Google Test Search Results – 11 Ads, 1 Directory and 3 Stinkers

Google is apparently testing a mobile style 3 pack as a replacement for the carousel.

Whether a test or not, this test search result is quite amazing. I have a fairly large Thunderbolt display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440. That is more vertical resolution than 66% of all computers on the market as of January, 2014 according to w3schools.com. Even so this result is quite incredible in just how absolutely awful it is.

With my browser window stretched to the full height of the display, above the fold there are 11 ads, 1 organic directory listing, a map and 3 2.5 hold your nose stinky local results. The move away from a carousel which had a certain balance to the ranking and possibly away from the 7 pack towards just 3 results is jarring enough. But the amazing preponderance of paid and the near complete absence and terrible quality of the organic and local results leaves one’s jaw on the floor.

I guess that Google has finally given up on any form of local listing or organic page relevance and has decided that relevance is a function of payment.

Click to view larger (although be sure to keep airsickness bag handu)
Click to view larger (although be sure to keep airsickness bag handu)
Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Test Search Results - 11 Ads, 1 Directory and 3 Stinkers by

20 thoughts on “Google Test Search Results – 11 Ads, 1 Directory and 3 Stinkers”

  1. Hi Mike,

    Interesting. I just finished reading your post about carousel replacement testing and was going to post a question. I was curious to know what your take was on Google’s motives for removing website, reviews, phone number, etc. – essentially removing the link elements in the listing. One of my thoughts was with none of those elements present, people may be more inclined to click on ads since, well… you can click on them.

    Then I noticed this post (chained to your computer today?). Maybe my first hunch was right? This screenshot you posted is like a plate full of cheeseburgers (paid ads) with a moldering brussel sprout (stripped local results) off to the side. Who wants that?

  2. Brutal, although you last comment:

    “I guess that Google has finally given up on any form of local listing or organic page relevance and has decided that relevance is a function of payment.”

    May turn out to be the truthiest, especially if they roll out this design in conjunction with the paid local pack that Moz saw.

  3. @Keith
    My theory? More ad revenue by keeping people at Google

    @Dan
    Brutal? I thought that the result was brutal. My reaction was muted. I guess if hey are testing they should know what I think. :)

  4. Mike: The move to monetize results has been steady and growing for quite some time. This test is the latest installment. For the most part the SEO community of commentators hasn’t acknowledged it.

    Our own sites use extensive adwords and have for years. On the adwords side google keeps figuring out ways to incrementally increase spend.

    Its more and more an ad dominated search engine but it has been moving that way for quite some time.

  5. Couple of comments: I haven’t seen the test runs at all. Tried that search on hotels nyc and got the carousel, as I’ve gotten all day.

    There are other elements to google monetizing the site. A lot of the ads have star ratings. They GRAB eyeballs and probably clicks. Any of that eyecatching “stuff” in ads works. I bet stars work like a charm. When we add site links to ads their click throughs increase dramatically. I’m sure stars work as well if not better.

    I really think google is presenting something wherein they want readers to click on anything but the businesses website. …or only get to the website if one clicks on a monetized result.

    The internet travel agent world is one where google has muscled its way in, where google really dominates…and its frankly one where google seems to do whatever it wants.

    That includes helping out the ITA sites. I know the owners of small hotels just hate it. The hotel operators find themselves paying fees up the yingyang.

  6. “above the fold there are 11 ads, 1 organic directory listing, a map and 2.5 local results”
    —> Thanks for pointing out the 2.5 ‘non-monetized’ listings Mike, we will have our team create 2.5 more ads for this page asap; again thanks Mike – Google SERP Monetizing Team ;-)
    *disclaimer – I am not representing Google or any of its divisions in any way – Andy Kuiper ;-)

  7. oh, we are leaving that 1 organic directory listing up… for now , just to be sure no one whines or threatens to sue us (yelp, trip advisor, etc.)

