londrum - 6:25 pm on Nov 3, 2010 (gmt 0)
There's no evidence that Google allows advertisers to distort the organic rankings.
that's only half true. there's one advertiser that definitely does influence the serps -- google. they place all their own stuff at the top.
i think the guardian has a point, sort of. its easy for us webmasters to see all the AdWords and place pins for what they really are. but does the average user? i'm not sure that he distinguishes between ads, place pins and the serps. if it doesn't look like the normal serps then, to him, its an ad.
if you look at the new map pins that have been appearing in the serps, for example, can we really expect the average user to tell which is an ad and which is not? the ads have got a coloured background, sure, so thats an ad, but the new place things have got a big red pin and telephone numbers and golden stars next to them, and they're not ads? they stand out more than the ads! to all the little mums in their kitchens emailing their kids, they dont distinguish between the two. its all just ads ads ads.
for most terms these days the AdWords on the page actually outnumber the serps. a quick search for "new york hotel" will turn up 10 sites... and 11 Adwords. and that's not even including the 18 links to google's own place pages (which are more ads, for google) ON TOP of the serps. if you include the review links as well, then a user has to scroll past 3 TIMES the number of links contained in the entire serps, before he even gets to see the first one.
that is spammy.
imagine if i asked you to devote the top half of every page on your site to ads, would you do it? you'd think i was daft. but that is what google are doing.