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Google's Blended Ads Bump SERPS down, ads CTR up 20% last quarter
jmccormac




msg:4688432
 1:06 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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.
[venturebeat.com...]

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?

Regards...jmcc

 

webcentric




msg:4688491
 5:14 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Ads and knowledge graphs both take up page space and push the actual results out of view so it's really a simple page real estate issue. I see it changing all the time (depending on the query and whatever they're testing/rolling out at the moment). One thing I know, for the first time ever in my experience, Bing is sending more traffic than Google. Bing uses up a lot of page real estate too with graphs and other stuff so something else is afoot where the quality of G's SERPS is concerned in relation to my main site. So can't really tell if ads and KG's are the problem or if G's algo is just off it's rocker. OK, the second part of that I'm actually fairly certain of.

[edited by: webcentric at 5:16 pm (utc) on Jul 17, 2014]

Rasputin




msg:4688495
 5:15 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

We have one popular search term that we are no. 2 for, after wikipedia.
There are now a variety of ads, knowledge graph ( using one of our images), points of interest, images and a map above our site.
So you have to scroll well below the fold to find us, but in fact our visitors from the term have not changed very much over the last couple of years.

I can only conclude that a lot of people now scroll straight past all the 'google stuff' including ads disguised as content to find the real results.

But our term is much less competitive than 'hosting' and the ads probably less targeted, so 'hotel in keyword' above us will be less eye-catching than 'cheap hosting' ads will be to someone looking for hosting.

All that said, the answer for webmasters is probably in long tail searches where ads and knowledge graph etc are less prominent...for now

jmccormac




msg:4688515
 5:51 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

It is really going to affect any SEO being done for high value keywords. Google seems to be taking SEO out of the equation for those and trying to convert them into Adwords opportunities. I'm not sure about people scrolling past the adverts though.

Regards...jmcc

CaptainSalad2




msg:4688530
 6:41 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

All I know is my "tradesmen" clients now need to be number #1 on page else they get ZERO calls per week since the new change! Page one anywhere used to result in some calls but even number one (below yell of course) is yielding very few calls now!

As for ads, I made an interesting observation by watching my 3 girl’s surf the other day (age 7, 10, 13) they ALWAYS clicked on the first ad result! When I asked them why they did this they said Google returned the most relevant result first and didn't realise the result was there because they paid to be!

To sum up my web savvy children believe what google ranks first to be the most relevant result ad or otherwise! To be fair the ads are more relevant than the organics since 2012 IMO so im not surprised!

EditorialGuy




msg:4688535
 6:52 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

So how are webmasters and SEOs going to compete with this now that Google has become yet another competitor?


Our Google organic traffic has more than doubled since Panda 4.0 was released, so if the sky is falling, it isn't falling everywhere.

jmccormac




msg:4688549
 7:33 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

To sum up my web savvy children believe what google ranks first to be the most relevant result ad or otherwise! To be fair the ads are more relevant than the organics since 2012 IMO so im not surprised!
Interesting. This would seem to indicate that Google has, for people outside the web business, gone Pay For Position on high value keywords and Adwords are the only nearly guaranteed way into that section of the SERPs.

Regards...jmcc

webcentric




msg:4688560
 8:11 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Our Google organic traffic has more than doubled since Panda 4.0 was released, so if the sky is falling, it isn't falling everywhere.


Before this conversation devolves into another locked thread, can we just all agree that there are different perspectives based on how well particular websites are fairing in the SERPs. If you're doing well, great, but claiming there isn't a problem because you're not experiencing it is just plain distracting, if not a bit passive-aggressive. And who's talking about Panda? Staying on point is an editorial fundamental, isn't it?

Analyzing your position in the SERPs these days, seems to be about more than where you land in the list. If the list is pushed off the page, that could very well impact your traffic numbers. Oh, and we already know that ads at the top of the page are quite productive. If Google was an Adsense publisher, it would probably have to ban itself for practices it doesn't allow Adsense publishers to use. All the same, that's their prerogative, but we know that pushing content below the fold (with ads) on our own sites can be good for revenue but detrimental to engagement, generally speaking. It would follow that the same is true with the SERPs. Scrolling sucks, we all know it and Google knows it. Ads in the SERPs are starting to look so much like the results themselves I'm beginning to wonder if G will just start mixing 'em right into the results.

Another thing I've noticed over time. When you have a page that displays various sets of dynamic data based on the query, resulting in many different pages of content all from the same data access routines, it can be very fruitful to place advertising in different places on each page (killing ad blindness by moving ads around depending on the content being shown). That's what's happening with the SERPs. Every query seamingly produces a different variation of a results page. KG's here, images there, Ad blocks in various locations. It's a form of trickery when the ads look almost like the results and you never know if they're gonna be at the top, the bottom, both or whatever. They're forcing people to have to look harder for the stuff we want them to see.

