As Google continues to avoid being 'evil' there is nonetheless a trend to move away from the original organic results we remember fondly, to the multi-page, PPC dominated Google shopping offer we face now. And there is good cause for this - Google has shareholders and as soon as you sell your company to the public then the accountants make sure that their interests come first. This does, however, impact on the ethos of a company whose original mantra was entirely based on sorting the internet information in a manner that is best for the use. Those days are long gone no matter what the Google bumph blurbs out. Nowadays the organic results for a product that has nothing directly to do with Google are not just down the list, but almost undetectable from paid and partnered results that are clearly an advert rather than a result:
As you can see from this example the results come in waves - there are no organic results at the top, only Google shopping which is another form of AdWords these days (just like the map has become.)
The organic results come below so presumably the Google shopping ads are a much better earner for a product as popular as this and so normal AdWords ads are not even shown. The playstation.com website is obviously one of the most popular in the world and I haven't actually mentioned I wanted to buy one anyway. Not so surfer friendly anymore is it?
Finally we have 'in the news' section which is again a way of adding value to a select partner group of websites. Now this is good for the web user in some ways as the Google partners shown here are going to be heavily monitored to ensure that the content is first-class but it still has nothing to do with popularity or organic search results - it is in fact internet search result hogging to keep a certain network of California media tyrants in everyone's face. I never even mentioned that I have an iPad and I'm not using one to search in this case.
Let us try another example to see what sort of results we get when searching for a keyword we might have a chance to compete on organically...
Here we are looking at a search that will be hotly contested in many towns in many countries all over the world. I have tried to include as much of the page as possible - certainly as much as your average reader is going to scroll through before deciding to click. In other words, definitely as far as most of us SEO companies are claiming we can place you within. And herein lies the problem. At the top of this page there are so many companies contesting over the keyword that there are only adverts available as an option, there is quite literally no alternative. Below that we see the Google maps offering - what has become known as 'AdWords Express' which is just another set of adverts which is not even labelled as such.
Now if I had typed in 'local SEO companies,' how many adverts would have been promising to get me 'on the front page of Google' without using pay-per-click PPC? In this case that is obviously not possible.
So is there a future in organic search? It may be time for us SEO people to rethink the value of organic search vs PPC. If every result has a small green 'Ad' square next to it then does the average user even notice it exists anymore?
OK these are hotly contested examples, I understand that of course, but as populations rise, competitions rises, and ever search term will arrive at this point.
Is PPC the only way or is it time it find a new search engine? And will this article be relegated to the pit of internet ignorance because I am posing this question? Well Google is a first-class company full of the best people in the business and there is no chance of that changing anytime soon. This is evidence, however, of a need for them to rethink their current strategy as when I search for something, I do expect some search results!
The results we have been examining remind me of those free papers that come through the post where everything is just an ad and it holds no value for anyone except the publisher and their friends.