Less is More – Google’s Overcrowded SERPs

Wifi

Google SERP- Less is more

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

Article by Jeet

Jeet has written 3 articles.

You can follow webtrafficroi on Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter here. Subscribe to WebTrafficROI feed via RSS or EMAIL to receive instant updates.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Phoebe Sayers March 28, 2012, 8:26 am

    This is a good news as well as a bad news to the webmasters.

  • Nick Stamoulis March 28, 2012, 9:55 am

    If you look in the phone book for local services, you are in the minority these days. Phone books are becoming obsolete because of the search engines. The majority of people do search in Google for local services, and are searching on mobile devices because they want information “right now”.

    • Jeet March 28, 2012, 11:20 am

      @Nick: I agree with you about people using Google (on phone) for local services. In some cases (specially with limo services), we have started advising clients to keep their phone number in homepage title (not just in meta description) so that they can be called immediately 🙂

  • ZK March 28, 2012, 11:27 am

    Hi Nick,

    You’ve made a great point here. Britannica has already shut down their print business, the phone and local print directory business is not far away from shut down. And who know some well know newspapers may follow in a few months…I don’t remember using any of these print directories in the last decade.

    • Jasmine March 28, 2012, 10:42 pm

      Haha, me too. I have not picked up a phone book for the last decade too!

  • Henry Sim March 29, 2012, 9:10 am

    I like the phrase “less is more” . Many people tend to overdo their SEO optimization be it On Page or Off Page factors, which yield little improvement. Key is still relevancy and natural link building – no short cut here. Well change is the only constant in the search engine world.

  • mmclaurin April 25, 2012, 10:35 am

    Google has become so overrun with commercial search results that people on the street are complaining now, beginning to use Yahoo! and Bing more. SERPs are only partially to blame, but all this ranking and gaming the search engines is messing things up for marketers and consumers alike. Unless Google finds a way to make web advertising more natural, more like what happens on tv, and less intrusive, people will continue to bail. (I’m not anti-Google. I depend on them for my livelihood. Just making some notes.)