Google Is Now Showing 4 PPC Ads Above The Fold Instead Of 3

In December there were some reports that Google was testing a fourth pay-per-click ad at the top of search result pages, when there are typically only three. The reports were mostly coming from outside of the US.

Today, we finally saw the test rolled out into the US market as we are now seeing 4 Adwords ads for certain search queries in desktop results. We cannot confirm whether this is simply a test, or if Google is doing a full roll out of the 4th PPC ad.

This is a big change for search engine marketers, as the balance between paid and organic continues to shift towards paid. With 4 ads at the top of the SERPs, map pack disappears below the fold, organic listings fall well below the fold, and the side bar PPC ads (traditionally position 4–10) disappear completely. This makes the first 4 ads by and large the most prominent and important pieces of real estate on the page. This will likely increase click-through-rate on ads 1–4 and reduce organic click-through-rates across the board.

Before (3 ads):

the old search results layout, before the update

After (4 ads):

Moving Forward

We don’t want to jump to conclusions in the case that this is just a test, but if this change becomes permanent it will have large ripples across digital marketing strategies:

  1. PPC specialists will need to rethink average positions in their bidding strategies. Studies have shown varying statistics on CTR of the top 3 positions, but there is no data yet on how position 4 ads will perform.
  2. Companies without a paid strategy need to get into Google Adwords to capture traffic, as more clicks will now go to ads. Organic CTR’s will slip and organic SEO will lose some effectiveness.
  3. Map pack is the new page 1. We’ve been saying this for sometime now, but the 3 available spots in the map pack are now more important than ever.

Originally published at on January 26, 2016.