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|Google's Blended Ads Bump SERPS down, ads CTR up 20% last quarter|
It seems that Google's blended adverts, where its adverts at the top of the SERPs are less disinguishable from genuine SERPs, have paid off for Google.
Apparently they've boosted clickthroughs by 20%. The problem for webmasters is that Google's adverts are now crowding out genuine SERPs from the page. A simple check on a term link 'hosting' shows only four genuine results. The top results are Google adverts and there's also a right hand sidebar of adverts. The top genuine result is a link from Wikipedia.
So how are webmasters and SEOs going to compete with this now that Google has become yet another competitor?
|I don't think Google's search engineers or product managers are going to lose sleep over the possibility that shoppers might be just as happy with ads as with SEO-influenced "organic" results for commercial queries. |
I agree but they might well lose sleep if those shoppers are clicking ads that don't give them what they want, just like they would be when clicking "SEO-influenced organic results". Which is why the art of influential SEO is - quite rightly - becoming less effective.
I guess what I am saying is that it is a balancing act that Google have to perform.
|So ads are now results? Or are you just confused about the difference between searching the Internet and searching an ad database? |
Yes (sometimes), and no, I'm not.
|I still don't understand why when I do a search for a commercial product (say a smart phone), that a good 6/8ths of the screen is taken up by ads, but Google penalise us (rightly so) for doing the same. |
That's on a par with:
"How come you and Mommy get to stay up late when I don't?"
You get to make the rules for what you feature on your Web site.
Google get to make the rules for what it features in its search results.
No amount of kvetching is going to change that.
The idea that de-emphasizing search results (by flooding the page with ads and KG's) is a deliberate strategy to reduce the effectiveness of (and rewards associated with) SEO campaigns, is an interesting one. Even if it's just a byproduct of Google wanting to get more ads on the page (and thus earn more revenue), there's an interesting cause and effect relationship going on here.
Is this a move to push certain niches out of the SERPs and into the ad space? Makes perfect sense. netmeg mentions trying to get a varied presence on such results pages (ads, listings, images, etc). It's not a great leap to think that if commercial site's can't get a good ranking (or can't compete with the paying advertisers) that they'll opt to buy into the ad space which, IMO, is exactly where they belong. Is this actually the beginning of a separation of Church and State as it were? An attempt to separate commerce and information and thereby remove some of the reasons webmasters try to manipulate the results for hot queries? I know it doesn't look like it at the moment but could that be where this is headed?
|"I want to be the first ad, the first organic, and 3 or 4 of the shopping results. Doesn't hurt to have a video and some images there too. Yep, it costs a little money, but not a lot - and it's worth it." |
This is probably the best advice I have read in the last several years on any forum anywhere.
|This is probably the best advice I have read in the last several years on any forum anywhere. |
|"How come you and Mommy get to stay up late when I don't?" |
Not really. Children need to go to bed earlier because they need more sleep.
Also, Matt Cutts himself said that pages with lots of ads are to the detriment of the viewer. They'd had lots of complaints.
|It's not a great leap to think that if commercial site's can't get a good ranking (or can't compete with the paying advertisers) that they'll opt to buy into the ad space which, IMO, is exactly where they belong. Is this actually the beginning of a separation of Church and State as it were? An attempt to separate commerce and information and thereby remove some of the reasons webmasters try to manipulate the results for hot queries? I know it doesn't look like it at the moment but could that be where this is headed? |
Are you talking about two different browsers/a separate tab? So you have the option to click on say a "commercial" tab when you do your search and only see listings for business? I actually wouldn't mind that.
I guess if you search for "android phone" you are going to see sales based listings, if you search for "weaning a baby" you will see information articles, there's the gray areas such as "dog vaccinations" which would show both business and information listings, which would be hard to work.
|Is this actually the beginning of a separation of Church and State as it were? An attempt to separate commerce and information and thereby remove some of the reasons webmasters try to manipulate the results for hot queries? I know it doesn't look like it at the moment but could that be where this is headed? |
The notion of "informational," "transactional," and "nagivational" search queries certainly isn't new, and there's no reason why each type of SERP couldn't evolve in a different direction.
