Recently Google has been working over-time adding new services and features to its search engine and altering their algorithms, while at the same time integrating data from a range of their other services such as Google Plus and Google Maps. This is now starting to show in their search results which are no longer restricted to organic links, but also a range of ‘tailored’ information displayed through Google itself.
Chances are that when you search online you are looking for a website written by an individual that contains the information you are looking for. The organic search results produced by Google are by no means perfect, and sometimes they display content that is decidedly odd, unprofessional or just plain wrong.
The question is though, are these results – full of human error as they are – still preferable to the auto generated company listings, local results and large number of Google ads that we are now starting to see? Is Google starting lose sight of what its role is, or is it simply building on and improving its offering?
A Dearth of Organic Results
If you search for ‘carpet cleaning’ for example, then what comes up is not a range of sites that have optimized their sites, but rather a range of other ‘features’ that Google think you might like. Directly below the search box you will of course get the ‘sponsored results’ that we are used to (three at the time of writing), but then below that you will get a range of local results for businesses.
Searching in London I got no less than seven of these business listings which took me to the bottom of the fold (granted I am on an 11inch netbook). And to the right of that? More adverts. In other words without scrolling I didn’t see any organic results.
If you click on these local business listings (which included Comet) then in some cases you are directed to their website, but in other instances you will be directed to a listing on Google itself. Or of course you can click on the ‘Google Reviews’ in order to find out what other people thought of the company – through Google.
Obviously this is an attempt by Google to keep us on-site for longer and to move away from a service that encourages us to go elsewhere. And there’s probably some well-meant intention to provide people with more real businesses and with fewer spammy sites that just use heavy-handed SEO to bully their way to the top of the results. This system is easier for Google to moderate and manage and it gives the advantage to ‘real businesses’. The second page is all organic results, other than some pictures from Google Images and more adverts.
The interesting point as well is that Google has clearly searched for some related terms such as ‘cleaners’ and ‘cleaner’ which are all highlighted in the same manner that ‘cleaning’ is. What the algorithm has failed to bear in mind is that by ‘carpet cleaning’ I might have meant the adjective rather than the service – I might have wanted to know about the cleaning process and how I should go about carpet cleaning. Which an organic result would have been more likely to help me with.
What Does This Mean?
It’s safe to say that this is a sign of things to come and that Google is going to be using more of this wizardry in their SERPs from now on. They’ve practically said as much and have promised direct answers to questions and other ‘services’.
For SEO gurus and webmasters this is bad news because it means we are being pushed down the page. Unless of course that is we can become one of those local listings ourselves (and somehow get Google to show ours first). This is only really relevant though for sites that are only there to serve an existing business (which won’t apply to the majority of people reading this). Sites that aim to get good rankings in Google and then sell links out to businesses in particular will become practically obsolete. Not fair Google…
But for users this might be a little much too. Of course I can’t speak on behalf of the entire internet user-base, but personally I rarely use Google to search for a local service. If I’m looking for a business then I’ll tend to read reviews and look in the phone book and I’d probably rather read some organic results on the topic if I’m reading Google.
If you’re anything like me you’ll just scroll past these results to get to the meaty stuff, but then for older people with less experience in using search engines this might have some more value. Only time will tell, but it will be interesting if changes like these are enough to cause anyone to jump ship to services like Bing and Ask.
What are your thoughts on this ?
Image Credit: Hooverine