What If Google Only Displayed Ads?

Readers might have noticed a spate of recent articles (click here and here) complaining about the deteriorating quality of Google search results. According to a recent expose in the New York Times, JC Penney, the leading American retailer, seemed to have gamed Google’s search algorithms to such a great extent that its website appeared near the top of organic search results for a variety of keywords including “dresses”, “area rugs”, “skinny jeans”, “home decor,” “comforter sets”, “furniture”, and so on. Oddly enough, JCPenney.com even beat Samsonite.com when people searched for “Samsonite”.

Ads v. Organic Search

On the other hand, people haven’t seen any cause for concern in Google’s financial performance. Given that Google generates revenues from its ads – and not organic search results – its robust revenue growth can only mean that there are there are enough people who find its ads relevant and click through them, even if they might not be too thrilled with the quality of the organic results they see. For the moment, I’m ignoring “click fraud” which, at less than 15% of clicks, doesn’t alter the inference by too much.

Just to be clear, a search page comprises of Comparison Ad and Ads (“paid search” or “inorganic search”) on the one side and Organic Search Results on the other. While Search Engine Marketing (SEM) determines the position of inorganic results, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plays a critical role in organic search rankings. For more on SEO and SEM, click here.

It just suddenly struck me, what if Google were to up the ante against its critics and completely stop displaying organic results? Such a move would surely go against the charter of a company that is known for its search engine and make it resemble an online yellow page website.

However, a recent experience made me wonder if Google has already started going down this path.

I recently learned that my company “GTM360 Marketing Solutions” ranked very high on Google Search results. Not having done any SEO on the website, I was curious to find out how we got there.

marketing agencies in pune - Google Search - 450w

There's only one organic result above the fold!

When I checked, I discovered that my company’s high ranking owes itself to its enrolment in Google Places, a Google service. As the above screenshot shows, all results ‘above the fold’ – including gtm360.com – except for one are Google Ads or Google Places websites, that is, websites that have some affiliation with Google. While not all of them are ads, they’re certainly not organic. This surely seems to suggest that Google has cut down exposure for organic search results.

Sacrilegious as it sounds, can we expect Google to only show ads one day in its search results?

2 Responses to “What If Google Only Displayed Ads?”

  1. sketharaman says:

    I’d seen Google ads only on the top and right. Now, according to this article, Google has started experimenting with ads even at the bottom of its search result pages!