  8. What is the point of buying any AdWords space if AdWords, along with local listings, is completely dominated by spammers, to the point that they can not only outcompete you, but also recoup enough from defrauded consumers to outbid your legitimate business for keywords on AdWords and SEO? Google is playing a game of hide-and-not-seek, pretending that the profits from AdWords from spammers are acceptable and that they’re not responsible for the listings on their services (courtesy of Section 230 of the CDA), even though they know that a vast majority of AdWords from locksmiths, movers, and carpet cleaners are being run by spammers, and that a huge chunk of local listings are pure spam. Taking money from spammers is “Be evil”, because every transaction requires that the end consumer be defrauded, and Google is getting their cut.

    Google is increasingly moving more toward AdWords, but the AdWords is being bid up by spammers, to the point that in certain segments, a legitimate business can’t afford AdWords (or their AdWords accounts are drained by click fraud bots run by the spammers). If Google provides no mechanism to remove spammers in the Local space (RAP–Report a problem does not work), then essentially they’re using an increasingly squeezed Local to herd businesses toward AdWords, and juicing up Google’s own profits, with some pretend nonsense that what’s good for Google is good for SMBs. That’s racketeering! It would be one thing if there was another search service that could actually compete with Google, or a regulatory authority that would crack down on Google’s shenanigans, but the reality is is that Google has 80% of the searches! And no one in DC or elsewhere is lifting a finger to stop them.

    A SMB can’t survive very long without Google, but Google can apparently get along quite well without the SMB. There’s always another sucker waiting around the corner, right?

  9. Mike I agree that Google has given up on their efforts in local. Here’s an experience that I ran across recently in which Google decided to completely disregard a verified G+ local page and plug in some random stuff.

    http://ow.ly/ACpc7

  10. Dan:

    I looked at locksmith results in a city far from me. In that category I agree with you. I used some of the methods you suggested in the past to try and ascertain which businesses were real or not. It appears that advertisers are fake businesses.

    If I can figure out which are fake or not, one would think Google could also. In fact if I can figure it out, Google can easily determine it.

    They don’t bother evidently. Nobody calls them out on this except for you. Frankly the law enforcement world doesn’t seem to care. Its a form of low grade theft. It rips off consumers and it hurts the real businesses, but each example is relatively small. So nobody seems to care.

    I don’t know how many verticals suffer from this fate. Clearly there are many that don’t.

    But in that industry google doesn’t seem to care at all. Lord knows they are aware of the problems and have been for years.

  11. One other thing, Dan. I clicked on a bunch of locksmith links in that far city; ads, organic links and links in the PAC.

    Now one of the ads for one of the bs fake rip off locksmiths is showing in my FB feed. Holy Cr@p. Its bad enough that its a fake bs rip off business to start. FB is evidently picking up data from google adwords and feeding one’s trends and click patterns into its own feeds.

    So now my FB feed is infected w/ an ad for a cr@ppy rip off smb that sits in google adwords, got connected to my click patterns, represents a “fake business” from 2000 miles away and is showing in my fb feed.

    So if I click on the thing the rip off artists pay google and FB. Meanwhile I’m sure they get enough clicks so that the ads pay off as every time they rip some one off it costs the consumer poor sucker whose bad move was enabled by the big web entities very big bucks.

  12. Thanks for the feedback, Dave. It’s not just locksmiths, it’s movers (which is dominated by a single guy actively engaged in criminal activity), it’s plumbers, it’s garage door suppliers, it’s lawyers, it’s handymen. Anyone willing to spend a little extra money can afford to engage in black hat SEO. Google is NOT interested in stopping them.

  13. I should also point out that Google is making $100 million in AdWords revenues from the locksmith scammers in the US alone, according to my back of the envelope calculations. Google has a very strong incentive not to police locksmith listings, because it makes them more money not to do so (savings from not removing spam, revenues from scammers as the scammers increasingly competing among themselves for the AdWords slots, bidding up the AdWords out of reach of ordinary locksmiths).

    As I said, that’s racketeering.

  14. @Mike. Ya it seems like that’s the case. It’s weird that G would disregard their own verified listings though. Interesting to see the local ecosystem in play and this being a prime example of it (old listings getting in the way).

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