Are You Putting Web Search Results at Risk with Paid Advertising?

If you bid on keywords for a term or phrase that you rank well for in a search engine, might your organic result be filtered in some instances, when your ad appears on the same page?

A newly granted Microsoft patent is the first I recall seeing which discusses such a possible interaction based upon the appearance of paid listings and Web search listings for the same page (URL) on a single search engine results page. The patent, Systems and methods for removing duplicate search engine results, explores filtering organic results when there’s more than one URL pointing to the same page (i.e.,, on a search results page. It adds the possibility of removing a Web search listing from a search results page when there’s also a paid listing pointing to the same page.

Keep in mind that just because there’s a patent for this process doesn’t mean that it is happening. I described some aspects of this process in more detail at SEO by the Sea, but I wanted to put this question out there for the Search Engine Land community. I know I’ve seen results pages that show an ad for a page, and a Web search result for the same page. Have you seen any instances where a Web result might have been filtered out because of an ad for the same page?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Legal: Censorship | Legal: Crawling & Indexing | Legal: Patents | Microsoft: Bing | Search & Society: General | Search Ads: General


About The Author: is the Director of Search Marketing for Go Fish Digital and the editor of SEO by the Sea. He has been doing SEO and web promotion since the mid-90s, and was a legal and technical administrator in the highest level trial court in Delaware.

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  • Carsten Cumbrowski

    That would be bad, because it is proven (see Latest Search Marketing Benchmark Guide by Marketing Sherpa) that the appearance in the Organic top results and in the paid results as well increases customer response.

    More than the sum of each lisiting by itself.

    “Dominating” the Search Results and enhanced Brand awareness are the keywords.

  • Bill Slawski

    There is a potential benefit to being listed in both paid and web results on the same page, and that may even be part of the inspiration behind advertising on a phrase that you already rank for in organic results.

    Even better would be to appear for a paid result, a onebox result, and an organic result on the same page.

    Is there a point though, where a search engine might start considering that such a level of saturation of the same page within a search results page might be a bad user experience?

    The patent seems to focus on the benefits of revenue generation for the search engine, and a willingness to remove an organic result to gain a click through on the ad. Yet, as the study you point out shows, it may be more likely that someone would click upon the ad if they saw both paid and organic results pointing to the same page.

  • Everett

    I was ranking a client #2 and #3 on Yahoo for a fairly competitive term. I started advertising with YPN and exactly two days later I was pushed down to the bottom of the fourth page.

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist and don’t wear a tinfoil hat, but given that I could not find any other reasons and the site had not been changed… It smelled a little fishy to me.

    I know this is a Microsoft Patent you’re talking about, but if there was one search engine I would expect something like this from it would be Yahoo.

  • Art

    One of our websites has been completely drop from google within the past two months. The site when live in 1996 and has always had top ranking in google and most all search engines for years. We started buying keyword from google in late Dec. 2006 and in Jan 2007 our organic listings started dropping off and today we are no where to be found. I have heard of this happening to others. Any input as greatly appricated.

  • Robert_Charlton

    >>a paid result, a onebox result, and an organic result on the same page

  • Art

    We are seeing Yahoo mix paid listing into there organic listing with many of our ppc client ads. With the droping of less than 30days after we began our ppc campaign make you wonder what there are truly doing. We also had this happen to a client that had good ranking and started running ppc.

    Has anyone else experienced this?

  • Dangdatkat

    If you look at the customer purchase cycle, a consumer doing research is more likely to click on organic listings and a consumer that is ready to make a purchase is more likely to click on the paid search listing.

    By limiting the SERP to a organic listing or a paid listing, MSN will essentually be segmenting the users and subsequently advertisers.

  • Shona

    Moves by Google and Yahoo to rank paid listings on page quality scores as well as bid price to raise relevancy for end users also arguably make the line between paid and organic search less clear and give scope for similar muddling there.

    Meanwhile, there is clear evidence of cannibalisation of organic traffic by paid traffic and vice versa alongside the well recognised impact of brand presence from visibility in both listings on overall click-through rates. Any filtering of organic results based on paid results would have a massive impact on the model for advertisers and the whole relevancy philosophy behind algorithmic rankings.

  • Jeff James

    I think it’s really just a way to clue people in that Natural SEO as we know it, will cease to exist in the quest of those who control information to monetize ALL of the traffic.

    My full analysis:

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