Several bloggers recently have commented on the way in which Google results are becoming dominated by ads (read A More Organic Experience on the RKGblog as an example). In a typical Google search for an industrial subject (“data acquisition”), shown below, the natural – or organic – results (which I’ve shaded) take up just 28% of the visible web page, and show just two-and-a-bit results, one of which is Wikipedia. In the consumer and local search sectors, things are even worse, with the advert sections including images, maps, sub-links, location details and more. To be honest, it looks really messy, but we seem to be prepared to accept it. As marketers, it’s making the job of appearing strongly in the natural search results, without scrolling, almost impossible. Where a ‘top ten’ position was desirable a few years back, now it’s a ‘top three’ position which you really need.
However, in industrial and scientific marketing, it’s the searches on generic product and service headings which interest us, and we don’t have such distracting advertisements to content with …yet. The results we’re interested in, when people type in “density meters” or “motor refurbishment” or “pressure sensor suppliers”, are relatively clean. But they’re still dominated by the ads. And the reason that Google users are prepared to accept the advertising creep is that the adverts are as useful to them as the natural results. It can even be argued that for people looking for suppliers, the advertisements are more useful than the natural results. Look at a typical search like the one below. The ads form a compact, scannable listing of many of the major suppliers in the sector. It’s exactly what potential buyers want, and it doesn’t cost them anything to use. The natural search – what little of it there is – gives you some nice background, but that’s probably more of interest for school projects than professional product sourcing.
For the time being, I can’t see anything other than the cost of AdWords advertising getting more expensive, as those who have been slower off the mark finally enter the auction. But I do wonder where things might end up. If it provided a more useful service to its users, why shouldn’t Google become completely paid for?