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Google now has sponsored review engine on top of SERPS
indyank




msg:4616741
 3:18 am on Oct 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

i am not sure whether this is new or how many of you noticed this. Google now seems to have a sponsored review engine on top of SERPS. Check the image below and it is a full capture of my laptop screen. There is literally no organic results on top. This might soon be hurting the likes of tripadvisor, if not already. Google is not aggregating reviews/ratings but is getting them directly via its users via a separate platform that run on google.com. (I am not sure what their plans are but I am surprised that this has not been integrated with their Google+). However they choose to show it on top as a sponsored one as they get compensated from vendors who sell those packages or whatever.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 11:35 pm (utc) on Oct 15, 2013]
[edit reason] Removed screenshot link [/edit]

 

aakk9999




msg:4616944
 11:40 pm on Oct 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is not completely new - I have seen an article mentioning it back in August. This "Review" layout of the SERPs has also been recently discussed in this Search Engine Watch article:

4 Google Carousel Optimization Tips
[searchenginewatch.com...]

The sample screenshot provided was pretty much the same as the second screenshot in this searchenginewatch post.

It is interesting what you say that on your laptop screen size there were no organic results visible at all, despite the SERPs having no carousel at the top.

indyank




msg:4616965
 2:28 am on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

that is right, it was completely google and their properties on the entire visible portion of my laptop screen and there wasn't any carousel.

Yes, it does seem to be around for more than a year in US. I read a post written by Danny sullivan in 2012, after I posted it here. Here is the post - [marketingland.com...]

I am not sure when it was rolled out to other parts of the world but the hotel finder is there on top for many hotel related queries now i.e. hotels + <place|landmark> queries.

rish3




msg:4616973
 4:25 am on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Searching for "flights from cityA to cityB" can easily result in a page with nothing organic above the fold, at all. Even on a pretty big monitor.

indyank




msg:4616984
 5:33 am on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Searenginewatch says

Encourage happy customers to review your business on Google. Research shows that reviews play a significant role of placement in the carousel.


I guess this will be temporary and this is probably done to put the onus on site/page owners to encourage their visitors review their business on google.

indyank




msg:4616987
 5:42 am on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

The only reason why this review engine runs on google.com instead of their google+ subdomain or any other new domain/subdomain of theirs is probably to ensure they don't attract criticism/attention to the fact they are showing their own property on top as a sponsored result, when in reality there is no sponsored element for it to occupy that position. It appears to be very similar to an affiliate model and is not really an ad.

CaptainSalad2




msg:4617014
 7:52 am on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Call me cynical but this push to get everyone on google plus and “authorship” now benefits the advertisers as displaying their photo in the adds pushes the organics yet further down the page….

Was this the end goal motive behind “authorship” and getting people on it in the first place with carrot on stick phrases like “will be a ranking factor…one day”? I See no benefit for the “user” when they will only display POSITIVE statements, but I do see a benefit to google by pushing organics further down the page. <snip>
.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:34 am (utc) on Oct 16, 2013]
[edit reason] removed personal comment, per Charter [/edit]

EditorialGuy




msg:4617072
 2:42 pm on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Call me cynical but this push to get everyone on google plus and “authorship” now benefits the advertisers as displaying their photo in the adds pushes the organics yet further down the page….


On the other hand, it may increase clickthroughs for organic search results that show author photos and bylines.

Was this the end goal motive behind “authorship” and getting people on it in the first place with carrot on stick phrases like “will be a ranking factor…one day”?


Would it really make sense for Google to come up with an elaborate Authorship scheme just to give a small downward nudge to some (not all) organic results? The more rational explanation is that Google hopes to use Authorship (and, eventually, AuthorRank) to help users and its algorithm separate the wheat from the chaff.

As for the "sponsored review engine," which has been around for a while, it's advertising. And while it may push organic results lower on the page, that's a side effect, not the goal.

rish3




msg:4617083
 3:47 pm on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users..we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.


Funnier if you look up who said it.

martinibuster




msg:4617104
 4:34 pm on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Funnier if you look up who said it.


The founders of Google were cognizant of biases in advertising supported search and of the failures associated with those engines. That statement is from their Stanford paper, here:
http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html [infolab.stanford.edu]

It's an insight into why Google created firewalls between the search and advertising departments. They were aware of the biases and their reaction was to create a development process to avoid the biases.

Nothing funny about that. It's insightful as to the origins of their policy for separating their departments.

