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Another layout change for Google's search results
leeds1




msg:4362754
 9:16 am on Sep 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google changed the layout of their SERPS this week to add an additional 1-2cm white gap between the search box and the results with the word "search" on the left and "about 10,000,000 results (0.15 seconds)" above the results

This additional gap has pushed down all organic results so would essentially reduce the number of referrals for people (it certainly has for some of my sites)

[edited by: tedster at 7:25 pm (utc) on Sep 16, 2011]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]

 

Rasputin




msg:4363717
 8:11 am on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Perhaps if they could explain in more detail it would be more informative...something like

'About 5000000 results, but we thought you would rather see a page of adverts, some pictures, a few google places pages, a map and a selection of unrelated products. Please see below the fold to find the start of the real search results.'

MrSavage




msg:4363772
 3:12 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am more accepting of layout changes than say, an unfair playing ground regarding rankings. Their core business is to sell ads and make money off ads. If they push that more, I see that as what they actually do.

The fact is there is a tipping point with ads where consumers/customers say you know what? Those other guys don't have as many, it's cleaner and I'm using them instead. Until then they would naturally do what they can. That's fine.

What I don't like is the bigger threat of big brands, big name sites taking the organic traffic. I think the youtube videos taking up space, pusing our sites further down is the bigger issue. To add, I noticed actually two links to "videos" on the SERPS pages, so for them to add these to "green widget" searches is very tacky. Hard to justify imo. I would be interested in their defense to a governmental watchdog if that type of insertion was ever questioned. It's like you walk into a restaurant and you order a soup. When the waiter comes back, he has the soup but also places a bowl of chili down. His response to your puzzlement is something like well I thought you might like the chili also. Afterall, you ordered a bowl of soup.

superclown2




msg:4363774
 3:33 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

We used to have a large logo and now we have a small logo with white space under it. Is that really pushing the SERPs down further than before? Has anyone actually got any measurements?

I'm more irritated by the black menu bar. It's an irrelevance because it merely duplicates the links in the sidebar.

ember




msg:4363804
 4:25 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is not a surprise. Once you realize that EVERYTHING is about money, and I mean everything, this is an obvious move by Google. They can talk all they want about user experience, no evil, etc., etc., etc., but moving the organic listings down, even a smidge, let's them manipulate searchers into clicking on ads that make Google more MONEY. Always, always follow the money, and you will understand the world and how it works. EVERYTHING is about money no matter what anyone is saying to the contrary.

walkman




msg:4363838
 6:10 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is not a surprise. Once you realize that EVERYTHING is about money, and I mean everything, this is an obvious move by Google. They can talk all they want about user experience, no evil, etc., etc., etc., but moving the organic listings down, even a smidge, let's them manipulate searchers into clicking on ads that make Google more MONEY. Always, always follow the money, and you will understand the world and how it works.

No one expects Google or their engineers to work for free, but WT* ? ! What is enough? Should I add 12 adsense unit on my page to make more money so users click and next year add another 4 more? At some point it becomes just too much and never-ending greed comes back to haunt you.

Frankly at some point it becomes fraud and stealing, maybe not in the legal sense but people come to Google with the understanding that Google sends them to the best site in an unbiased manner, without tweaking the results for money or manipulating ads. Google is on track to make $10 Billion in profit this year--after paying their people extremely well. Will $20 billion be 'enough' next year? $30 Billion? Don't make us look under the hood Google, you'll regret it. We may not have Stanford degrees but all you need is elementary school education to see what's going on.

EVERYTHING is about money no matter what anyone is saying to the contrary.

Or, the more they say it isn't about money...

We used to have a large logo and now we have a small logo with white space under it. Is that really pushing the SERPs down further than before? Has anyone actually got any measurements?

Looks to me like the top ad, the best paying one, is too high for many people. They are many ways of testing it and after tens of thousands visits it becomes clear if more people click on top vs the bottom or middle. As a bonus, the organic serps are down as well leaving many users debating on what ad or Google service to click.
I wonder how many people don't have a clue that they are clicking on ads.

netmeg




msg:4363851
 7:52 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Lots. But as long as they find what they want, they don't care.

