I just read an article on SEO Chat by Clint Dixon, entitled Google Revamps SERPs, for Money? Its well worth your time – at least a 10 minute skim.
Apparently Google is now experimenting with what they claim is a user experience enhancement. Mr. Dixon believes its more commercially-motivated. Me – well I’m not real sure just yet, but I can definitely see both sides.
Essentially what’s happening is that the #6-8 results are now being replaced in many cases by a suggested alternative search – i.e. “did you mean ______ lyrics?” or something like that. Thus, three (still organic) listings for another search term are now getting real estate on pages for terms they wouldn’t otherwise rank for. If you are one who closely monitors how your site ranks than this is both good and bad news. If you have rankings in the #5-10 range, well its probably bad news. If you are one of those sites that ranks higher for some more specific searches, you may also get play on more general ones via this feature. However, I do suspect that in practice this may just serve larger sites. Mr. Dixon pointed out an example about the search for “on demand” and Comcast getting more real estate.
It remains to be seen how widespread this will be rolled out, and exactly what effect it will have. I suspect at a minimum it will draw a thicker line between top 10 and top 5 results, and the volume of traffic they bring.
For the larger picture, Mr. Dixon makes the case for concern about how money-motivated Google may now be, due to going public and having pressures to increase share value, grow revenue, etc. Its going to be tough for them, I would think, outside of driving search volume, as there is a point when adding more ads to the SERPs page is going to start to hurt rather than help.
They have recently (in many cases) opted to show 3 top paid ads now in the top-center real estate with the blueish shaded background area. IMO this is a money-motivated move. That’s now to say I fault them for it. Shoot, we’re all money-motivated to some degree. You’ve got to make a living, pay your employees, etc. However, I’d be surprised if that really helps a great deal, as to me that whole area now just dissappears into obscurity and I begin to not notice any of those top ads – which, lets remember, make Google more money than the ones on the side. When there was/is just one there, I really notice it. It stands out, catches my attention. With two, I could still see each unique one. Now with three its pretty crowded, and just screams more of unwanted advertisements than before. I’m interested to see where that will go.