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I was performing product-oriented keyword research a few weeks ago and noticed a very cluttered SERP for the phrase women’s dresses. Only one organic result showed above the fold (that’s right! only one…). If you look at the graphic below, you’ll notice that Google is favoring its own properties over organic results. PPC, Local, and Shopping take up the lion’s share of SERP real estate. I use the idiomatic expression “lion’s share” here for a reason: In Aesop’s fables, Phaedrus begins with the statement “Partnership with the mighty is never trustworthy.”

Indeed. “Partnership” is used loosely in this case. 🙂

Google SERP for Womens Dresses in San Francisco

Google pushes down organic results, showing only one above the fold while promoting the heck out of local results. I first noticed this the day before the announcement of the acquisition of Zagat. In addition, Google also pushes right-hand AdWords results lower on the page in favor of their Shopping property ads. The bigger rub for folks in the AdWords auction is that the local map in the upper-right-hand side of the screen scrolls with the user and covers up PPC ads as one navigates down the page. I can hear the howls of protest in the distant future if this SERP layout becomes reality. I tested again today and it no longer shows up in San Francisco but does in Washington, DC. Aaron Wall wrote about another instance of Google cannibalizing organic results in favor of its own properties recently: Google Eats Their Own Organic Search Results.

Google SERP for Mens Shoes in San Francisco

I performed another search for mens shoes in San Francisco and got a another variation that does show more organic results above the fold – but is still heavily focused on Google properties and inserts a branded search pack, just under the top PPC results, called “Related Searches for mens shoes“:

This branded search pack takes the user to a page heavily focused on Google’s Shopping and Product Search property. Even though Local results are further down, the map still scrolls with the user as one navigates down the page, thus covering up AdWords ads in the right column.

Google SERP for Snowboards in San Francisco

Yet another variation popped up when I searched for snowboards in san francisco. “Related searches for snowboards” brings deeper detail including brands, stores, and types (all of which point the user to more Google Product Search results). Again, only one organic result above the fold; scrolling map; and Google Shopping results at the bottom of the page:

Conclusion

It’s called Stockholm Syndrome … Google will keep testing and pushing the limits to see how much it can get away with while we continue to revere. 🙂

Anthony Young, freelance SEO/SEM/SMM specialist, six-year SEM pro, and former Director of Search Marketing at LeadClick Media, Inc. Find Anthony on Twitter at RexSFO.

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