Zivush




msg:4363927
 4:27 am on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

SEO with Google is more about how to become less dependent slash what the exit strategy is.

Planning a G exit strategy is as important as figuring out how to start an online business - you need to know where you're going before the journey begins. :)

What are the options right now?
Relaying on Bing/Yahoo, Building a Community of readers with newsletters, Facebook pages, Linkedin Groups, Promoting RSS and promoting the site's brand identity.
It is a step by step process.

I believe that organic visitors are the key to success - You must feed them with goodies so they become loyal and return (directly).
If you sit spooked staring the traffic slowly shrinks day by day, you get to nowhere.
Time to work.

ember




msg:4363928
 4:37 am on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I wonder how many people don't have a clue that they are clicking on ads.


I know several people who are actually scared to click on the ads because they think it will take them to a virus-ridden site or some such thing. These are not techie people, just average users. But if ads are all they see, will they now click on them or continue to look further?

superclown2




msg:4363966
 8:43 am on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I know several people who are actually scared to click on the ads because they think it will take them to a virus-ridden site or some such thing. These are not techie people, just average users. But if ads are all they see, will they now click on them or continue to look further?


I don't click on them because I know that they are just ads. However on some of the computers I use which belong to other people the coloured background is so faint as to be un-noticeable, depending upon their monitor settings, so it's impossible to differentiate the ads from search results. Such a colour selection by google is accidental, no doubt.

Lame_Wolf




msg:4363991
 12:32 pm on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

No change for IE6 users. We still see the old style.

Now for all those out there saying that we should upgrade. I bet you wish more users/visitors were using IE6 because of this :)

HuskyPup




msg:4363999
 2:13 pm on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

the coloured background is so faint as to be un-noticeable


Yep, strangely this seems to have become worse recently to me. On my office pc the colour is obvious however on my laptop and home pc, both with standard settings, the difference is hardly viewable.

ChanandlerBong




msg:4364043
 8:01 pm on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've clicked on a few ads in recent months because, as others have said above, I couldn't even TELL they were ads! That's the point we're at with G now. Try that on your site and the Great PHDs in Googleplex will smart price you, penalise you or ban you. It's the hypocrisy that leaves such a bad taste.

The writing's been on the wall since the IPO. For me, the Google IPO was the end of innocence on the internet - yet it was praised and covered on these pages as if it was the Second Coming. Do you remember how many front page threads we used to get on it? :yuk:

Robert Charlton




msg:4364045
 8:12 pm on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

the coloured background is so faint as to be un-noticeable

Yep, strangely this seems to have become worse recently to me.

It seems fainter to me too, though I believe that the recent change I've noticed hit at least a month ago. If anyone is tracking organic click-throughs over time, here are dates in two threads I've found where I'd commented on background color changes...

- on August 25 2011... [webmasterworld.com...]
- on June 25, 2010... [webmasterworld.com...]

Not very scientific, but there might be some correlation between background color and click-throughs. Maybe someone with a hex code color sampler and lots of spare time can graph these changes in subsequent years, though there's hardly any room for the background to get much fainter.

On my office pc the colour is obvious however on my laptop and home pc, both with standard settings, the difference is hardly viewable.

Obviously, this depends on monitor settings. Beyond that, on LED monitors, it's a function of viewing angles. The colored background for ads, eg, is a fair amount fainter when seen straight on than when viewed off-angle.

Someone with a very larger monitor is likely to see the ad background at the top of the screen as darker than would someone with a smaller monitor positioned lower... assuming all other settings etc are equivalent. In recent weeks or months, I've often had to purposely get wa-a-ay off axis to see where the first organic results begin.

walkman




msg:4364055
 9:29 pm on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I just changed the resolution to two of the most common ones (searched). Above the fold, in one there is an 'organic' result, almost always a major brand that also has an ad. In the other, not even one because G products showed. Ads on top, ads on the side and ads on the bottom of the screen (G products). And that's without images, news, youtube, local etc being activated. In some you must have to scroll 2-3 screens. In my niche, a Google owned--but not labeled as such--site almost always has the #1 spot in 'organic.' Search for Google Ventures and see what else Google owns.

