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Google SERPs Dominated by Ads & Other Google Properties

Google claims that their goal when generating search results is to provide users with the best possible experience.  Most people accept that the advertisements are a necessary part of the business, and that they even do a fairly good job at displaying ads related to the search query.  According to a new blog post by the co-founder and CEO of Tutorspree, Aaron Harris, however, Google’s results are becoming more and more dominated by ads and other Google owned sites.

In the SERPs of many queries you might find two or three advertisements at the top, combined with some going along the side.  Then within the ‘organic’ results you’ll see YouTube videos and maybe Google Maps, both owned by the search giant.  Other searches might include Blogger pages too, just one more Google owned web property.

According to the blog post only 13% of the ‘above the fold’ space was taken up by actual organic search results for the term “Auto Mechanic”, the rest was advertisements, Google maps and white space.  Other search queries return similar results with advertisements and other Google properties taking up the majority of the first page.  The queries were done on a Macbook Air with a 13-inch screen.

The problem gets worse when using a mobile device to do a search.  A query for “Italian Restaurants” on an iPhone produced four full pages of advertisements and results from Google owned properties like Zagat and Google maps with local results.  On the 5th page the actual organic search results start to be shown.

While the blog post specifically focuses on Google, it appears this is a problem with all the major search engines.  Bing displays advertisements and results from Bing Maps, though the fact that they don’t own quite as many popular sites means there are typically additional search results from non-Bing related sites.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the user experience is poor because many of the ad results as well as Google owned properties are often useful to the actual user.  The concern is whether or not Google is giving priority to their sites because they believe it is actually the best result for the user, or because they want to keep the traffic (and therefore money) on their own properties.

You can see the full blog post HERE.

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About Michael Levanduski

Michael Levanduski is the assistant editor of Performance Marketing Insider, and an experienced freelance writer. He writes content for a wide range of sites in virtually every niche, though he specializes in technical writing as well as creating content for the performance and internet marketing industry. Michael was born in Grand Rapids, MI where he still lives with his wife and three children.

12 comments

  1. This is not something new, Google is playing that game years ago and now with the penguin and panda updates they want to dominate serps with their pages. Introducing the google +1 button also shows how bad they want to take over everything, their goal is to dominate the Internet!

  2. Great article. I have often said the same thing about Google, though not so well as you. Google isn’t as much a search engine as it is an advertising company.

    I too agree that they need ads for a sustainable business model, but I never realized how much space was taken by their own content.

    The only area where I might slightly disagree is in the maps results. Since those aren’t paid results and happen organically they’re not really ad space. But I can see your point that they are Google owned property.

    I am still hoping that someone will revolutionize the search industry. I keep hoping Facebook will come up with a way to have peer recommended search results combined with local and knock Google right between the oo’s.

    • Michael Levanduski

      Facebook’s Graph Search feature which I wrote about last week might be moving in that direction.

      With Facebook entering the search game (or so it seems) and Bing making some great improvements both to their search in general and their marketing tools for advertisers it might be difficult for Google to remain dominant over the next several years. They will be a major player, and possibly even a leader, but I think the days of Google dominating 70+% of total US searches are numbered.

  3. Hi Micheal,

    Yeah. Of course Google is giving priority to their sites and they believe it is the best result for the user and they want to keep traffic and money on their own properties. This is the result of the dominant, even monopolistic position Google has on the market. In my opinion this is contrary to the American spirit and to democracy as well. Where there is monopoly you cannot talk about loyal competition. Even worse. Abuse is the rule and not the exception.
    Unfortunately, Bing is doing the same thing. It seems this is a fundamental human characteristic. When you have power you try, almost subconsciously, to occupy all the space available.
    Google SERPs dominated by ADs? This is just another sign that outbound marketing techniques bring the most money on the table and inbound marketing is just a story for kids.

    Have a nice day

  4. This is a very good article. While I probably knew this in the back of my mind somewhere, I never really thought about it consciously before. Thanks for bring this to light.

  5. I think it will be more and more of this, already today for some searches 50% of the first page results are youtube or other google owned results.

  6. Nice , The only area where I might slightly disagree is in the maps results. Since those aren’t paid results and happen organically they’re not really ad space. But I can see your point that they are Google owned property.

  7. I would say that it is kinda sad thing to see, because how can we little people compete with not a huge budget and not mind blowing seo skills???

  8. It’s all about money. It is sad for small businesses with a small budget but this is the same pattern most businesses follow, just take a look at My Space, then Yahoo, now Google. Eventually people will get fed up of it and turn to a new company that is going to do the same thing all over again. But I do think that as long as you keep providing users what they are looking for and interesting information they will stick around. Small businesses will just have to find other sources of traffic rather than relying just in Google.

  9. It’s getting harder and harder to compete against the big boys. Search results are being dominated by corporations and big budget people. It’s time to think outside the box and to start looking at different ways to promote your business online

  10. So true, Michael.

    Well written article.

    I have noticed this massive swamping of the serps and everything about it, with copious amounts of Google web properties, and Google ads splashed everywhere.

    Also, the rankings for a number of search terms are dominated by mega corp style sites, that would have very deep pockets to keep Google happy.

    Apart from that there are some spam sites, that somehow have “black hatted ‘ there way into the remaing prime spots for those search terms.

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