Full text of quoted section:
8 Appendix A: Advertising and Mixed Motives
Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users. For example, in our prototype search engine one of the top results for cellular phone is "The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention", a study which explains in great detail the distractions and risk associated with conversing on a cell phone while driving. This search result came up first because of its high importance as judged by the PageRank algorithm, an approximation of citation importance on the web [Page, 98]. It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this type of reason and historical experience with other media [Bagdikian 83], we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.

Since it is very difficult even for experts to evaluate search engines, search engine bias is particularly insidious. A good example was OpenText, which was reported to be selling companies the right to be listed at the top of the search results for particular queries [Marchiori 97]. This type of bias is much more insidious than advertising, because it is not clear who "deserves" to be there, and who is willing to pay money to be listed. This business model resulted in an uproar, and OpenText has ceased to be a viable search engine. But less blatant bias are likely to be tolerated by the market. For example, a search engine could add a small factor to search results from "friendly" companies, and subtract a factor from results from competitors. This type of bias is very difficult to detect but could still have a significant effect on the market. Furthermore, advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results. For example, we noticed a major search engine would not return a large airline's homepage when the airline's name was given as a query. It so happened that the airline had placed an expensive ad, linked to the query that was its name. A better search engine would not have required this ad, and possibly resulted in the loss of the revenue from the airline to the search engine. In general, it could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want. This of course erodes the advertising supported business model of the existing search engines. However, there will always be money from advertisers who want a customer to switch products, or have something that is genuinely new. But we believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.

londrum




msg:4617109
 4:47 pm on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

that paper is very old. a lot of things have happened since then.
it's not about a search engine favouring advertisers anymore, it's about the search engine favouring the search engine's own products.
we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.

in google's mind, putting youtube links and page links (for businesses) at the top of every serps is helping the consumer. they don't see themselves as an advertiser -- but in reality they are. they are advertising their own products

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4617146
 7:01 pm on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Look up any product name and you will not find a non big brand result on any of them. In fact 50% of the page is now google affiliate offers making them the biggest affiliate on the planet. 75% of their page is affiliate offers and ads which would get any of our sites penalized... but not Google.

Solution: Focus on other engines and other sources of traffic, Google is making themselves irrelevant right now.

EditorialGuy




msg:4617148
 7:08 pm on Oct 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

they don't see themselves as an advertiser -- but in reality they are. they are advertising their own products


Yes, and when I go to NYTimes.com, I see headlines, blurbs, and running links for news stories, feature articles, the Opinion section, the Sports section, the Magazine, and so on. You can call that "advertising" if you want. I call it "common sense."

cabbie




msg:4617230
 1:00 am on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

I call it "common sense."

Sure from a business point of view, but when one is looking for unbiased independent quality information, Google might be killing the goose.

indyank




msg:4617275
 6:53 am on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

It won't be appropriate to compare New York Times with Google. While NYT is a news engine with its own editorial (or acquired) content, google is a ranking engine and website owners allow google to crawl and index their content because they expect them to rank without any bias. What google does now is it tries to become a content/knowledge engine by using others content and also places their own properties above them all, literally pushing others down the SERPS.

rish3




msg:4617288
 7:33 am on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Nothing funny about that. It's insightful as to the origins of their policy for separating their departments.


Call it funny, ironic, whatever. Many queries now result in -0- organic results above the fold, even on a 1920x1280 monitor.

I know many of you are tired of the Google bashing, but do a little research. Look at Google's quarterly reports. The numbers make it clear that paid clicks (per X visitors, not just overall) are up in a big way.

Or, extrapolating from the original quote...they are sacrificing quality for revenue. An interdepartmental firewall is useless if the advertising department can just grab everything above the fold. Why manipulate the organic serps if you can just push them to the side (or to the basement, as it were).

martinibuster




msg:4617322
 11:05 am on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

...in google's mind, putting youtube links and page links (for businesses) at the top of every serps is helping the consumer. they don't see themselves as an advertiser -- but in reality they are...


That's a beautiful insight londrum. Google does aspire to be helpful and useful by putting their own sites and repurposed (scraped?) data up top. But indeed they are showing a bias as if to an advertiser, an unpaid advertiser, but an advertising bias nonetheless. And their results can be construed to be biased toward advertising, but not in the way they imagined.

