I have lost count of the amount of posts I have done recently on Google related changes, and many of these have meant the greater promotion of their paid inventory over that of the organic equivalents. This has included:
- Adwords Sitelinks
- Adwords products
- Merchant Centre
The net effect of this has been the continued migration of Google’s paid inventory into previously organic search real estate, often resulting in organic results now appearing close to or under the fold. If considered against traditional Google search results, one can now see paid results influencing a high proportion of the visible page and as a subsequent result users favouring these paid results over traditional organic results. Further to this I personally would be expecting the traditional 30/70 split to come down significantly when we visit this over the next couple of months – particularly if you consider the findings of previous studies from Enquiro and Google themselves which suggest
- Higher results on the page receive more traction in terms of eyefall and clickthrough
- Whilst interactive elements such as maps/products impact eyefall and behaviour, this still is heavily focussed towards the primary results and around the blended result itself -> chunking/fencing (from Gord Hotchkiss Enquiro report – http://www.enquiro.com/whitepapers/pdf/barriers-on-a-search-results-page.pdf
- Left sided results receiving higher traction than right
However this does now reflect much more of a push rather than pull mentality, more symbolic of traditional advertising channels such as TV, Radio which whilst it does increase the visibility of Googles paid inventory – and thus make Google more money – does at the same time reduce the level of ‘choice’ and at the same time.
We have already seen a number of factors such as CTR reduce and CPC increase – however increasing the volume of paid inventory is going to mean in all likelihood
- Further increases in CPC
- Increases in budget as more clicks go via paid routes than organic
- Greater competition, thus greater obstacles to entry. Small companies finding it harder to compete
- A small number of organisations dominating the paid search results – a look at competitive sector such as insurance is symbolic of this in action
I can’t help feeling this constant drive for commercial renumeration is sooner or later going to start impacting in usage, particularly given the drive from Bing in terms of their search product and the potential for a viable competitor in the coming months/years. Consumers often don’t like being ‘sold to’ without permission, with examples such as Second Life and MySpace etc highlighting how greater commercialisation can potentially lead to reductions in popularity.
Only time will tell whether this actually occurs, however it will be interesting to watch just what happens to Google market share over the coming months, particularly with the unparralled drive towards world domination. I can’t help feeling however we are getting to the point where Google are fixing things that are not broken, and that isn’t without risks.