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Google Search is only 18% Search (jitbit.com)
231 points by jitbit on Sept 4, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 188 comments

So the major issues I saw with this article were:

1) the left-hand column is counted as non-search, when the left-hand column is entirely about search. The left-hand column gives you ways to refine your search: you can limit the types of search results like news/images, slice/dice search results by date, limit search results to verbatim matches or to change the geographic weighting of search results, etc.

2) the actual search box is counted as non-search, as are the estimated results count and the time the search took.

3) the article treated whitespace as non-search, when shorter columns can actually make it easier and faster for users to scan the results.

That's still leaving aside facts like

- We actually think our ads can be as helpful as the search results in some cases. And no, that's not a new attitude. I found a quote from 2004 that said "In entering the advertising market, Google tested our belief that highly relevant advertising can be as useful as search results or other forms of content," and I'm sure I could find similar quotes with a bit more looking.

- And of course there are tons of searches where we don't show ads. A lot of people like to take a query that shows ads and say "Aha!" but they're forgetting all the queries that don't show ads.

Not to mention that our ads aren't just a straight auction; we try to take into account things like the quality of the destination page in deciding whether and where to show ads, just like we do with web search results.

I noticed the same flaw, but lets cut to the chase. I sell a flowcharting tool. According to Google Analytics, ~40% of my visitors are running displays with a screen height of 800 pixels or below.

Adjusting my browser window size accordingly, I search for "flowchart software". Only 2 organic results are above the fold, whereas there are 7 ads above the fold. 2/9 = 22%, so the OP really wasn't that far off the mark for many users.

And yet if I were in the market for a [paid] flow charting package I would immediately look at the ads first, as in my opinion those ones would be the highest quality packages. I might also trust the first few organic links, but why bother when there are so many professional competitors vying for my business with the ads?

The ads are just another form of search.

Funny, I would do the exact opposite - completely ignore the ads and look for experiences of the users, reviews or really anything but the ads. How does buying adwords correlate with quality?

It's mostly subjective and entirely contextual:

If the software company is large enough to afford a marketing team to fill Google up with ads then there's a good chance the software will also have big dollars spent on it.

Contrariwise, if the software you're looking for is already large and complex (driven by the nature of what it needs to do), then ads will mean nothing because they will be expected.

While on the other end of the scale with small purpose-built apps you will deliberately ignore ads since you won't want any bulky bloatware that can afford adspace.

The ads are just another cost to the business, so that flows on through to the buyer, either through:

- higher prices

- worse customer service

- fewer features

- the company eventually going under as they get priced out of the ecosystem

You won't find many subjective comparisons & reviews of players in the ads (it will all be companies selling themselves) and you probably won't typically find any free or open source software either.

Perhaps a better word for it would be results. I think it is valid to point out what percentage of the page is results, because really that's what you are looking at.

In reference to #2, I've never found the result count or time the search took to be of much use.

I'm also not convinced that ads are actually ever useful. I'd love to see an example of one that you think is useful for the search.

You do make a good point on white space. Does that only apply to whitespace near the results, or is that for the entire page?

But the blog post headline is "Google Search is only 18% Search," and that's just not correct. I look at the result count to estimate whether I'm into the long tail of results, and I use the left-hand bar a bunch to refine searches based on time. That's all search and it goes toward making the search experience better for power users.

Ads can totally be useful; here's one from earlier today: [att cordless phones]. For Google's web results, we often interpret a query [X] as "information about X." The #1 web search result I see is http://telephones.att.com/att/index.cfm/cordless-telephones/ which does have information about cordless phones from AT&T. But I was looking for which models of cordless phones AT&T has. There's an ad that points to http://telephones.att.com/att/index.cfm/cordless-telephones/... which is actually more helpful because that shows me a bunch of different models.

Now you can argue that Google should be able to find and somehow return the page that AT&T bought the ad for. But that can be a hard problem (Bing returns the same page that Google does at #1 for example, as does DDG). So that ad was quite helpful for me, because it took me to a great page.

Percentage aside, I think it is perfectly reasonable that Google reserves a lot of space for ads. What pays for the search results after all? I am surprised that people expect to get great service for free. It's just not sustainable.

What is not reasonable is how deceptively similar the ad looks to an actual search result. If Google is confident about an Ad being information then why not let people click it for its relevance? Why make the background just barely different from the search result so that its almost impossible to visually separate ads from results? Let people clearly know that its an ad and let them decide whether they want to click on it or not.

Bing is as deceptive as Google here so not singling you guys out but please don't portray a reasonable effort to make money as a something larger than that.

>What is not reasonable is how deceptively similar the ad looks to an actual search result.

I'm not sure if this is true as I almost never click on an actual add link rather then a search link. I'm not sure if this is subconscious (I'm simply not seeing the adds), but I think if it was deceptive I'd be clicking them all the time.

Those of us who are in marketing, publishing, & start ups are not generally an accurate reflection of the general market. We tend to be far more aware of advertising than a typical web user.