The NYTimes is an editorial content destination. It is expected for them to self-refer to other parts of their site. Google is not an editorial content destination. Google's mission is to organize the Internet to make it easier for the public to find content within it. Two different scenarios. We're all entitled to opinions and it's mine that it's not common sense for Google to self-refer, particularly with content that originally was not it's own.

diberry




msg:4617408
 4:45 pm on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

The NYTimes is an editorial content destination. It is expected for them to self-refer to other parts of their site. Google is not an editorial content destination. Google's mission is to organize the Internet to make it easier for the public to find content within it. Two different scenarios. We're all entitled to opinions and it's mine that it's not common sense for Google to self-refer, particularly with content that originally was not it's own.


Thank you! I was so deeply confused by EditorialGuy's remarks I re-read about 10 earlier posts, looking for the NYT reference I must have missed.

Really, it's not a valid comparison at all, and that's not just a matter of opinion. Google isn't linking to other Google pages the way NYT links to other NYT pages. Google is linking to YouTube and other affiliates/partners that many searchers have no idea belong to Google. When NYT self-refers, it's completely obvious because the logo and all that stays the same. What Google is doing is linking to sites they also own.

Which is the very definition of an "unnatural linking scheme" for which the rest of us might get punished by Google, ironically.

The problem is that Google may have chosen all its partnerships based on how well it expected them to rank in its own algo - and even if they didn't, that argument would be a good defense that's hard to disprove. This is sort of akin to me buying my top competitors out and owning the top five ranking sites for a query - searcher doesn't realize that whichever result he picks, the money all goes to me.

Take heart in this, though. I recently polled a diverse sampling of random people I know, and most reported they scroll right past all the ads unless one really jumps out as The Best Possible Result Ever and go straight for the organic SERPs. I know also that loads of people don't even realize the slightly yellow ad boxes are ads and assume they are organic, but this thing? I think they're going to notice it's an ad.

EditorialGuy




msg:4617461
 7:27 pm on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google's mission is to organize the Internet to make it easier for the public to find content within it.


Google's stated mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible." As much as we might like to believe that Google is supposed to be about "10 blue links," that's never been a limitation imposed by Google's mission statement.

(Mind you, as a user, I'd be happier if I could filter out the "Universal Search" clutter and revert to the Google.com home page of 1998.)

rish3




msg:4617464
 7:39 pm on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

From Google's Philosophy Page, which is an active page right now:


"Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible...we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line. [some omitted] Placement in search results is never sold to anyone, and advertising is not only clearly marked as such, it offers relevant content and is not distracting."

EditorialGuy




msg:4617474
 8:05 pm on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

rish3: "The best user experience possible" is in the eye of the beholder. For those of us who hope to profit from Google traffic, the best user experience would be the traditional "10 blue links" and nothing else. But we aren't Google's target audience.

rish3




msg:4617511
 9:47 pm on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

@EditorialGuy: At least in this thread, my complaints are from my experience as a searcher, not a site owner. As a searcher, it doesn't have to be "10 blue links"...but "1000+ vertical pixels of nothing but ads" isn't going to work either.

EditorialGuy




msg:4617532
 10:58 pm on Oct 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

risk3: Or maybe it does work. Keep in mind that:

1) The "nothing but ads" scenario doesn't happen on most searches--only on some e-commerce searches.

2) For the searcher who is looking to buy something, a cluster of sponsored reviews or Product Search images with prices may be just as useful as the traditional 10 blue organic results.

It's worth noting that, in the heyday of print, people used to buy publications such as COMPUTER SHOPPER that consisted mostly of ads. Free magazines and newspapers (including controlled-circulation publications targeted to specific types of readers) are another precedent for ad-dominated SERPs. For years, surveys have shown that readers of trade and special-interest publications often read those publications "for the ads," so why should commercial SERPs be any different? Maybe searchers will get fed up with ads on SERPs, but that isn't happening yet: Google's 3Q search results show a 12 percent increase of 3Q revenues last year.

rish3




msg:4617548
 12:43 am on Oct 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

My point is that they can't have it both ways. If they want to pimp out every pixel then they should drop all the talk about quality, user experience, etc. Computer shopper wasn't floating a line of bs about making the world a better place.

turbocharged




msg:4617554
 1:15 am on Oct 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google's reported earnings for this quarter were just released today. Earnings in the third quarter of 2013 exceeded that of 2012 by 12%. In the press release, Larry Page stated "We are closing in on our goal of a beautiful, simple, and intuitive experience regardless of your device."

Google also stated:

"Aggregate paid clicks, which include clicks related to ads served on Google sites and the sites of our Network members, increased approximately 26% over the third quarter of 2012 and increased approximately 8% over the second quarter of 2013."

The increase in paid clicks is consistent with a shift away from sharing revenues with publishers by serving more ads in the search results. If you look at the number of complaints in this thread [webmasterworld.com], you can come to your own conclusion as to how publishers are benefiting from Google's growth.

