Google recently updated their webmaster guidelines, I am assuming that this also included an internal review, as well.
>> "Inclusion in Google's search results is free and easy; you don't even need to submit your site to Google." This is directly from:
Keep in mind that this article does reference Froogle, which has been discontinued. Merchants were able to submit a shopping feed, but, in fact, now have to pay for that.
Local businesses are able to get a Google My Business listing for free, which means free traffic to their site, but I expect that to be a paid-for-play option soon, as well.
- flights from NYC to Los Angeles
- compare credit cards
- hotel near los angeles
You'll notice that in each of those cases, there are no organic results above the fold. Also, if you want to see what happens when you don't pay to play, search for:
- flights from dallas to houston
Look for Southwest Airlines in the widget...they won't pay Google.
Southwest is notable as an airline that won't submit their pricing and inventory to third-party aggregators. This has nothing to do with Google, and is also the reason why Kayak doesn't show Southwest prices.
Yes, SWA does avoid pay-to-play in other situations. However, Southwest specifically asked Google to remove prices from the flight widget.
There were there at first. There's a reddit AMA from the Google Flights team where they talk about it.