Isn't there a law that says ads should be *clearly* labeled? These aren't. Not that it matters since Google will find other way to make it up. It's almost futile, forget about capricious bans, traffic throttling, and penalties, even if you rank high little by little they will drive you out of business. Even if you bought ads, they'll play around with scores and other crap and have the nerve to even make us feel guilty. No matter how much more e-commerce is done online, Google will simply keep more clicks to their ads, especially those that matter (Remember, through tracking and personalization they can guess when you want to buy.)

At least we we can laugh when they tell us how much they care about the "user experience" and unbiased results. I feel sick to my stomach that once I believed them.

Reno




msg:4364115
 2:43 am on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I feel sick to my stomach that once I believed them.

You were hardly alone ~ millions were taken in by their genius PR machine.

I think the reason so many of us are close to bitter has to do with your observation ~ we feel used, like we were sold a bill of goods by a fast talking slick salesman and we should have known better.

There was a time when most of us felt like we had a symbiotic relationship with Google, almost like a partner. I haven't felt that way for years, and still, the divorce is painful.

....................

walkman




msg:4364119
 3:37 am on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Still layout related. Search for mortgage (on a browser you have not used) and look through the ad prism. What are most people likely to want to do when searching for 'mortgage'?

On top, I got a super ad for Google's mortgage comparison service--bells, whistles and about twice the height. It says "comparison ad," and it's extremely relevant. Then I get 3 other ads, also comparison ads and very relevant. For most settings this is all you see above the fold-- 4 ads.

Now for organic:

#1 is Mortgage Calculator (Notice how the search is NOT for a calc)
#2 is Wikipedia (Do most people know what a mortgage is?)
#3 is relevant
#4 to infinity LOCAL banks that offer something like "CDs, checking accts, mortgages...". Ya think I don't see them as I drive?

Conclusion for me is that ads are the most relevant ones so you want to click them. I don't think the keyword mortgage, insurance and the likes are left to chance. There are billions a year in this search probably.

lucy24




msg:4364130
 5:37 am on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

#2 is Wikipedia (Do most people know what a mortgage is?)

No. If they did, banks would never have been able to introduce the term "reverse mortgage" for a transaction that is in fact ... drumroll ... a mortgage.*

In fact, you and google seem to have agreed that the single word "mortgage" is equivalent to "mortgage provider". Which is interesting in its own right. If you do a one-word search for something that can be bought, will g### always assume that you are looking for vendors of your search term?


* A loan that uses real property as collateral.

walkman




msg:4364292
 3:37 pm on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

In fact, you and google seem to have agreed that the single word "mortgage" is equivalent to "mortgage provider". Which is interesting in its own right. If you do a one-word search for something that can be bought, will g### always assume that you are looking for vendors of your search term?
It's not clear cut but it can easily be almost confirmed (by following the smart money) if we had the data on how much a 'mortgage' click costs. Again, it's not 100% sure and we're talking about 'more likely' or 'probably' but these very smart advertisers would not be willing to pay $xx a click for that keyword if not enough people wanted to check mortgage rates and apply for one.

You look at the serps and you cannot really say much bad about it, it's not like I got a dog walking page or anything, but something seems fishy. One can defend this, but it's very odd since the ads do not match the SERPs. Considering how insurance and mortgage are the biggest money making keywords /fields I smell bias. Not overt one, but one that's hidden and cannot really be proven [webmasterworld.com...] . Remember, we may be talking about $40 for each click they add up like crazy.

The fact that a calculator page was #1 in organic is extremely fishy too, since that popular site (Bankrate) also has a mortgage lead and rate site, why wasn't that page #1? What this does--if done by design--is that it makes the first organic rank useless for most visitors that are looking for a good rate. Wiki is next and by then we're talking about #7-#8 when you add the ads. Or very few clicks since #1 alone gets about 35%.

[edited by: walkman at 3:41 pm (utc) on Sep 19, 2011]

ergophobe




msg:4364306
 3:40 pm on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

it's now #FFF8E7


It's been a long time since I've been able to distinguish ads from SERPs in Google.

