Google’s COVID-19 SERP Changes. Maybe.

By Megan Garner, SEM Supervisor


Is Google creating more ad space to stimulate ad spend?

As COVID-19 continues to impact daily life, it appears Google is making adjustments to the SERP to drive more ad spend for advertisers and revenue for themselves. 


During some SERP check-ins for our clients we discovered a change in our usual non-brand SERP. Typically, our clients’ non-brand keywords return two to three ads consisting of 2-3 headlines, 2 descriptions and a mix of extensions. During our check-ins, however, we were consistently served 4 condensed ads for all of our clients. So we kept searching.


Searches were made for non-tangible products such as insurance, home security, education, lawn care services, home conferencing, software, etc. The theory that we would be shown four ads, likely condensed to one description and limited extensions, held strong on both desktop and mobile. Google seems to have opened up additional ad space on the SERP, likely in response to decreased PPC investment and reduced searches. 


OK Google, so what?

An increase in ad space is going to have an impact on performance metrics across the board. For starters, with additional available ad space we’ll likely see an increase in impressions, but not necessarily more clicks. Users will have more to look at with four ads on the screen, and if your ad copy isn’t telling them what they’re looking for they’ll click on one of the three other options. Watch out for, lower CTRs and consider an ad copy revamp. 


More ad space implies more competition, which we all know means higher CPCs. Google may be opening up additional ad space to prevent non-brand CPCs from declining as advertisers pull back budgets in response to less search volume. Keep an eye on your CPCs and impression share, and be on the lookout for new competitors in your auction insights reports. 


OK Google, what next?

This change appears to be focused on non-tangible or service-like products that can’t run PLAs, such as insurance, home services, software, etc. Start with checking out your own non-brand SERP to see if your brand is getting more ad space. Then take a deep dive into your account to see how CPCs, CTR, all impression share metrics and auction insights have changed over the past week or so. To take advantage of the potential increase in impressions to capture more clicks, make sure your ad copy is fresh and aligns with your keywords, your quality score is in good standing, and you’re meeting Google’s minimum requirements for number of ETAs, RSAs and ad extensions.