings, and Google are well entitled to use this to their advantage.

four google ads

Change: Four ads (was three)

The first organic or non-paid listing has been pushed further down the page by the introduction of a fourth ad, justified by the fact Google has removed the ‘sidebar’ ads that appeared down the side of search results in order to achieve a more consistent experience across desktop and mobile (as mobile is obviously working with a narrower space).

three google ads


Change: Green ‘ad’ notification (was yellow)

Google is always testing small changes that you might not necessarily notice. Changing the colour of the little ‘ad’ notification was a sneaky one, as making it the same colour as the domain (green) seems to make the ad notification less prominent and no doubt increases click-through on ads.

Change: Not boxed (was boxed)

Of course the little ‘ad’ notification was a relatively recent change: a few years back the ads used to be clearly highlighted in a box that itself was tested in a number of different colours.

google ad box

Upcoming change: Local ‘map pack’ ads

The next major change, announced at SMX Advanced Local Workshop, is the introduction of map pack ads. Again the effect of this is to push organically-achieved or non-paid listings further and further down the page.

Disclaimer: This is a shoddy mockup created by me to illustrate what map pack ads might look like, and is not representative of any Google product or initiative.

map pack ads mockup

Key takeaway: Organic performance is likely to be impacted

As an advertiser you may benefit from Google’s changes, but if you are an organisation doing well from organic search and SEO you are likely to find yourself disadvantaged.

Four ad placements and map pack ads, combined with other Google features such as featured snippets, will often see the first organic results displayed well below the first ‘scroll’ on desktop devices and down a number of swipes on mobile devices.

You should be prepared to see impacts on your organic performance, particularly for ‘highly commercial’ queries.

These changes also highlight the importance of having an integrated, multi-channel strategy that incorporates both paid and organic work. If you’d like to discuss these changes or strategy with us please get in touch.

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