There’s no other way to put it. That’s what they’re going to do. In an never-ending push to increase the visibility and traffic of Google’s own properties, they will once again push down organic results to drive more traffic to their “junk.” It’s not the first time we’ve seen this happen, and it won’t be the last. (Google testing less than 10 organic results, Google rearranges results to highlight places, and more that I haven’t blogged about) In my current disillusioned state of mind, my mental picture of future search results shows page one dominated completely by Google’s own properties and PPC ads. Sigh… I hope my outlook is bleaker than what will come.
This change is just the most recent onslaught of Google on the free organic results. I have noticed several changes over the years which pushed organic results to lower-prominence positioning. Today I saw an old screenshot of my site’s positioning and I really noticed the difference. Over time you get used to one little change at a time and before you know it, there is a drastic difference. The image below compares the old results to the new results and it’s really quite amazing. What used to fit six organic results now only fits three.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article it was announced that Google is going to implement some changes to the results pretty soon that will present “facts” and “answers” to questions, presumably at the top of the results. I suspect it’s a way of trying to stem the tide of people leaving the Google search results and going to websites that actually have answers. (Isn’t that what a search engine is for???) Google doesn’t want you to leave – they want you to spend more time on their site click their ads more. The fewer clicks they “give away” to organic results, the better for their bottom line.
The WSJ article says:
Under the shift, people who search for “Lake Tahoe” will see key “attributes” that the search engine knows about the lake, such as its location, altitude, average temperature or salt content. In contrast, those who search for “Lake Tahoe” today would get only links to the lake’s visitor bureau website, its dedicated page on Wikipedia.com, and a link to a relevant map. For a more complex question such as, “What are the 10 largest lakes in California?” Google might provide the answer instead of just links to other sites.
Note the part I bolded above. I wonder how many sites will see their traffic slashed because Google presumably knows the answers which they provide. As webmasters, we’ve been feeding the beast and now it might really bite us. If you’ve got a tourism site, you might want to reconsider your line of work.
It’s estimated that Google’s eventual switch to semantic search will impact up to 20% of all searches conducted. Twenty percent. Considering Google takes around 12 billion queries from the US per month, the change impacts 2,400,000,000 searches each month, and 28,800,000,000 searches per year. Those folks won’t see the results as we see them today, and the sites listed in those results won’t get nearly as much traffic.
I found this information on the 15th but have been mulling it over since then trying to get my mind around the impact.
Hang on people. Things are changing faster than any time before in my 15 years of experience as an SEO.