EditorialGuy




msg:4688572
 8:42 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

If you're doing well, great, but claiming there isn't a problem because you're not experiencing it is just plain distracting, if not a bit passive-aggressive.


I'm not claiming "there isn't a problem," I'm simply pointing out that the problem isn't universal, and the sky isn't falling just because hail landed in your back yard.

If searchers are clicking on ads instead of on your organic results, then maybe you need to think less about SEO and more about writing compelling page titles, descriptions, and content.

If nobody looks at your pages because of the Knowledge Graph, then maybe you need to offer more in-depth information than Google's "answer boxes" do. Target people who read, not people who want bite-size answers.

Google is still a search engine, and if you can offer a genuine "value add" that goes beyond Google's ads and answer boxes, you'll continue to get organic search traffic.

webcentric




msg:4688576
 8:59 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

We can dance around the point all you want but you're not addressing the visual nature of this topic (other than to say I should make an interesting page title and description, just like the guy who made an interesting title and description for his ad which looks almost exactly like my listing). This is a matter of blurring the lines between advertising, disrupting the consistency of the page layout to deliberately confuse people about what's an ad and what's a link to content. All Google needs to do is start creating mixed-content ads and you won't be able to distinguish them from a KG. The blurring of content types on the page is real, it has an effect on how people use the page, just as sure as people think a link in the number one position is probably the best. Question is, can they find the block of results on the page before being distracted by flashy KGs, tricked with ad blocks that look almost the same as the results, etc? Your catchy title is no good if nobody notices it because it's been purposefully de-emphasized on the page. This can have almost as dramatic an effect (I suggest) on a website's traffic as getting moved to page two can have. Yes, your message is important, but it's not very useful if people have a hard time finding it.

I'm starting to see more and more clicks from page two or greater results these days and I'm wondering if, after clicking on a couple of ads, people get frustrated with the first page and move to the next, which is usually far less populated with crap.

Simsi




msg:4688586
 9:52 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

If you're doing well, great, but claiming there isn't a problem because you're not experiencing it is just plain distracting, if not a bit passive-aggressive


I didn't think he was claiming that there wasn't a problem but anyway, I like to see people doing well chime in and I don't think they should be put off from posting. In fact, they can add far more useful experiences as a conversation develops than those who aren't doing well IMO.

Back on topic, I agree with Rasputin: the answer is in the long tail where, in my niche, you obviously get less clicks but they are way more targeted. This is where genuinely good content pays off...I don't think generic content will work as well on these queries mind you.

webcentric




msg:4688599
 10:15 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

I believe this thread is about the position of the actual results on the page, number of results shown and the effects of Google competing for the user's attention on the page. When the results are essentially a moving section of content on a page filled with all kinds of other content, there's another level of competition in play. You're competing to get into the results (as usual) but you're also competing against things that are not results (but look an awful lot like results).

I'd turn all my links in the SERPS to Fire-engine Red if I could but hey, I can't control the CSS any more that I can control what shows up in the title or description it seems. So maybe there's no answer about how to compete with other on-page widgets/ads/KGs or whatever other than to make sure you make it on to the page which is a different discussion IMO. Whether you make it on to the page or not, the volume of distraction on the page could very well cost you a click but I'm almost thinking it could get easier to get a click with a number 11 position in the near future than with a number one. Chances of being at the top of page two seem better than with page one when page one is half filled with stuff and only has four results. Some day people might get the idea they need to go to page two, just to find the results.

EditorialGuy




msg:4688600
 10:18 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Question is, can they find the block of results on the page before being distracted by flashy KGs, tricked with ad blocks that look almost the same as the results, etc? Your catchy title is no good if nobody notices it because it's been purposefully de-emphasized on the page.


A better question is, "What are you going to do about it?" You can complain endlessly and pointlessly about having to compete with Google, or you can take a more productive approach.

JD_Toims




msg:4688602
 10:41 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Qestion is, can they find the block of results on the page before being distracted by flashy KGs, tricked with ad blocks that look almost the same as the results, etc?

A better question is, "What are you going to do about it?"

If the question in the first quote isn't answered, how can someone decide on the best method to "do something" about it?

People not finding the results because they're "distracted by all the shiny stuff", would reasonably/logically mean the approach to a solution should be different than if people consistently "ignore the noise and find the organics" on the first page.

You can complain endlessly and pointlessly about having to compete with Google, or you can take a more productive approach.

Not sure I see anyone complaining myself -- What I see are "base questions", facts, and "thoughts about the future of organics" which need to be explored prior to determining the best long-term solution to attempt to implement.

