There’s been quite a bit of chatter since Google rolled out their new SERP layout that removed all of the text ads from the right side. As Google informed us, the right side will now be reserved for Product Listing Ads (PLAs), Knowledge Graph entries, or Google My Business locations.

Paid ads will now only show up at the top (as many as four) and the bottom (no more than three) of the search results page. If you’re doing the math, that’s seven total paid search listings – four fewer than previously displayed (yes, there used to be a maximum of eleven text ads including the top, bottom and right-side).

There was a recent article that talked about how branded PPC ads were getting more expensive, and we wondered if the same was happening with our client accounts. The article claimed cost-per-clicks (CPCs) were getting more expensive for branded campaigns. However, this generalized claim made very little mention about its data influencers, such as industry type, seasonality and competitive landscape before/after. It also didn’t mention other account, campaign, keyword or ad copy changes, making it hard to fully gauge the results.

Our search department at Fluency decided to take a deeper look and test our own clients’ branded CPCs.

In the article, the author compared date ranges for February 7–16 vs. March 27–April 5. In our experience, the first and last couple of days in a month cause searchers to behave differently than during the middle of a month, so we decided to adjust the timeframe. We chose the dates February 7–16 vs. April 3 – 12.

Here are our CPC results across different industries:

  • Major healthcare providers
    • Narrow brand (brand name only) CPCs were down 34%
    • Modified brand (i.e. healthcare +brand +name) CPCs were down by 5%
    • Steady climbs from click-through rates (CTRs) on some campaigns up as much as 25%
  • Consumer food goods
    • Exact match brand terms down 29%; broad match up 10%
  • Real estate and housing: Down 26%
  • Education: Down by more than 50%

Final thoughts

The vast majority of our client’s brand CPCs are actually down significantly. From the campaign level, only a couple are steady, but the overwhelming majority are showing reductions anywhere from 5% to over 50%.

With any campaign, results may be subject to fluctuation. However, since we’ve commonly sought the top position for our clients’ brand terms, we suspect that since costs are down, and CTR is up, this could be due to more competition being pushed down to the bottom of the page, or off of it entirely.

We highly doubt that competitor ads can be given higher quality scores for branded terms that aren’t theirs, so we could certainly assume that with fewer paid search listing positions available, it could be even harder for competitors to gain traction.

We’ll definitely continue to keep an eye on increased CPCs or any other changes that might arise from the removal of the right side ads from Google searches. Have you or your clients seen any changes with CPCs on branded campaigns? We would love to hear from you. Comment below!