Google Home Page On Crack – The Bigger Picture
The Google Home Page is getting extremely crowded lately. First, they squeezed the sidebar AdWords listings closer to the organic results. Then they added “microformat”, Images in the sidebar product ads, “Google Checkout” buttons, snippets, and “Shopping results” WITH images, right in the organic results. Then came breadcrumbs, and what people are starting to report – THREE entries in the organics for some top listings. The result is serious implications for the visitor experience, and the job of SEO…
First, I need to say that I can’t take credit for uncovering the new “three results” aspect. Thanks to Andy Beal for first bringing it to a tweet, then Rob Enriquez for chiming in saying he’d seen it a month ago. And Bobby Kircher showing how he had seen it as well once I started frantically tweeting in an emo moment of “WTF”? Yet what I found most fascinating is that it was “interesting” or “odd” but there wasn’t any of the buzz. It was all nonchalant. Like no big deal.
Matt Siltala, yet another person in our industry I truly respect, took a “wait and see” approach.
At that point tonight, I whipped out a quick “Look at this” article for SearchEngineJournal.com and sent it over. But that was just about the new “three results” issue. In this article I want to discuss the bigger picture. Maybe it’s because it’s almost midnight as I write this article. And tomorrow’s Friday, so I have a lot on my “gotta get it done before the weekend” mind. But maybe not…
The 30,000′ View
Think about it – how many more “features” are the engineers at Google going to come out with? And what does it REALLY mean for our industry?
I mean, “Universal search” in general was significant, and caused a lot of SEO’s to take image optimization seriously. And video optimization. And News articles. Local results with a map was a whole new can of worms.
And look what’s happening now, during the holiday season. Something that was discussed as far back as 2005. But has now taken up a significant amount of the crowded real estate on that first page.
While I can’t speak with authority on the topic of overcrowding from a user experience, I know this much – with so many more things showing up on arguably the most important page on the Interwebs (from an SEO perspective), our industry once again takes another step in the “workload” required to provide our clients with comprehensive optimization.
Three Entry Implications
With mega sites getting three results in the top slot of the organics, at least for now, it’s not causing other results off the 1st page. So the extra entry is not so bad right?
It causes all of the results below it further down the page. And now one more entry falls further down.
THAT is serious. Even I know that, even without a degree in user eyeball tracking.
Add the “Shopping Results” into this equation and maybe you can see the real significance to our industry..
Maybe the shopping results changes are just a “seasonal” thing Maybe. Some of it. But what about OTHER searches?
Holy Cannoli! Search within the Search Results!
Or how about Stock Quotes?
And look at that “More Information about BGP” link…
And by now we all know about the Music results
Optimization Cycle Implications
Yes, I know – most of this we already know about… But was the “Three entries” concept mentioned at any of the workshops at PubCon this month? Or was there any significant buzz about that in the halls? Or is it on the agenda for SES Chicago? Or any of the other industry events coming in the next couple months?
How much discussion has been taking place in terms of the cumulative reality we’re now living? How much more time will we need to invest in optimizing client sites? How much more will we need to do in educating ourselves, our co-workers, our employees, our development teams, our graphic designers? What is the conversation going to have to evolve into with outside agencies we deal with?
The New Client Conversation
How much more time will we need to put into explaining to clients that it’s going to cost them that much more if they want to be found? Or how much more are we going to have to do in explaining to smaller clients, who can’t afford full bore optimization, that they’re just going to have to live with the fact that they’re being forced ever further away from being able to compete online?
It nearly broke my heart the first time I had to tell a small business client that even though we could even GET them in the Google Local Listings, that my client’s competitors had already found a way to game THAT system. She was shocked when I explained – your competitor is showing up for EVERY SINGLE TOWN in the region because they paid for UPS mail boxes in every town, then went into Google and created an entry for every one, but by claiming it was a physical business location, not a drop box. This is a client who was otherwise able to afford quality SEO, at least within reason.
Except she wasn’t prepared to have to rent P.O. boxes in sixteen towns. Or deal with the ramifications of having sixteen P.O. boxes. And I then had to tell her that if she did go that route, she could one day be booted from the listings altogether.
The underlying concept of evolving requirements is not new. It’s as old as our profession. Social Networking adds a whole new layer to that equation. But at what point does it become out of control?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m going to stay in the business. And offer the most services that make sense to my clients individual needs within their budgets. it’s just that the Wild West days of SEO are quite obviously far from calming down.
Alan Bleiweiss is the author of Search Marketing Wisdom. He has provided Internet Marketing solutions to small, mid-size and Fortune 1000 clients since 1995 and SEO consulting services since 2001, with client marketing budgets up to $500,000 a year. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanBleiweiss , or starting in January, 2010, follow his twice monthly column at SearchEngineJournal.com