You probably noticed that Google’s search results have changed. Quite dramatically in fact.
The old results looked like this:
Now they look more like this:
For now these changes only apply to searches carried out on desktop computers.
So the new format means:
- No text ads on the right hand side of the search results
- Up to four ads will be shown above the search results
- Up to three ads will be shown at the bottom of the search results
This concerns me. And it should concern you too.
Why? Because it will undoubtedly affect you.
Sorry. But remember I’m just the messenger.
Google have always had a slightly unusual relationship with their organic search results. They don’t make money from them directly, but they provide the base from which to deliver the paid ads, that in turn account for most of their revenue.
Look at it this way: would you go to Google for your searches if you only saw paid ads?
And yet, here we are. Google are starting to move in this direction.
Consider the following example: a search for “things to do in London“, which produced the following results:
I have a predictably large monitor, running at a reasonably high resolution, yet without scrolling down the page look at my search results!
I see Google Knowledge Graph results at the top (where Google effectively scrape the content out of other websites), more scraped content along the right hand side, four paid ads, and one single organic result at the bottom of the screen.
One organic result.
Trust me – it’s there; it’s just easy to overlook.
This puzzles me.
It’s usually clear why Google make these decisions. And it could well be that they’ve realised that those top four ad positions will become so vitally important that businesses will be prepared to pay a lot more for them.
But good luck to the smaller business who can no longer afford to compete with their larger rivals. Which, by the way, has been one of the main advantages of AdWords, until now. Is that you?
And good luck to the business who isn’t even using AdWords right now. All their beautifully created content will now either be effectively copied by Google, or pushed down the page out of sight. Is that perhaps you?
And good luck to the Google user who simply wants to find the best results for their searches, without simply choosing between out of date samples chosen by Google or paid ads.
Let’s not forget that many paid ads are irrelevant, mainly because Google’s system is so complex that most businesses waste a great deal of their budget without even realising it.
So how will this affect your business?
I deliberately didn’t use the word “might”, as this will definitely have an impact on how much traffic you get from Google.
If you’re an AdWords advertiser, now would be a very good time to pay close attention to your average position. This has changed everything.
Looking into some options for long-tail keywords could also be a good move, as there’ll be less competition to get into that sought-after top four slot.
But the best advice I can think of?
What do Google have in common with British Airways?
I believe that Google are going to adopt a similar approach to how an airline treats their business class seats.
They sell them at a premium, to people who are prepared to pay for them.
But up to a point they’d rather fill those seats than have them empty – even at the expense of their margins.
The person who uses his points, pays a nominal amount or just gets lucky may also discover some of the finer benefits of flying business class, and next time may be prepared to pay for it.
And on top of that, an empty business class section in a plane doesn’t look good.
If you care about your organic traffic, it’s a good idea to start paying very careful attention to what’s happening.
I can’t even begin to predict what may happen with the organic listings, but I guarantee that something will.
So keeping an eye on what’s happening to your organic traffic in terms of quality and quantity might prove to be time well spent.
And watch this space for more, as we start to get a clearer idea of the ramifications of these changes.
Interesting times lie ahead.