Saying to "do something more productive", like better titles and descriptions isn't really "more productive" if the organics aren't noticed or the onsite title/description change is not presented in the results -- It's actually much more productive to do something that has an impact on traffic in some way than it is to spend time on elements that either aren't shown in the results by the algo or aren't seen by visitors since they're distracted by "shiny things" at the top, imo, so answering the first question is key to knowing "what's more/most productive" to work on.

[edited by: JD_Toims at 10:51 pm (utc) on Jul 17, 2014]

webcentric




msg:4688603
 10:48 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

A better question is, "What are you going to do about it?" You can complain endlessly and pointlessly about having to compete with Google, or you can take a more productive approach.


Yes that is the question. You mistake my analysis of a defined problem with complaining. The first step in problem solving is identifying the problem. There may be no solution to it. On the other hand...

All that said, the answer for webmasters is probably in long tail searches where ads and knowledge graph etc are less prominent...for now


Targeting less competitive, less commercial queries could have an effect on how much junk gets shown on the page (less ads, fewer KG's, etc) thereby raising the effectiveness of your SERP position. Also targeting topics that don't inspire G to put image and video results in the SERPs. That's a strategy that attempts to address the specific problem in the short term (if you agree that there's a problem).

Added: Thanks JD. You posted while I was writing this.

netmeg




msg:4688611
 11:28 pm on Jul 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

I don't run into the dwindling real estate issue so much for my own niche sites, but for clients, I PWN the space. 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.

That's how I do it.

jmccormac




msg:4688692
 5:35 am on Jul 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

This is a very important issue for those targeting high value keywords in SEO. It is an immediate problem because it effectively turns Google from a fair, and relatively neutral, search engine into a competitor in the SERPs screenspace for high value keywords. And Google effectively rigs the game by pushing genuine SERPs down the page. Doing well in Google? Good for you. This issue doesn't affect your site. This is an issue for anyone who has based their business on high value keywords rather than long tail keywords. The problem has been identified but the extent is still in question.

Regards...jmcc

jmccormac




msg:4688693
 5:47 am on Jul 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

I believe this thread is about the position of the actual results on the page, number of results shown and the effects of Google competing for the user's attention on the page. When the results are essentially a moving section of content on a page filled with all kinds of other content, there's another level of competition in play. You're competing to get into the results (as usual) but you're also competing against things that are not results (but look an awful lot like results).
A good summary. The organic SERPs have effectively lost screenspace to Google's adverts and these adverts are blended to look like SERPs. For those targeting high value keywords (HVK), it isn't the Sunshine and Lollipops scenario that some might think. Positioning has become more Adwords driven over the years. This near exclusion of organic results is making things worse and more expensive. It has fundamentally changed SEO for these HVKs.

So maybe there's no answer about how to compete with other on-page widgets/ads/KGs or whatever other than to make sure you make it on to the page which is a different discussion IMO.
Perhaps a shift from high value keywords towards search phrase might help?

Some day people might get the idea they need to go to page two, just to find the results.
By that stage, Google's shares will have tanked and Bing will be the dominant search engine. :)

Regards...jmcc

jmccormac




msg:4688694
 5:57 am on Jul 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

A better question is, "What are you going to do about it?" You can complain endlessly and pointlessly about having to compete with Google, or you can take a more productive approach.
The problem has been identified. Organic results are being bumped out of the top screenspace on Google SERPs in favour of Google adverts and widgets to such an extent that there seems to be only a few spaces (~3)for organic results on high value keyword searches. We are trying figure out possible solutions to that identified problem. We don't know the extent of the problem yet. The question about how SEOs and webmasters will deal with this problem is right there in the opening post. So your site(s) is(are) doing well in Google. Now can you please start contributing ideas and insight to the thread?

Regards...jmcc

[edited by: jmccormac at 7:07 am (utc) on Jul 18, 2014]

jmccormac




msg:4688696
 6:01 am on Jul 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

I don't run into the dwindling real estate issue so much for my own niche sites, but for clients, I PWN the space. 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.
Are any of your own niche sites, or those of your clients, targeting high value keyword searches? Do people search for sites within your sites' niches using, (and I realise that this will be based on historical data since Google started blocking the keyword data from referrals), phrases or keywords?

Regards...jmcc

netmeg




msg:4688865
 12:25 pm on Jul 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

Yes, of course.

CaptainSalad2




msg:4688882
 2:06 pm on Jul 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

it's great that eg is having so much success and is happy to share it :)

But I think the truth is no matter how much you tweak the title tag if you are in a commercial niche you have increasing competition from more blended ads and this is only going to get worse!

As a publicly traded company g will have to improve the next quarter over the last so expect things to continue, expect them to test more to improve as CRT!