I'd guess that one inhibiting factor (at least for the present) is the difficulty or at least the unreliability of judging user intent.
There is a sort of separation in place right now and it's most obvious with commercial results. The more the query implies that the user might be looking to buy something, the more abundant the ads, generally speaking. This seems to also be the case with information except that you get more KGs on the page. With both ads and KG's, there is an available inventory. Google will work to grow both it's ad inventory and it's KG inventory in the future, that should be pretty obvious. It's really a matter of how they deploy that inventory that involves balancing what they want with what searchers want.
I don't see any serious growth limitations where it's KG inventory is concerned but we know that ad sales can be a bit trickier. Right now they're putting ads in the most competitive spots to give advertisers the best bang for their buck and that's competing with the free advertising people have relied on in the SERPs. It may just be Google's way of saying, "the free ride is over." At least where some highly-competitive commercial queries are concerned.
So, where's the tipping point? I guess were gonna find out eventually. When does a surfer say, I was searching for information, not ads, and come to the conclusion that Google doesn't know how to answer their question anymore? Or when does a user say, I want to buy something so I'll search Google's ad-base, otherwise, I'll use some other search engine?
Google may be pushing itself into a corner where it will eventually have to isolate informational results from the commercial space or risk loosing its credibility as an informational search engine and wind up loosing that traffic to a competitor.
So, is the lack of advertising where certain queries are concerned more a lack of inventory, or a deliberate attempt to treat information results in a different way?
|So, is the lack of advertising where certain queries are concerned more a lack of inventory, or a deliberate attempt to treat information results in a different way? |
Maybe a bit of both.
On Google's SERPs, ads tend to more relevant, overall, than AdSense ads on third-party sites. To me, this suggests that Google is willing to forego ads on its SERPs when relevant inventory is in short supply. (This is partly by design: Google doesn't run CPM display ads on its SERPs. I'd guess that Google doesn't run ads from third-party ad networks on its SERPs, either.)
Even on informational SERPs, ads can be relevant and useful. Let's say that John Doe is searching for advice on how to reach Washington, D.C. from Dulles Airport. He searches on "Dulles ground transportation to D.C." or something similar. On the resulting SERP, there will be plenty of listings for articles on how to use public transportation, hire taxis, etc., but there may also be a handful of ads for shuttle services. If John Doe sees an ad for "Dulles to your D.C. hotel," he may well click on the ad, even if he wasn't in "transactional" mode when he began the search. (IMHO, this is a perfect example of how Google envisioned AdWords back in the day: It's an ad that solves a problem or answers a query for the user.)
Yes, and to the average, fairly clueless searcher, they have been for a long time. Have you ever talked to non-techie friends or family? They just type in whatever keyword and then click on whatever comes up first, whether it is an ad or organic. They don't know the difference and they don't care.
|Yes, and to the average, fairly clueless searcher, they have been for a long time. |
Sure, and it isn't just clueless searchers. When I needed a [small household appliance], the Product Search listings came in handy. I knew what I wanted to buy, and I wanted to buy it as quickly and with as little fuss as possible, so the Product Search ads worked just fine.
In 1997-2010/2012 the USER was conditioned to avoid ads because they were very spammy. Google has worked hard to condition new users and recondition older users into viewing ads as more relevant, thanks in large part to being laser targeted! But also thanks to organic results becoming more generic, more blended (as this thread points out) with less relevance, whether by design to improve ad CTR or accidental fault the organic results are NOT as targeted as ads for commercial queries in 2014!
Before 2012 if a user searched for say "builder in Birmingham" they were presented with a list of local building companies both ads and most organics. In 2014 they are presented with relevant ads still but a selection of directories and lead generating sites thanks to domain authority! The user now has to search Google then search an intermediate curated site to reach the results, why would they want to go through a funded by adSense directory when SERP ads are so perfect?
