Str82u - 6:16 pm on Apr 17, 2013 (gmt 0)
not sure this makes sense to me; they target ads directly to begin with (like AFS). Reducing the number of useful sites above the fold doesn't really change user behaviour (if they're gonna click ads they're gonna click ads). It might be a more plausible conspiracy to say that sites with a good title tag would be demoted to prevent users from seeing them and not clicking ads... What would affect the ad CTR on a SERP most? TITLEs that stand out? For that matter, if they were trying to get more clicks they'd stop using the rich-snippets because rating stars can draw the eye pretty good I think; the ads themselves don't look as "dressed up" as the organics can be.
tweaking the algo to manipulate ads
@diberry - Google is probably as guilty as the average, ad placements target certain people's behaviour and are by nature deceptive to a degree depending on who's ad it is.
@ColourOfSpring - way up there it sounds like you're reinforcing a belief I have that Google dot com is a website too with webmasters who are trying to compete, maybe maximize their on-page CTR without losing all the visitors.
To elaborate: Someone else mentioned the different "divisions" at G and that someone has to be overseeing them who is "the one" who engineers the final SERP. If "little joe" webmaster has a few people doing website stuff and they only have a general idea of the other person's area of responsibility, then "joe" puts their parts together with his and each feels they created something. Is that any different than G, as a really basic analogy?
YES, they have a ton of workers at G but in the end, it's a website with a webmaster(s). They don't compete the same but haven't you (any you will do) ever thought "why'd they do that?" or "What are they using for...?" and looked at their source code? Or look for signs where they treat visitors differently than they say you should? How much keyword stuffing are they doing naturally? etc.
EDIT: Had to add a word "plausible"