A user stylesheet with this rule fixes it:

#taw #tads {background-color:#ccc !important;}

This rule *really* fixes it:

#taw #tads {display:none !important;}

Now the trick is to somehow get all your potential customers to implement that stylesheet!

cbass99




msg:4364318
 3:56 pm on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)



Now for organic:

#1 is Mortgage Calculator (Notice how the search is NOT for a calc)
#2 is Wikipedia (Do most people know what a mortgage is?)
#3 is relevant
#4 to infinity LOCAL banks that offer something like "CDs, checking accts, mortgages...". Ya think I don't see them as I drive?



In Canada, Logged out of my G account searched from google.com/ncr. 3 out of the top 5 sites are UK based. with Wikipedia @ #2

tedster




msg:4364400
 6:44 pm on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Folks, this thread is about the new layout - but we're wandering into general observations about rankings. Please - let's keep the focus!

----

I mentioned earlier, but I do appreciate seeing a unified look and feel across Google's various search verticals.

rlange




msg:4364486
 8:28 pm on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I like it, for the most part. White space in general is good—it makes things feel less cluttered—and I agree with tedster about consistency.

My only criticism is that I'm just not sure enough people are really that interested in the number of results and how long it took to warrant a relatively prominent position for that information. I'll use the number of results occasionally to get an idea of how popular a phrase is, but I've never found myself needing to know how long it took to return those results. (I've looked at the number before and I'm always impressed, but it just seems like unnecessary boasting on Google's part. I can't see any other use for it.)

--
Ryan

Reno




msg:4364508
 9:09 pm on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

This additional gap has pushed down all organic results so would essentially reduce the number of referrals for people

This is the heart of the issue for most of us. Every change that Google makes seems to help them and hurt organics. I'm sure they're happy that some people like their aesthetic sense, but to be honest, if I could get some of my loss traffic back but they had to be less aesthetically pleasing, I'd give THAT a +1.

.............................

superclown2




msg:4364686
 9:21 am on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

One or two of the searches I've done this morning here in the UK have no white space. These are the minority. Looks to me as though Google is still experimenting with this.

Incidentally I did a search today, saw nothing I fancied and hit 'enter' by accident, and the first ad on the page loaded. I don't think I'd be too pleased if I was paying for that ad, and it could be triggered so easily by someone with no interest in it. Forgive me if this is an old story but I've only just noticed it.

londrum




msg:4364697
 9:54 am on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

at the very least, maybe we could learn something about ad placement from google.
lots of people have banners occupying the top, but google keeps virtually the entire top third of the screen ad-free.

They also give you virtually nothing to click (or even to read) in the top-third of the screen, until you get to the ads.

at least 80% of that top third is just white-space.

i reckon them making those links at the top into a black bar is clever too. because it kind of merges into the browser furniture. most people will become blind to those and think that the page starts at the white area. They are basically hiding another 9 links -- making the ads stand out even more.

rlange




msg:4364750
 1:07 pm on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

Reno wrote:
This is the heart of the issue for most of us. Every change that Google makes seems to help them and hurt organics. I'm sure they're happy that some people like their aesthetic sense, but to be honest, if I could get some of my loss traffic back but they had to be less aesthetically pleasing, I'd give THAT a +1.

Here's the thing, though—and it's something that some people around here keep saying with ever-increasing amounts of venom, but nobody really wants to accept: as a webmaster, Google's purpose is not to promote you. You're not even their audience.

So, when someone here complains about this or that design change pushing organic results further down the page, so what? Does it even matter to the average user? (Remember, you're not the average user.) Do they care that they're not seeing as many organic results above the fold, or do they just dutifully scroll down the handful of extra pixels like they're used to doing on every other website they've been visiting for years?

Has anyone here even bothered to find out if these changes actually do impact referrals for page-one results?

--
Ryan

Reno




msg:4364878
 5:02 pm on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

Here's the thing

No, here's the thing: Google is supposedly a search engine, not an ad engine. The implication of the word "search" is people are looking for something so they enter a query and expect a nonpartisan, unpaid, relevant result in the organics. And they rightfully expect the organic results to be front & center. I agree with you that webmasters are certainly not the primary focus, but we should be a secondary focus. As I said earlier, with every update Google pushes the organics down (or slightly diminishes their prominence), so with the organics continuing to be less prominant with every change, Google is not respecting either audience, except for one: the money audience, which is to say, the stockholder dividends and employee bonuses. That audience also deserves consideration of course, but not in the top position from a company calling itself a search engine, when search is presumably their product. If however they ever change the name to "Google the World's #1 Ad Engine", then all criticisms will evaporate.

