• Vermont Design Works

    Probably even worse for average users, no? Think about how many “non-industry” folks you know who’ve been suckered into downloading useless toolbars. You know, those terrible toolbars that are supposed to make searching easier but only bog down web browsing and can carry malware. Each one of these toolbars is going to eat up more and more of the available first-fold real estate.

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    Consider the intent and context when searching for “auto mechanic” or “italian restaurant.”

    Try searching for:
    milky way galaxy
    search engine news
    how to tie a tie
    healthy recipes

  • Zach Griffith

    Good article Danny! I am currently managing search for a large ecom account (both paid and organic) and am seeing dramatic YoY declines in traffic from top ranked organic terms.

    In some instances, only the first organic result is visible and located at the bottom of the initial SERP view!

    At the end of the day, people like pictures and the PLA pictures are making Google $$. That said, I wouldn’t be shocked if Google begins using standard product listings for all product related queries in the near future…

  • Jeremy Aviram

    Along with getting heavy , Google results are also becoming irelevant. Now you have to type some strange combinations to get some relevant sites. The normal keywords or phrases do not give the desired results any more.

    They are not ranking sites with great amount of backlinks, as they are de-motivating the link building as a whole…but they are loosing relevancy on the other side?…. is this a good approach?….does a simple user care about links or relevancy?..

  • http://www.phplinkdirectory.com David DuVal

    Could there be a relationship with the rise of browser plugins like Ad Blocker Plus? I don’t have ANY ads on my Google SERPs because I choose not to allow Google to show me ads. If Google continues to provide good organic results, I’ll keep using Google. If they don’t, there are other fish in the SE sea like DuckDuckGo and Bing.

  • http://mikliseo.com/ Miklin SEO

    Very interesting article, Danny. It’s also pretty concerning that a user can search something like “best Chinese restaurant” and the results are that of the horizontal image slide bar, which many users don’t know is advert and not organic.

  • http://www.seopros.org Terry Van Horne

    relevancy is not an issue! really it is more about how useful the listings are… for payday loans for instance I doubt many people are taking the wikipedia or gov’t link… relevant but likely not the results most people want…yet they are 1 and 2 don’t know what that guff was after Penguin 2 but it didn’t fix the payday loan query it just removed some spam…it did not improve the result. In fact Every query space I see it…. it just extended the knowledge graph to stupid lengths.

  • Ismail Ozsaydi
  • Durant Imboden

    I think the real problem is that Google’s SERPs are too cluttered, period. They’re getting busier and busier, to the point of causing sensory overload.

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    And iOS

  • http://www.zimbio.com/TV+Shows/articles/szV9C4Vq3ge/Watch+Hannibal+Tale+Crime+Drama Puneet Sharma

    According to me…Google Wants to promote yourself!!! That’s it!!!

  • munaazanjum


    You are spot on!

    I still don’t understand as why many of us including a stalwart like you, Dr.Pete, Rand cease to believe the shrinking scope of SEO at time when you share all the facts, and do have concerns as well.

    It’s not a startling fact if you look at the trends.The future search depends on device market share. As the search is increasingly up on handset devices, Google displays their own content/products results. Also, Chrome has advantage here in understanding users’ behavior, and type of search, which I believe, is a signal that Google receives while displaying personalized search results.

    The reason that I can possibly guess behind a showcase of many results
    of their own products/content is primarily due to the fact that the search engine wants to capitalize as much as they can which they invest in developing apps, androids, and devices. As said, the future search is moving on to the devices, Google is milking the benefit as long as they can, for they know the future of their holy grail –search engine.

  • peter


    19 vs 10 in most my product searches, its becoming to a point where ppc you need a strategy to rank for that soon. oh wait highest bidder wins… BUT only google really wins.

    Big companys only ones who can survive with ppc really if your a small seller selling products……

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    Product searches should have mostly paid listings.

    Paid listings often convert BETTER than organic. So if you know how to budget and figure out GP, it’s really no big deal. Either it works or it doesn’t.

    You think small companies should be given equal shelf space as large, established ones in organic SERPS. That would be a giant mess!!!!

