Google Home Page On Crack – The Bigger Picture

ThebiggerPictureThe 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…

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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…

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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.

Google-Search-Crowd

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.

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Three Entry Implications

ThreeResults

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?

WRONG.

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..

ShoppingResults

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Maybe the shopping results changes are just a “seasonal” thing  Maybe. Some of it. But what about OTHER searches?

White house - Google Search_1258698140824

Holy Cannoli!  Search within the Search Results!

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Or how about Stock Quotes?

Borders Books - Google Search_1258698320641

And look at that “More Information about BGP” link…

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And by now we all know about the Music results

Mary J Blige - Google Search_1258698473937

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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?

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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.

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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

About Alan Bleiweiss

Just another guy. Who happens to have a lot of experience living, breathing and sleeping organic SEO. So that's my primary focus - high end SEO audits and consulting for sites ranging from thousands to tens of millions of pages. In my spare time I blog, rant, write eBooks, and speak at industry conferences.

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22 Comments

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alan Bleiweiss. Alan Bleiweiss said: Just Published: Google Home Page On Crack – The Bigger Picture | Search Marketing Wisdom http://bit.ly/3u7hjw [...]

  2. Elmer Diego Ayala says:

    Really great article! Google needs to learn from the deaths of other “crowded” search engines like Yahoo and Live/MSN and keep with the search experience that made them who they are today.

  3. Elmer,

    Thank you for the compliment. Your point is a good one – at what moment does the Google site end up looking like all the rest? Then what?

  4. Suthnautr says:

    You really hit the nail on the head with the topic of “The New Client Conversation”.

    Just the way the economy got screwed into the ground and Wall Street went bust, Google is going to wind up screwing the internet into another .com bust.

  5. Please lets hope it doesn’t go that far!

  6. girish says:

    really gr8 article.. google should focus on this.. thx Alan For the info ..

  7. Yes, Holy Cannoli!

    Your points address a rapidly changing landscape. Marketing paradigm has shifted, considerably.

    I do not recall the 3-listings SERP mention at PubCon. Thank for putting flame into the conversation.

    Bottom line, SEO efforts have to be part of every aspect of web development, design and social conversations. Too many design and develop their site and then ask us to “add SEO code.” Google’s hierarchy update is a good example of why SEO needs to be part of IA at the beginning. Results requires strategic SEO planning in EVERY step of the process!

    Thanks for sharing your insights!

  8. Thanks Girish!

    Dana,

    “Too many design and develop their site and then ask us to “add SEO code.”

    Those of us with any kind of experience have known this all along. Yet sadly, to this day I get clients, even and most especially AGENCIES who should know better, playing the same game. And I really like the “putting the flame into the conversation” vision. Though somehow I think most clients would not appreciate me carrying a blowtorch into meetings :-)

  9. Cute, Alan. However, we don’t have to take a blowtorch approach. It is our job as consultants to be a light, to help them shed the blinders of darkness, to open their eyes to the shift in marketing paradigms.

    Thanks, again!

  10. Dana,
    Being a light is something that comes naturally to some people. You’re a superlative example of that.

    Personally, I come from a different approach. If a company claims to be X and they’re blatantly just doing that for the purpose of marketing spin, it also tells me they themselves treat the “little people” like vampires treat blood donors.

    And when my perception goes there, all bets are off.

    Sure, I’ve been told all my life something about getting more with honey than whatever that saying is… Except at this point in my journey, I no longer have any willingness to expend nicey nice on such culprits.

    Since I’m a Cancerian, you can push and prod and poke me only so long as I side-step. Eventually though, when that line is crossed, I’m going to snap with enough force to make you feel it and pay attention.

    At the same time though, people and companies that at least TRY to do the right thing consistently earn my undying neverending loyalty, respect and trust. And I’ll put my life on the line for you. Literally.

    Not sayin it’s right or I’m justified. Just my own nature.

  11. Well, Alan, must say you are being effective in opening their eyes. Whatever the approach, I sure hope companies are listening! I appreciate your taking the time to educate with that blow torch! :-)

  12. Rami says:

    Google has been trying to kill SEO for a long time, they could not stand the idea that they are sending most of there traffic for free to a third party, obviously a smart guy in Google Plex proposed to keep the traffic in house by:
    - More Adwords results
    - More local results (where the traffic will be sent to another Google property) then turn it into paid
    - More images and then also turn it into paid (the new product paid listing)

    Now all organic results come beneath the fold, checking the traffic of server sites that I own and relay on local keywords, each of them has lost at least 15% of it traffic comparing to a year ago without any changes in ranking

  13. Ruud Hein says:

    One of the best take-aparts of what’s been happening to Google’s pages that I’ve read in the past couple of months.

    The other day I shared how much I *enjoy* (as in: fun, pleasant, nice, feel-good) using Bing at the moment.

    Before adding this comment I went back to do another search and [blows out air] what a breath of fresh air; look at those result pages — wasn’t Google once this simple, clean and straightforward?

  14. Rami

    It really is as serious as you describe. Microsoft has killed off lots of small businesses over the years by building in a “similar” solution into the operating system. Google’s doing the same. It’s deplorable.

    Thanks Ruud
    Yes there was a time when Google was elegant simplicity. Not no more.

  15. Social Man says:

    Come on Google, give us more ads. I just can’t get enough…

  16. Google needs a “lite” version, for sure. Still not a fan of Bing’s relevancy, but this is getting ridiculous.

  17. Social Man – careful what you ask for…

    John, Bing’s “relevancy” is stupid. But Google’s gone too far, so yeah… maybe a lot of people start finding stupid relevancy more palatable than searching in the “AOL”ized version of Google.

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  19. David says:

    @Alan great post, i have to do a followup post about the 3 entry implications when i get a chance.

    This is just the start of where it will be going in 2010, so hang on tear up your client ranking bonuses unless you are working for the big websites. As shown in the results the new layout provides even more weight to the dominate websites.
    David´s last blog ..Marketing based in an ideal world begins My ComLuv Profile

  20. Thanks David

    I completely agree that Google is far from done when it comes to further eroding the quality of the results as they continue to hunt for even more profits. They’ve become the beast on a mission that happens so often with companies catering to shareholders. It’s disgusting. Not the desire for profits, the reckless method by which they go about their work.

  21. [...] of Google’s dominance.  Like the innocent family members who are forced to deal with their out of control addict parent. Essentially, if anyone in any country effected by this wishes to remain in business for the [...]

  22. Luke says:

    Well 3 are to much. In some cases it takes to much traffic !

    And who is always talking about relevancy ? The same guys that putt 3 places for paid ads !
    Luke´s last blog ..Best Online SchoolsMy ComLuv Profile

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