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One of the biggest players in digital marketing is changing the rules of the game once again. Google is introducing a few new initiatives that look to the future of a mobile-first world and attempt to make the way businesses communicate with customers even more streamlined.

Here’s a rundown of changes that are coming and where the advantage lies for savvy digital marketers.

Google AdWords and the Disappearing Sidebar

Google has become synonymous with online search and digital marketing. But the next time you go Googling, you’ll notice something missing. Google has officially removed the right side rail of ads. Here’s what that means for any client either running or considering an AdWords campaign.

This move cuts available inventory by two-thirds on any given search. Bids will undoubtedly go up slightly since inventory is going down. However, Google’s analytics show that 85% of all clicks come from ads in those first three listings, so costs shouldn’t change too much since most campaigns are pay-per-click. Most of the value is in the top results anyway, so you shouldn’t miss the sidebar in your digital marketing.

Another side effect of removing the side rail is the streamlining of all search ad units. Before, the layout of ads depended on where they were displayed. Now, since all ads appear in the same type of real estate, all ad extensions (location, phone number, pages, etc.) should be enabled on all SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Therefore, each impression should in theory be more valuable than they previously were and can better lead to sales.

One thing to keep in mind is that Google might be reducing some low value inventory, but they’re actually increasing their high-value inventory by one result. A fourth AdWords listing will show up on high-volume searches, cutting into what was once a dominant advantage by major players on competitive terms. While the bids might be slightly higher, the value of that fourth spot just went up exponentially, especially since it will be the one right before organic listings. Since many of your customers might not know about this change, they might even believe that fourth slot is the first organic result.

In the future, this change could lead to a cascading search results page with no page selection needed. This would work similarly to the Facebook or Twitter news feed, where new results automatically load when you get to the bottom of the page. It’s way more intuitive on mobile to run a search this way as opposed to laying out results separate pages. It also increases the value of everything that had been perceived as page two and beyond.

If Google does do this, though, it will be interesting to see how they lay out ads in the future. Plus, SERP rankings would change since pagerank would effectively disappear since you fundamentally change the way listings are shown. There’s no telling how it will change SEO yet, but you’d figure the metrics and positive benchmarks would no doubt be completely different in a world without individual SERPs.

If you put your money into SEM though, this change could be both huge and insignificant at the same time, depending on your strategy. Either way, be prepared.

Accelerated Mobile Pages Streamline Content Marketing

By now you should be aware that more than half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. Yet most websites are still designed and developed for desktop displays. That could soon change thanks to a new joint effort led by Google.

The search giant has been attempting to bridge this gap for a while now, first by prioritizing mobile optimized pages in SERPs, now by setting the standard for Accelerated Mobile Pages. What this means is content pages that meet the AMP standard for load time and formatting are prioritized in search. Not only is it a smart move, it will be necessary as mobile moves forward.

If you’re engaged in any kind of content strategy, this is a must. More and more media is consumed on mobile devices. If you’re not showing up in mobile search results, it will hurt your traffic. Furthermore, it simply makes sense from a user experience standpoint. You have up to 2 seconds for your page to load before a user bounces on mobile. That’s it. If your website fails to load well on a mobile device, you lose that customer. This is yet another sign for marketers to get with the times and build campaigns with a mobile first strategy. After all, omnichannel customer engagement is a major thing even small and midsized brands need to address.

For websites built in WordPress, there’s a relatively simple plugin that will make sure your pages are AMP ready. In fact, this page you’re currently reading is using that plugin. For other websites and businesses, talk with your developer about making sure your website will meet the AMP protocol.

While its a small nudge in the right direction, down the road this could lead to the adoption of web apps in the marketplace over native apps, which currently dominate. Web apps come with the advantage of working across different platforms and OS, so getting websites to work better with mobile is a logical first step. From there, the sky’s the limit.

However, anything that forces more publishers and businesses to integrate mobile in their digital marketing strategy is a good thing. After all, that’s where most of your traffic will come from in the not so distant future, if it doesn’t already.

The More Digital Marketing Changes, the More It Stays the Same

As always, we’re looking to the future of digital marketing in regard to our own clients. These changes can be momentous for your business if you’re blindsided by them. And this isn’t even everything on our radar.

At the end of the day, digital marketing remains about exploring new territory, systematic testing and measured results. So long as you stay on top of fundamental changes that come with doing business in new media, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Just don’t fall behind.

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