  • munaazanjum


    Of course, paid listing converts BETTER than organic because commercial intent is high, and thus “intended users” click on relevant advt. and make a purchase decision. However, search engine users are NOT ONLY buyers who click on sponsored links. You need to understand the whole demographic composition of users. Should Google listen more to advertisers by ignoring other types of users just because of bigger bang for the buck or just because paid listings convert more than organic listings?

    BTW, if you believe paid listings convert more than organic, you are simply looking at things from a micro-level but not from ROI perspective. I would rather suggest you to calculate ROI from PPC channel versus organic channel. You’d get more clarity if ‘conversion’ is a good matrix to focus or ROI.

  • Ronnie’s Mustache

    I’m not getting roped into this argument.
    (PPC vs. Organic…ROI vs. CR…etc…)


    My only point is that I can understand why Google would choose to display more paid/non-organic listings for certain types of searches.

    Some people say the results pages look cluttered. Well, Google knows where peoples’ eyes scan while on a page and obviously white space is wasted space. :(

    We don’t look at SERPS the same way non-SE pros do. If Google stops serving up relevant results, they’re search market share will take a hit. There are other SE’s out there…and everyone knows it.

  • http://www.thesafestcandles.com/ Wendy Robinson

    I thought that something was wrong with my browser the other day when I saw 8 ads before the organic search results

  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    You guys really can’t say anything critical of Google without immediate;y caveating that with “it’s not that bad” and “Bing is even worse!”. Come on, grow a set and tell it like it is. Right now you look like Google’s voluntary propaganda channel.

  • Zach Griffith

    Good points and definitely taken into account. The bottom line is: if the majority of the real estate is paid, organic CTRs will absolutely suffer.

  • Pat Grady

    But, in these examples, doesn’t Bing look worse?

  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    I’m sure it does, but that’s not relevant to how bad Google’s SERPs are looking, is it? Compare it to Yandex if you will, or DuckDuckGo if you’re feeling brave. But none of those comparisons matter, because someone else doing it worse (or better) does not absolve Google in any way from their epic hypocrisy when it comes to on-page advertising.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    We can. I did. To quote from the article:

    “I’m much happier with what I get from Bing”

    “If someone clicks on the name of the restaurant, there’s a good assumption they just want to go to that restaurant’s page, not get stuck in an endless loop of Google search results.”

    “The real concern has been the transformation of Google from being a search engine that pointed out to destination sites.”

    If you want to have an intelligent discussion about what Google may or may not be doing that’s of a concern, it’s helpful to:

    1) Understand exactly how its being criticized
    2) Understand how far it may be out of line with common practices

    That’s what this piece was about. The numbers, and especially the illustrations that Harris pointed out are striking. Search marketers have seen this trend for ages, but this was a fresh take that made me even reflect, “Wow.”

    That’s the point of exploring it more here. Here’s a set of results that are being discussed. But measuring pixels might not be the right way, especially when you’re measuring white space next to the right-hand ads that doubles that pixel count.

    And understanding how out-of-line (or not) that its with the competition is also important. You can disagree and reframe it however you want, but I think it’s important, and that’s why I included it.

    FYI, it’s somewhat laughable to focus on the pixel counts and concerns that organic SEO is dying in web search when last year, Google turned ALL of Google Shopping into one big fat ad. Which I covered here:


    Which concluded with this:

    “For publishers, there’s a whole lot of worry here. If Google can turn one search product to an all-paid basis, nothing really prevents it from doing the same for others. Could Google News only carry listings from publishers that want to pay? Will Google Places, already just transformed into a part of the Google+ social network, be changed to a pay-or-don’t play yellow pages-style model?”

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Since I’ve been hearing about drastic changes that were going to kill SEO for the past 17 years now, I tend to view that nothing actually does that drastic of a trend.

    As I wrote, there’s definitely a trend that the “giveaway” of free traffic from search engines has gotten tighter over the years. I don’t see that as the death of SEO, however. I think you’re always going to have some “free” traffic out there.

  • http://seoeta.com/ jemois

    Perhaps google is hoping people will buy larger monitors for all their ads to fit. Yeah, Google is a business, they are a little bit to agresive on their users and forget that they are mainly supposed to be a search engine and not an ad provider. Google does exactly the oposite from what they teach webmasters in their guidelines. In really don’t find it normal and fair. And the funny thing is that nobody can penalize them. A penguin penalty wouldn’t be fair to google since they have a beautiful links profike. What about Panda triggering on pages with thin content ? Or the page layout penalty, for to many ads and thin content above the fold ?

