You’re right! On November 2, Google announced a major change to how sponsored listings would appear on their results pages. In some cases — but not all – ads no longer appear on the top and side rail, but only on the top and bottom of the page. There has never been a layout change as significant as this one and the shift poses many new challenges for advertisers.
Before 11/2/11, results pages included three listings at the top of the page and up to ten listings on the right rail. Advertisers are now competing for fewer spots in the new layout. Based on examples provided by Google, the ad placement shift to the bottom decreases the number of positions to three at the top and two to four at the bottom, a potential fifty percent reduction in listings on the first page of results. Google reports that this change is designed to improve the search experience for users and that it is based on data that ties navigation and click rates to search term and indicates where users are more likely to click based on what they’re looking for. We’ll have to wait and see what the long-term impact is.