Google won search by providing the best organic results users had ever seen. Ever since then, organic has been fading from the SERPS, losing ground to revenue generating Google products.
That’s the amount of real estate given to true organic results in a search for “auto mechanic” when I’m logged in at the Tutorspree office in TriBeCa.(1)
I’m using a Macbook Air 13inch. My browser size is set to “Actual Size.” The rest of the page is taken up by Google products. Adwords take up 29% of the page. Google’s map, plotted with it’s own local results takes up 7% of the page. Google’s navigation bar, complete with notifications for my Google+ account, takes up 14% of the page.
The top organic result? Wikipedia. The next two? Yelp, a competitor against which Google is clearly moving.(2)
That’s the amount of on page real estate that the newest iteration of Google gives to organic results on a search for “Italian Restaurant” when I’m logged in at the Tutorspree office in TriBeCa. As with most queries, Google decided, on my behalf, that this was a local search.
Local search no longer just means the search that you declare as local, it’s the search that Google wants to be local. Local is a category to which Google is rolling out a huge number of new products. The latest is the carousel. The carousel is filled with results from Zagat and Google+ local business pages. It takes a full 30% of the page and is set off in such a distinct manner that users would be hard pressed to ignore it, or choose anything else.(3) Organic results? Buried underneath the navigation bar (14%), the carousel (30%), adwords (9%), a map powered by local (15%), and a Google owned Zagat listing (4%).
7% is all that’s left for the entrepreneurs and restaurantuers who believed Google over the years when they were told that good business with well structured pages would be able to get in front of potential customers searching the internet.
Open your iPhone. Search for “Italian Food.” What do you see? If you’re in NYC, you see 0 organic results. You see an ad unit taking half the page, and then a Google owned Zagat listing. Start scrolling, you’ll see a map, then Google local listings. After four full page scrolls, you’ll have the organic listings in front of you.
Search = Mobile = Local
Mobile is the future of search. In an August 2012 presentation, Google noted that some 63% of search starts on a phone (based on a study they ran, not on global search data). Combine that with Google stating that 50% of mobile search is local (http://screenwerk.com/2012/10/01/google-50-of-mobile-search-is-local/). Those two pieces of information are the pillars of Google’s future strategy.
Google is building a new version of the search engine that made it great. This time, however, it is a search engine exclusive to the garden of Google products. If you compete with Google in any way, you’re in its crosshairs. Your chances of ranking high enough to garner traffic are virtually nil and getting smaller.
The scariest part of this is that, if you sell something using the internet, regardless of whether or not you see yourself as a “local” business - or think you’re competing with Google - Google sees you as competition. Searching for “Camera” or “Buy a Dress Shirt” gets you a nearly identical split of screen real estate as that of “local” searches. Nearly everything leads back to a Google product except for an ever-decreasing amount of “Organic” real estate.
It’s Google’s world, and from now on, you’ll have to pay to play in it.
Aaron Harris (@harris) is a co-founder of Tutorspree.
(1) Throughout, I’m estimating percentages based on the rough pixel count of the areas of the page given to each section against the pixel count of the whole space. There’s plenty of “empty” space on these pages because of usability and visual design. I’m not counting that on either side of the question, but am leaving it in the total area calc.
(2) Yelp very much recognizes this. In their recent 10k, they acknowledged that they rely on Google’s organic traffic while competing with Google.
(3) SEO Book did an extensive analysis of just how important the top left of the page, previously occupied by organic results actually is to visitors. That portion of the page is now all Google.