Google SERP and text ads

Your eyes and memory aren’t playing tricks – Google has changed the display of text ads and organic search results. The reason – to make Google desktop look more like mobile. (And exactly why is that desired?)

On February 19 Google began rolling out changes to its desktop search results, expanding the vertical real estate given to paid search results and eliminating right-rail ads.

What the Google Desktop SERP Update Means for Organic Search, ALexis Sanders, Merkle (Mar 24)

  • no text ads in right panel
  • four text ads at top of page – before organic results (which was why you ran the search)
  • “product listing ad packs” when relevant will be in right panel
  • knowledge panels – still on the right
  • three text ads at bottom of page
  • will be fewer text ads in total – dropping from 11 to 7 – this was the good news.

Google’s new display

Google has changed the layout of results for people running searches on their desktop or non-mobile screen. No surprise but very disappointing – the nw layout puts more Ads at the top, and those ads are somewhat camouflaged as organic results. Organic results might not appear until well down the page. Further, there will be another clump of ads at the bottom of the page. Google has always had ads – but these are less identifiable.

Google’s New SERP Layout: The Biggest Winners & Losers, Search Engine Land, Larry Kim (Feb 24)

Larry Kim looks at this from a marketer’s viewpoint and says not to worry. But searchers aren’t so happy – the loser is organic search.

Google SERP - new layout

Google SERP – new layout

Paid ads vs organic results

If you think it’s getting harder to distinguish between paid ads in search results and organic results, you’re not alone. Wall Street Journal has said that search engines are ignoring the FTC 2013 directive. I agree. My practice today is to immediately skip over the first 3 to 5 results because they are usually somewhat disguised paid ads.

WSJ: Search Engines Ignoring FTC Rules About Labeling Search Ads, Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land (Oct 13)

Google+ a must for SEO

Key line – “From an SEO perspective, G+ is mandatory,” she says. “If you want to show up in Google, you have to be on G+. There’s no way around that.”

What Can We Believe About Google+?, Lin Grensing-Pophal, EContent (Feb 10)

I don’t love Google+ for search, but it’s clear from this article if you want to rank better in Google’s search results you’ll have a presence in Google+. If you want to establish authorship, you’ll be there writing. It seems Google also pays attention to links given in the postings.

Firefox adding ads to new tab

Someday soon when you click on new tab in Firefox you’ll see – ads – they are to be called directory tiles – and they are targeted at new users or new Firefox installs. They will gradually morph into items of more interest to you (guess how they know that!). Well – all that empty real estate – wonder that no one did this sooner.

Mozilla to sell New Tab page ads in Firefox, Seth Rosenblatt, CNet (Feb 11)

“Paid advertisements are on their way to Mozilla Firefox’s New Tab page in an attempt to show more sites to first-time browser users.”

Called Directory Tiles, the initiative will use a combination of sponsored sites, popular sites based on geographic location, and Mozilla ecosystem items to fill in blank New Tab pages. Currently, the nine empty boxes on a new New Tab page fill in over time with sites culled from the user’s browsing history, frequently visited sites, and bookmarks.

Some aspects of semantic search

If the whiz kids doing search engine optimization are being advised to think “semantic” and work towards meeting “user intent and interpretation”, searchers should reconsider their search styles.

Barbara Starr at Search Engine Land describes 5 Ways To Unlock The Benefits Of Semantic Search (Nov 7)

Of interest:

  1. “Google is using “form based” or “template” queries to answer questions at scale in real time” of which Google has many.
  2. Social search is more prevalent – who you connect with may influence results – all the more reason to pay attention to the company you keep.
  3. Google+ is important to business.
  4. More websites will be using “structured data markup, paying special attention to markup vocabulary from,”


Google Identifier

Wall Street Journal had the surprising headlind – Google May Stop Using ‘Cookies’ to Track Web Users (Sept 20). Google might “create its own anonymous identifier for each individual”. What would this do to everybody else who uses those cookies for advertising? And what will this mean for privacy? Hard to know for either.

“Google’s proposal, which was reported earlier by USA Today, could give advertisers the ability to track people more widely. “The Internet gets a lot cleaner at that point,” Mr. Anderson said.”

“Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford University professor who studies online advertising and privacy, said it was unclear that so-called anonymous codes would actually protect privacy. “