Letís all be honest, service and ecom queries have all but had their day, this isn't going to be rolled back and organic traffic for these queries will only continue to eroded.
Look to build traffic outside of Google while your on life support and if you CANT itís time to seriously consider a future career change!
I have been telling my clients for a while to diversify, use AdWords and BUILD a client base while they still can!
Once commercial queries are completely drained information queries will also be hit and hit hard by an expanding/one day all inclusive knowledge graph. If you think you are immune to Googles desire to keep users on their property because you supply an opinion rather than a product or service then youíre in the same denial those of us were in the service area a few years back!
The writing is on the wall for all of us, some just have a little more time than others but Google will come knocking sooner or later, don't get ready, be ready ;)
Given the steady flow of threads in this board along the lines of...
"Help! Sudden drop in traffic on [pick a date]!"
It's hard to ague with CaptainSalad2's assessment/projections. Seems like we're witnessing a steady progressive march in exactly that direction. Perhaps MC's absence at the helm these days is a simple statement that there's nothing left to say on the subject of SEO that hasn't already been said or will make any difference. If you're Google and you want to be done with spending vast amounts of efforts defending your results against those who would constantly work to manipulate them, what better way than to make them irrelevant and replace them with something more within their control (and more lucrative). Get out your checkbooks because I do think the time has come to pay the fiddler that's been keeping this "dance" going all these years.
|If you're Google and you want to be done with spending vast amounts of efforts defending your results against those who would constantly work to manipulate them, what better way than to make them irrelevant and replace them with something more within their control (and more lucrative). |
The Goose with the Golden Egg comes to mind.
Well, when everyone in town knows you have such a Goose, you only need to parade it down main street occasionally to keep people's attention. For the most part you can keep it in the barn and hoard the eggs. People will still know you as the cat with the Golden Goose. Perceptions are hard to change when a myth has been established. But I digress.
I do believe that paid advertising is going to become essential in many niches (or already is) but I do wonder where this leaves informational sites and those primarily offering free services.
There's a bit of a tightrope walk to consider if you're using advertising to drive traffic to a site that is primarily funded by Adsense for example. It's not impossible but it requires a different mentality where landing pages for such sites are concerned (at least for those who aren't used to working that way). If I go any farther down this trail though, we'll be discussing advertising theory and not SEO so I'll stop....
Of course, if ads are really just search results now then perhaps optimizing to take advantage in the ad section is fair game as well. After all, there's more to advertising than just paying the fee. And apparently there's more to SEO than just getting ranked well in the listings.
|I do believe that paid advertising is going to become essential in many niches (or already is) but I do wonder where this leaves informational sites and those primarily offering free services. |
It just might leave them better off, especially if Google stops polluting results for informational queries with commercial results.
|I do wonder where this leaves informational sites and those primarily offering free services |
I suspect it leaves them feeling like they escaped something, and that things like the Knowledge Graph aren't a threat.
Here's a recent quote from John Mueller that sheds a little light on that. He's responding to a question about a KG result that clearly shows the source of the information (i.e., it's "branded")
|That is the first one Iíve seen where it is obviously branded like this, and that is something we need to watch out for. That it doesnít turn out to an advertisement for a web site but rather that it brings more information to the search results about this general topic. |
I read that like this: "Oh, wow, yeah, we need to scrub out the source of that info we scraped, lest it entice someone to actually visit the source".
|It just might leave them better off, especially if Google stops polluting results for informational queries with commercial results. |
This is becoming one of my mantras.
I'm just glad to know things aren't really moving to a "pay to play" system -- I know, I know. Us "silly people" who think organic traffic is dwindling and people are going to be more and more distracted by the "shiny stuff" at the top of the page are just delusional, so really, no need to remind me. -- I'm sure there's no way the new AdWords site links with free clicks are going to take a bit more away from organic clicks and move those clicks to advertisers instead, right?
Hard to think that Google used to be a search engine once.
Seems the last quarters 20% increase in CTR wasn't enough :)
Joking aside they seem to be pushing harder much faster that I expected!
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