I predict the ad symbol to reduce a px every few months? I also wonder if all the star ratings will be removed from organics while maintained in ppc? It's a sliding scale until organics are phased out of commercial queries altogether, it's just done slowly so the lobster doesn't realise it's being cooked, weaning the user away from organics and onto ads?

EditorialGuy




msg:4688894
 3:09 pm on Jul 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

It's a sliding scale until organics are phased out of commercial queries altogether, it's just done slowly so the lobster doesn't realise it's being cooked, weaning the user away from organics and onto ads?


I remember seeing a study a while back that said the vast majority of searchers click on Google's organic results, not on ads. The fact that so many Webmaster World members complain about being outranked by Amazon and other large vendors would suggest that there's still plenty of value in organic listings for commercial sites.

Still, if Google can make the paid results more useful (as in the case of Google Shopping, for instance), that will be a "win win win" for Google, its users, and its advertisers.

Simsi




msg:4688968
 8:54 pm on Jul 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

The problem Google has is that the adwords advertisers don't necessarily have the best sites. It's all well and good having ad placements at the top of SERPS but Google needs users to find results that give them what they are looking for if they want to stay ahead.

On this basis, the more sites that do adwords the more likely this will be achieved so, over time, the less likely organic sites will get the clicks. So to use CaptainSalad's analogy, it's more that the lobsters are cooking each other :p

EditorialGuy




msg:4689010
 12:11 am on Jul 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

The problem Google has is that the adwords advertisers don't necessarily have the best sites


On the other hand, if people are looking to buy widgets, they aren't necessarily looking for the best sites: They're looking for the best price, the lowest shipping fees, whether the products are in stock, etc. (things that an information-oriented algorithm isn't very good at divining). For "transactional" queries, ads may well provide better results than organic search does.

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.

breeks




msg:4689036
 2:09 am on Jul 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google search is greedy, Yahoo search is desperate. Some searches on Yahoo you have to scroll down two pages to get organic results.

Saffron




msg:4689046
 3:51 am on Jul 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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.

Right now I see three links, then on the right hand side I see the google shop thing, and only two organic results above the fold.

I know google bashing is frowned upon, but it just seems to hypocritical.

JD_Toims




msg:4689068
 6:53 am on Jul 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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.

Just do as Google says, not as Google does and you'll be fine...

I know google bashing is frowned upon, but it just seems to hypocritical.

Please don't go confusing people with reality -- When people do things such as stating facts about what ranks v. Google's SERPs it really takes away from what the adamant Google supporters preach as a solution to what they seem to think is only a "perceived problem" many have that really doesn't exist except in the eye(s) and mind(s) of anyone who doesn't agree with their statements, likely imo, either because they haven't been affected yet, or they just want to argue with reality, so better to just leave it alone, imo.

Bottom Line: Forget about the results Google shows and how those results violate their own terms and algos. Simply making your titles and descriptions more compelling will fix all your issues; according to some [not me] at least...

-- Never mind the fact descriptions don't even count in Google's algo any more and both titles and descriptions are changed in the SERPs on an algorithmic whim; simply make them both more compelling and you'll overcome anything Google's algo throws at you [according to some], because that's what the "smart people" do, even though the traffic increase at least one of the "smart people" has seen after Panda 4.0 is nearly 100%, yet somehow their Google traffic is easily seen/known to still be lower than the pre-panda Google traffic they had when people who read their posts simply think and do some simple math.

<aside>
Oh how I wish people would quit telling half the story simply to be contrary and argumentative.
</aside>

Good luck to you Saffron.
Hope you understand my statements and position.

<BestPersonalAdviceForRanking>
Ignore what people say and go grey.
</BestPersonalAdviceForRanking>

EditorialGuy




msg:4689116
 2:29 pm on Jul 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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.


Maybe because Google Search is a search engine, and it wants its users to be happy with the results that it provides?

Still, there's nothing to keep you from penalizing Google if you feel that the people who conduct 1.2 trillion searches on Google each year are being shortchanged.

webcentric




msg:4689148
 5:13 pm on Jul 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

Maybe because Google Search is a search engine, and it wants its users to be happy with the results that it provides?


So ads are now results? Or are you just confused about the difference between searching the Internet and searching an ad database? If you want to conduct an argument for or against something, it's helpful if you actually draw some distinctions between things that are obviously not the same (even if Google wants to make them look the same).

I do my part where "penalizing" Google is concerned (it's no longer my default SE). I've also informed a number friends, family, acquaintances, about the situation and many of them now use other search engines rather than going to Google. How much of that will it take until only people who want to search ads are using Google and do you think that number will represent trillions of searches? If so, great for Google. But if not, they're going to take notice and do what they have to do to stay viable as a search engine. They're looking for a balance but while they're doing it, it's costing them the loyalty of some long-time users. That's a fact.

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