Sgt_Kickaxe - 8:26 am on Oct 3, 2010 (gmt 0)
Google's interest are the users, not webmasters.
Users are a means to an end and that end is money to improve it's position on wall street.
Of all the things I've seen this looks like it's probably related to how likely to buy a visitor is. During Mayday some sites that lost 5-15% traffic lost 50-60% income which suggests they were not sent the same caliber of traffic, which implies serps are manipulated at least in part by how likely a visitor is to be looking to buy something.
We're seeing more affiliate offers next to a picture under a "shopping results" section of google results for a reason. It's obviously managing to show the right things to the right people, which includes not showing to the wrong people which then trickle down to our sites.
Of course I could be wrong :-)
If I'm not wrong however, how would we take back our earnings from such a setup?