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Kicked down the page by PPC, the search bully

By IMA on Mar 11, 2016

Organic vs Paid Search and the impacts of Google Updates

As you may have heard, at the back end of February 2016, Google removed paid ads from the right hand side of its desktop search results.

Plenty of articles already highlight the potential impacts and implications to PPC strategies. So I won’t bore you with another generic post. However, there hasn’t been much data pushed out around the impact on organic results.

By removing the right hand ads from the search results pages, Google enabled certain searches to trigger four ads to be displayed above the organic results. As a result, organic listings are pushed further down the page.

But wait a minute. With organic listings being pushed below the fold, won’t this impact a site’s SEO strategies?

We hypothesised that the majority of these ads will be showing for non-brand keywords. This will then impact the organic click-through rates (CTR) for the top positions within Google.

But how were we going to test any potential organic impacts?

The answer can be found within Google Search Console. As a digital agency, we have the luxury of being able to review and monitor a number of different websites in a variety of industries. We can also analyse search query data from Google Search Console to identify the different CTRs from non-brand keywords.

For our test, we took four different websites from four different industries: property, holidays, food and drink and technology. We gathered data one week prior to Google’s update and compared to one week after the update to see if there were any differences.


Looking at our site within the property industry, we recorded a 4.09% drop in CTR across brand terms and a 10.77% drop across non-brand terms for the first organic listing.

Property CTR


We recorded a 3.14% drop in CTR across brand terms and a slight increase of 0.02% across non-brand terms for the first organic listing related to our technology industry site. Already we have two different industries and two different outcomes.

Technology CTR


Our site within the holiday industry recorded no change in CTR across brand terms and a 2.36% drop across non-brand terms for the first organic listing. What is interesting for this site is even though its top position CTRs are much lower than the site in the technology industry, again there has been limited impact from the PPC update.

Holiday CTR

Food and Drink:

Looking at our site within the food industry we recorded a 0.01% drop in CTR across brand terms and but a hefty 16.5% drop across non-brand terms for the first organic listing; the most out of any of the sites we have looked at.

Food CTR


Even though the data sets we used are limited to a two-week period, they did make up 1,364,278 impressions. The data shows that there was indeed an impact from the PPC update to certain, but not all, industries we looked at. But either way, it’s not something to brush under the carpet.

A drop in Organic CTRs could potentially impact traffic driven to your site and, in turn, impact the revenue and/or conversions generated. It has emphasised the importance of your site’s organic visibility for target keywords within search engine results pages which your overall Organic Strategy should take into account.

Of course, our test does not cover all sites or all industries, but there’s enough data to show that your site could have been impacted.

Our experienced team of digital strategists are here if you have any queries about your SEO Strategy or PPC campaigns. To find out how we can help you, give our team a call on 0113 275 3912 or ask for a free account review.