  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    You sound a bit like Fox News defending their ‘fair & balanced’ slogan. “We have liberal commentators too!” “We’re critical of the GOP as well and we praise the DNC on occasion!”

    I fear you might not even be aware of your own pro-Google bias, Danny. You probably genuinely believe you’re being fair and balanced, but your subconscious mind is making all kinds of editorial decisions when you write a piece like this, always ensuring your cosy relationship with Google is not threatened by anything you write here.

    Your criticism of Google, such as it is, is toothless and almost always caveated by ‘the other search engines are just as bad’ (which, incidentally, is an entirely invalid excuse for Google’s bad behaviour).

  • Durant Imboden

    There may be a certain logic in loading up transactional SERPs with ads.

    If a user wants to buy a Widgetco Router and there are 1,000 vendors selling the same thing, does it really matter if the first 10 listings he sees are AdWords?

    From Google’s point of view, it’s a win-win: Google makes more money, and if spammers succeed in pushing their way to the head of the organic queue, their success won’t be as obvious to searchers or as profitable to the spammers. And from the searchers’ point of view, it’s no different from seeing the ads they used to know and love in the heyday of Yellow Pages directories and COMPUTER SHOPPER.

  • Billy McAllister

    Perhaps they attacked it the same way as they did EMDs! Such a headache when one of your client is a relocation/moving company.

  • http://www.itchimes.com/ vibhu satpaul

    Nice one Danny. I was feeling the same and wrote a more detailed version than mine. Fail of plans there :) but good read and i hope it gives users an option to reduce them some how.

  • Graham Ginsberg

    Where the name GOOGLE came from:

    “10^100 (a gigantic number) is a googol, but we liked the spelling “Google” better. We picked the name “Google” because our goal is to make huge quantities of information available to everyone. And it sounds cool and has only six letters.”

    Ref: http://web.archive.org/web/19990221202430/http://www.google.com/company.html#contact

  • Durant Imboden

    If you have an AdSense account and set up Google Search on your site, you get a share of the ad revenue.

  • Happeh

    “anyone who runs a site can look at their traffic logs to know how much traffic Google sends them every day, for free.”

    You did not really just say that did you?

    Here it comes folks………

    “Google is doing you a service by providing you search results so you need to pay them $30 a month for that service”.

  • Zazbot

    Hilarious reading as the author turns himself into a pretzel trying to defend Google, when Google’s search results are getting worse every year. Our family is using DDG more every month.

  • Manoj

    It is not only the ads —– there is a lot of “experimentation” going on. Many results have fewer than 10 organic results (7-8 in many cases) and then there are YouTube results, which must also be considered self-promotional.

  • lisa741

    as Billy responded I’m dazzled that a student able to make $9219 in 1 month on the internet. have you read this site w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • xtopher66

    The free lunch is over! A lot of these discussions are flawed by your mental block of expecting organic listings of a past era. Those Serps were the loss leader for Google to get the market share prised from the competition. How easy was it with some real basic SEO knowledge to get your start up website ranking well with blog spam, directories and over optimised anchors? Real easy. Now some you skinflints dont like the fact that Googles` corperate mode has kicked in. Couple that with Google not affectively being able to stop that until they decided on the content model of the big corperates and content media outlets. The big switch to branding is so obvious…duh! So its killed most of the organisations or individuals who havent the $$ to back that…..whats new about that. You just dont like losing your free lunch. Youre going to have pay for advertising and content generation just like the big boys have always done.

    Google is a search engine, not a SERPS engine and whether it keeps the content for the search query within internal pathways is neither here or there. Its not losing market share, although that may well be down to Bing and Yahoo being pretty poor competitors, and is keeping the corperate advertisers happy.

    My big problem is Google is still a dumb bot and you can see that in the serps results…but thats another issue entirely from this post.

  • creature77

    Really? About 2 whole cents for each of my “shares:? Thanks for the great tip.

  • Durant Imboden

    I assume that you mean 2 cents per click, which admittedly is terrible. But that isn’t Google’s fault: AdWords/AdSense is a bid-based system, and some topics (not to mention some audiences) attract lower bids than others do.