The internet is simply not growing as fast as Google's profits, nor is Google acquiring highly profitable companies to keep pace with their double digit growth. To accomplish this, Google must use more of its real estate and leverage this real estate to promote their other products, services and companies. It's pretty clear this is exactly what they are doing.

EditorialGuy




msg:4617558
 1:41 am on Oct 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you look at the number of complaints in this thread [webmasterworld.com], you can come to your own conclusion as to how publishers are benefiting from Google's growth.


Did anyone here suggest that publishers are benefiting from Google's growth?

Google must use more of its real estate and leverage this real estate to promote their other products, services and companies. It's pretty clear this is exactly what they are doing.


Maybe, but so what? You can tilt at windmills, or you can focus on the real world. Complaining that Google isn't subsidizing publishers and e-commerce businesses by forgoing revenue opportunities won't pay the grocery bills.

rish3




msg:4617574
 2:17 am on Oct 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

@turbocharged:
The increase in paid clicks is consistent with a shift away from sharing revenues with publishers ...


The increase in paid clicks of 26% vs the same quarter in 2012, INCLUDES both paid clicks on Google and the publishers. I agree shifts may have occured, but the 26% is growth of ALL clicks.

Personally, I think two things are driving that:

a) The more aggressive ads, as we've talked to death already.

b) The lower quality of organic results. If the organic results don't meet searcher's needs...they will click an ad.

@EditorialGuy:
You can tilt at windmills, or you can focus on the real world...


This is the "Google SEO" section of WebmasterWorld. Google's increasingly aggressive revenue grabs at the expense of organic results and quality is going to be a hot topic.

What you see as pointless complaining, others may see as an attempt to open eyes and ears to what's happening, hear what others think about the topic, etc.

turbocharged




msg:4617581
 3:13 am on Oct 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Those who predominately market information online are somewhat removed from the full effects of how Google has limited organic real estate for those who sell physical goods and services. Information queries are a much tougher nut for Google to crack then products or physical services, and I understand some will remain in their bubble until Google finds a way to pop it. Therefore I am not offended by remarks such as "focus on the real world." The real world, for legitimate businesses anyways, involves the sale of goods and services. The consumption of these goods and services drives 2/3 of our economy in the USA, at least according to what leading economists say.

To compete with the carousel, paid ads, Google shopping blocks, image blocks, YouTube videos, etc., one is *almost* forced to join Adwords for many search terms to appear above the fold. Throw in the Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia factors and the almost can be removed from my previous statement and replaced by *must* if they want any type of visibility on the first page of the search results in Google.

For small businesses, who also manufacture products and sell services, there is not much viewable real estate in Google to be found on. This is not a myth, but a fact. I could go on about how this limited organic real estate is dominated by Google's partners in the Internet Association, but that would stray away from the real issue - an increasingly pay to play environment for even moderate visibility in Google search.

rish3




msg:4617588
 3:39 am on Oct 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well said @turbocharged.

As it progresses, Google basically turns into what AOL once was.

EditorialGuy




msg:4617679
 2:32 pm on Oct 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

To compete with the carousel, paid ads, Google shopping blocks, image blocks, YouTube videos, etc., one is *almost* forced to join Adwords for many search terms to appear above the fold.


That depends on the search query. Some queries spawn a great many ads, but not all do.

Still, that's really beside the point. From a searcher's point of view, does it matter if a search for "blue widget" yields organic or paid results? Just the other day, I was searching for a [kitchenware item], and I saw a Product Search box that featured pictures of the [kitchenware item] with prices and retailer names underneath. If I were a typical user, would it matter to me that the Product Search box was higher on the page than the organic results? The search was an attempt to find the [kitchenware item], not to locate a Web site.

So yes, it may be true that Google is reducing the visibility of organic results for commercial searches (just as it is for information searches with maps, carousels, local results, YouTube videos, and so on). But if users are finding what they want more quickly, thanks to features like Product Search and a "sponsored review engine," is that damaging the user experience?

The real world, for legitimate businesses anyways, involves the sale of goods and services. The consumption of these goods and services drives 2/3 of our economy in the USA, at least according to what leading economists say.


Yes, and historically, most of those businesses have advertised--using newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio, TV, Yellow Pages, handouts, and (in more recent years) online ads. Is it unrealistic to think that search engines, like other media, would want to earn money from the impressions and leads they deliver?

This 37 message thread spans 2 pages: 37 ( [1] 2 > >
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