..................

tedster




msg:4364915
 6:28 pm on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

If we want to talk about the average user, for years and years I've talked with well educated but non-webamster users who just assumed that websites pay for the top organic rankings. I'm talking about PhDs and CEOs.

Reno




msg:4364923
 7:09 pm on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

Re the "average" users, I can remember back in the '90's when a bunch of people thought AOL was the internet. Today I have no doubt that some think that Google is the internet, or that Facebook is the internet. We know different and no doubt each of us tries to explain to non-webmaster types that search engine results are supposed to be impartial & as relevant as is reasonably possible. I always tell people, in Google's defense, that it is incredibly complicated to get it consistently right.

That's not my argument.

My argument has to do with the clear & consistent trend that we see at Google, which is to minimize or even erase the perception between organics and paid. It's purposely tricky & duplicitous, and is as wrong for Google as it would be for GM or Prudential or Microsoft or any other public corporation.

...........................

walkman




msg:4364965
 8:44 pm on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

My argument has to do with the clear & consistent trend that we see at Google, which is to minimize or even erase the perception between organics and paid. It's purposely tricky & duplicitous, and is as wrong for Google as it would be for GM or Prudential or Microsoft or any other public corporation.

No doubt Tedster and any reasonable person sees it. And every reasonable person should agree that ads should clearly labeled as such. Different color background maybe, different font but definitely with - ADVERTISEMENTS - and with the same alignment as the ads...not 600 px to the right. The text color and size should not barely be visible either but in the same color and text as the description, say #333333 and 12px.

This is the only way to remove most doubt and it should be enforced by threat of crippling penalties. Why is it OK to fool people into clicking on ads, especially in such large scale? It's not OK. In fact it could very well be fraud; it harms us and users since what they click might not be the 'best' site (that click money Google got has to be paid by someone.)

Then they are other issues like content vs ads relevance but that's more complicated.

rlange




msg:4364966
 8:55 pm on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

This is getting off-topic and I apologize in advance, but...

Reno wrote:
No, here's the thing: Google is supposedly a search engine, not an ad engine.

I'm sorry; I thought the popular wisdom was that Google was an advertising company first and a search engine second. Is that true, or just more venom spewed in moments of frustration? Do we get to decide which one of these is Google's priority when it's convenient to our argument?

The implication of the word "search" is people are looking for something so they enter a query and expect a nonpartisan, unpaid, relevant result in the organics. And they rightfully expect the organic results to be front & center.

Do they? Are there one or more studies that I can aquaint myself with which spell out the average search user's expectations, or are we all just projecting our own expectations onto the nameless masses and hoping no one notices?

I agree with you that webmasters are certainly not the primary focus, but we should be a secondary focus.

Not even secondary; tertiary. Before us comes the average user and the people who give them the money to stay in business. No audience? No business. No money? No business. A slightly smaller index of webpages? Meh.

As I said earlier, with every update Google pushes the organics down (or slightly diminishes their prominence) [...]

This isn't even true, as I've seen a number of complaints about top organic results getting huge site links and various other "special" treatment that makes them stand out more than others.

[...] so with the organics continuing to be less prominant with every change, Google is not respecting either audience, except for one: the money audience which is to say, the stockholder dividends and employee bonuses.

Then why are they displaying your Google+ friends under search results that those same friends +1'd? That certainly can't be for the stockholders' benefit.

Reno wrote:
My argument has to do with the clear & consistent trend that we see at Google, which is to minimize or even erase the perception between organics and paid. It's purposely tricky & duplicitous [...]

This is rather subjective. Personally, the recent change to the background color on the top ads separates them from the organic results even more than they used to be. I can now more easily skip over them without accidentally clicking on one (which, yes, I have done in the past).

--
Ryan

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