Most searchers are unable to distinguish the difference between search ads and content. From a number of surveys we did here http://www.seobook.com/consumer-ad-awareness-search-results

"Even directly after viewing a search result with 3 ads in it, most users are uncertain of where ads may appear, what color the ads are, and if the search result even had any ads in it!"

"So that ad was quite helpful for me, because it took me to a great page."

No doubt, especially since you work for Google. When ads are similar looking to content why even bother to do a much better job to find content when ads can fill that void? Better content equals less clicks on ads.

http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html "Appendix A: Advertising and Mixed Motives Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users. For example, in our prototype search engine one of the top results for cellular phone is "The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention", a study which explains in great detail the distractions and risk associated with conversing on a cell phone while driving. This search result came up first because of its high importance as judged by the PageRank algorithm, an approximation of citation importance on the web [Page, 98]. It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this type of reason and historical experience with other media [Bagdikian 83], we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.

Since it is very difficult even for experts to evaluate search engines, search engine bias is particularly insidious. A good example was OpenText, which was reported to be selling companies the right to be listed at the top of the search results for particular queries [Marchiori 97]. This type of bias is much more insidious than advertising, because it is not clear who "deserves" to be there, and who is willing to pay money to be listed. This business model resulted in an uproar, and OpenText has ceased to be a viable search engine. But less blatant bias are likely to be tolerated by the market. For example, a search engine could add a small factor to search results from "friendly" companies, and subtract a factor from results from competitors. This type of bias is very difficult to detect but could still have a significant effect on the market. Furthermore, advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results. For example, we noticed a major search engine would not return a large airline's homepage when the airline's name was given as a query. It so happened that the airline had placed an expensive ad, linked to the query that was its name. A better search engine would not have required this ad, and possibly resulted in the loss of the revenue from the airline to the search engine. In general, it could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want. This of course erodes the advertising supported business model of the existing search engines. However, there will always be money from advertisers who want a customer to switch products, or have something that is genuinely new. But we believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm. "

Better content equals less clicks on competitors' search service. Something that your pamphlet misses entirely.

Over the long run, maybe and that's if people notice it and if Google isn't able to buy traffic like it does with Firefox. Google loves to test things and they can find the sweet spot on the most profitable SERPs and niches.

The problem for Google is that soon enough people will notice what Panda and Penguin did.

I'm also not convinced that ads are actually ever useful. I'd love to see an example of one that you think is useful for the search.

I can't believe you're being honest here. Counting just the last couple days, terms I've seen useful ads are: "trek stores near <where I live>", "glue for wood", "coach usa" and "shuttle lga". Also for the vast majority of terms in my search history, which happen to be arcane technical questions, I don't see any ads at all.

> I'm also not convinced that ads are actually ever useful.

Look at the results of that query right there. I'd say the ads are at least as good as the results.

The title is perhaps a bit misleading, but the article itself speaks of results instead of search/non-search. His claim is technically true.

To be fair, he should have also calculated the space the ads take up. However, one can tell by eye (from those screenshots at least) that that space has increased.

The conclusion he draws (neglecting ease of use) doesn't logically follow from the data, though.

Matt - I will stay clear of the percentage of real estate from the screen and other issues, however I think many people and businesses that advertise with Google (mine is one) feel the page does not do enough to differentiate the paid ads with the organic results. This is especially true with the ads at the top. I would ask that Google seriously look at changing this practice and if memory serves me right it use to be this way. Some people in this thread have said the same thing and I am fairly positive that most users and advertisers would agree. Thank you for your consideration.

Hi Matt,

But what about Google testing 7 and 4 results per SERP page?

I mean no offence but if you guys are showing less organic results there is nothing Google could say to convince me that they not promoting ads more than organic results?

I agree ADS are just as relevant if not more than organic results and in most cases better than organic results as people spending money on the ads, normally spend a lot of money and time in their products and or services as well as landing page to ensure the UX is great and that it will lead to a sale.

But not everyone has money?

> We actually think our ads can be as helpful as the search results in some cases.

As someone who works managing PPC adverts I have been referred to as "Google meat based matching algorithm"

this 1-3 columns not containing organic search results (main product of google, it why peoples using google).

A. Ads can be helpful, even on MFA site (and clicked very good if organic results not providing any answers). This technique was tested by lot of webmasters before. Also it just matter of thinking (ads is really helpful) and earnings reports.

Peoples visit google to search the web, but not to search adwords websites. But google give maximum priority for ads, not for their main product - organic search results. It will lead to decreased importance of google as search engine very soon. That articles you mention here - search google or bing and you will find lot of different opinions.

B: that searches where no adwords is not commercial. 99% of peoples creating websites & content because it their workjob, what mean webmasters also need to make money. If it not happens - it will mean less importance of google for webmasters and for searchers in nearest future. Just check how google alexa traffic rank fluctuating after black & white animals (time when google places ads above fold in search results).

C: So maximum daily budget/ppc is not important anymore? 8-P

Do Google employees also see the same interface with ads? And if so, shouldn't it be illegal as the employees (in)directly increase Google's revenue?

