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It’s Finally Here: SERPS with Four Ads on Top

Posted on: February 22nd, 2016 by admin

It’s Finally Here: SERPS with Four Ads on Top

There’s been a lot of speculation in the PPC community over the last couple of months, as Google tested SERPS with four ads on the top of the page, which previously only had one to three ads. This replaces the usual mix of top, bottom, and sidebar-heavy AdWords ads, depending on the specific search result.

Although it is difficult to tell if things have increased or not, now, ads will have additional features, such as sitelinks.

In the last two weeks, things have been gradually changing, but as of the morning of February 18, the percentage of top ad blocks displaying four ads jumped from 18.9% to 19.3%.

If you take notice to the 5,986 page-1 SERPs in the tracking data that displayed top ads, here is how the ad count currently breaks down:

adwords ad block graph

In the image above, you’ll notice that 4-ad blocks have overtaken 2-ad blocks for almost one-fifth of all top ad blocks. Now, although this situation is complex, it will continually change as time goes on. Right now, being at 19%, it’s fair to say that it’s no longer in testing.

Sample Keywords & SERPs

serp new

As you can tell, the 4-ad will carry the same information, such as sitelinks, location, and other features. Other examples of high-volume searches that provided us with 4 top ads since Google implemented this change includes:

  • “royal Caribbean”
  • “car insurance”
  • “smartphone”
  • “netbook”
  • “medicare”
  • “job search”
  • “crm”
  • “global warming”
  • “cruises”
  • “bridesmaid dresses”

Please note that our data is mainly geared towards commercial queries, so there is a possibility that our percentages of occurrences are just a little bit higher than the total population of searches.

Shift in Right-column Ads

panels are also integrating niche advertising and verticals, such as hotels, music, movies, and even some consumer electronics.

This situation is liable to change and the numbers could change in coming days and weeks. Stay tuned for the latest, I’ll try to update you shortly.

The 4-ad block looks the same as all other ad blocks, the only exception being that it’s in the fourth category. Here we’ll provide you an example for “used cars,” localized to the Chicago area.



Here is another example from another very competitive search, “laptops.”

We have also noticed another change, which is that right-hand column ads seem to be moving in a different direction now. Take a look at this 30-day graph for the occurrence of right-hand ads and bottom ads below.


The same day Google implemented the 4-ad block, there was a substantial drop in right-column ad blocks, and with that, there was an increase in bottom ad blocks. Rumor has it that AdWords reps are confirming that this change has taken place only for some clients, but the confirmation for everyone else is still pending.

Where Is Google Going with This?

We won’t know for sure, but what’s for certain is that Google is definitely making changes, which they have been doing for a while. First, Google made a public and measureable move geared towards mobile-first design. Since mobile does not support right-hand column ads, Google might be trying to make everything standard in terms of advertising.

Another thing is that in the last couple of years, we’ve seen new right-hand elements pop up, including knowledge panels and some paid blocks. These elements push right-hand column ads down. At the same time, knowledge

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