The Next HUGE Google Update is Here, and We’ve Got Bad News…
While web developers and SEO services were still dealing with the fallout from the latest Panda update, Google began testing a major new search function. For now, Google is only testing the new function in the San Francisco Bay Area, but no doubt a wider roll out is imminent. When a Bay Area user enters in home-improvement related keywords like “clogged toilet” or “lock repair,” Google now lists sponsored home-improvement companies at the top of the results page.
If you aren’t in the Bay Area and want to test out the new “Qualified” vendors search tool, type in “locksmith San Francisco.” When we tested out this keyword, the search engine results page displayed the usual list of advertisements on the right hand side of the page and the standard 10 search results. However, those organic search results were bumped down by a prominently displayed listing of three sponsored locksmiths.
The copy reads, “Qualified locksmiths serving San Francisco…Connect with trusted and experienced professionals in your area.” Then, three locksmiths and their contact info are displayed, although they are listed as “Sponsored.” Google says they want to help end users more easily find highly rated home-improvement services, although two of the three sponsored results had a solid “No ratings” rating. If you break down the new search engine results page by the numbers, here’s what it looks like:
- Three “Qualified locksmiths…” and eight AdWords listings, for a total of 11 sponsored website search results
- The top four search results are all Yelp pages
- The other six search results belong to local locksmith websites and business directories
Conclusion: although Google says the goal of this new program, AdWords Express, is to help users find qualified home-improvement websites with fewer clicks, there are now more sponsored links than organic search results on Page One, at a ratio of 11 to 10.
So What’s Next? “Qualified” Search Results Coming to a Page One Near You…
We already know that the vast majority of users never click paid ads, instead opting for websites they find through organic search results. So it makes sense that Google would want to direct more traffic to their main source of revenue, their advertisements. Worldwide, online mobile advertising alone is expected to more than triple in size by 2016, so it’s a deft move on Google’s part.
But will end users appreciate the new function? Well, we also know that 61% of Internet users around the world research products and services online, including 34% who mostly go online with their smartphones. And if those users can find local businesses with fewer clicks, they’ll likely be happy with the new “Qualified” search results. But if it just means more ads for them to click around…
In either case, Google is determined to keep searchers from heading to competitors like Amazon and Facebook, which are also experimenting with similar services. And that means you can expect to see this “qualified” search function expand in the years to come, and not just geographically. For now, Google is limiting the program to home-improvement websites, but we don’t expect that restriction to last for long.