At the start of December, Google began testing showing four AdWords ads above the organic search results, instead of three.
Although I personally can’t trigger the four ad trial on any of Google’s domains, apparently it’s currently only showing for Google India (google.co.in), Google US and Google Germany – although on a limited basis.
Dr Pete Meyers, marketing scientist at Moz, tweeted his findings regarding how often four ads appeared for search terms they track:
Queries with 4 top ads accounted for just under 1% of total queries with top ads we tracking, which conforms to typical testing procedures.
— Dr. Pete Meyers (@dr_pete) December 4, 2015
So it seems like something Google is legitimately testing. Whilst this is by no means the first time Google has tested showing four adverts, apparently, if it’s implemented it will be big news as it pushes organic results down another position in the search results. Whilst organic results for most desktop users should still appear above the fold (depending on the size of the monitor), the number of results is decreasing – making these spots even more coveted, especially for those that rely on organic traffic and do not use AdWords. This is exacerbated by there not seeming to be any limit on the ad extensions being shown. Whilst ad extensions increase the real estate taken up by the ads, not showing them runs the risk of having a negative effect on UX, as useful landing page site links and reviews are often what encourages a searcher to click on an ad rather than an organic result. On the other hand, not limiting the ad extensions only serves to further push the organic results down on the page.
Call me a cynic but I suspect this ‘test’ may be aimed at encouraging more website owners to use AdWords in order to ensure they get seen on page one.