I'd hazard a guess that they whitelist any clicks from within Google networks so that nobody gets charged for them. That's fairly standard practice.

This is a comparison made back in 2005 and Google has a better UI than the rest


Do you have any stats on what percentage of people click on all those options on the left? One option may be to divide the page into two columns one for paid search results and the other for organic search results.

In some cases Google has reduced the organic search results to 7 listings per page. On some of the search results where Google has done that they have also added 3 AdWords ads at the top & the bottom of the organic search results.

The reason the prefer ads in the left column to the right is that is where most the attention goes & most of the clicks go. Ads at the top of the left column of the search results might get a 20% to 30% clickthrough rate (higher than that even on navigational search results...more like 90%+). And ads in the right column are lucky to get even a 1% CTR.

Number aside...18% or 21.47% the trend is obvious to everyone.

(I know you don't believe what you wrote but you had to say it anyway. Google's attitude changed in 2004 when you added ads on top, so attitude shifts to justify whatever you do. See Google's attitude on the original Pagerank paper)

Ads are as helpful as content? First there's a major conflict of interest since you control both ads and content. One update and content shifts, making ads by default better or worst. A tiny shifts not noticed by 99% of people can increase your profits by a wide margin. A tiny shift here and a Panda shift there and your revenue reaches $50 Billion a year, or a huge cut of the total e-comm trade.

If I search for Adidas 2012 VX Shoe (made it up) and I see 3-4 ads on top, why are they more helpful? Because they have it, because they have most reviews, cheapest price or what? In every case I have tried advertising it's the ad price difference, especially among top merchants. Of course that ad price is added to the consumer one way or another so nice try, portraying this as a helpful thing. Equally as important, the sites that lost traffic due to more ads are forced to go out of business or advertise /increase bids. A vicious cycle, induced by Google, to benefit Google.

>> And of course there are tons of searches where we don't show ads.

There is no money in many searches, that's known, nothing altruistic about it. You show ads where you have ads and where it is profitable, in key markets.

>> Not to mention that our ads aren't just a straight auction; we try to take into account things like the quality of the destination page in deciding whether and where to show ads, just like we do with web search results.

The difference between Geico, Progressive, All State et al is just the ad price and CTR, in sum how much money you make from them. The best site for the user would be a comparison site or maybe a CNN Fortune article that compared them.

The real questions: Should Google be trusted to rank organic search in an unbiased manner when they have a huge incentive to manipulate them, quarter by quarter? The only sure thing, unless Google is lying to SEC, is that Google's profits are increasing by an extraordinary amount after all these changes were made.

Is it good for the economy and for the web to have one company that controls both ranking and ads? Google control as much as 95% in some EU countries and roughly 70% in USA. You are talking about monopoly territory.

>>The difference between Geico, Progressive, All State et al is just the ad price and CTR, in sum how much money you make from them. The best site for the user would be a comparison site or maybe a CNN Fortune article that compared them.<<

Absolutely. And it is worth noting that recent Progressive case, where they defended a person who killed a Progressive auto insurance client (to try to skip out on paying the settlement to their customer's family).

Having a diversity of the same types of companies (basically what often amounts to white label brands with the same exact business model) isn't the same thing as offering various entry points into various stages of the funnel & different editorial opinions.

Also the brand bias in the organic results often makes them parallel the ads once more. And that awareness is often driven by advertising. The day after the Progressive fiasco I remember going to YouTube and seeing a huge Progressive ad. ;)

"Only 18.5% of the screen is devoted to something that people are actually looking for."

Once again, people dismiss ads as simply spam or something that provides no value to the search query when in study after study, at least on Adwords and SEM, paid results often boost relevance vs. a page only of organic results. This will of course differ by query and category of query but Google has already done a lot of work to make sure ads don't show for queries that have little to no commercial value or do not have enough query volume to risk jeopardizing the search experience.

If you're shopping for something, the paid and Google shopping results are often more relevant than the organic results since a lot of them incorporate real time price feeds or promotion codes. These are driven by the recognition of your shopping intent

Advertisers do not bid on keywords that deliver no economic value so it's in their best interest to only show up when they are the most relevant to your query. Through quality score, AdWords also shows ads that have been engaged with most often and with strong landing pages so that you don't get spammy ads or irrelevant ads that are unrelated to your query.

People don't go to a search engine to look at ads, despite of what Google may say. Most everyone knows that half of these ads are scams, and the other half is of dubious precedence. People visit a search engine because they want to see organic results. For example, most people, as soon as they have enough technical ability, choose to install ad blockers to avoid losing their time with Google ads.

I do not install ad-blockers. Tried out Ad-Block Plus, but disabled it after a week. Your claim about "most people" installing ad-blockers as soon as they can is completely unsubstantiated.

I don't do that because if a website or web service doesn't respect me as a customer, pushing annoying ads down my throat, I would rather stop reading/using it, which is a form of voting with your wallet. Instead I prefer to reward loyalty to websites that are tasteful and put users interests first. As an example, such a website would be Reddit.

Installing ad-blockers has the reverse effect of what most users want. Ads will become more and more intrusive and difficult to block. And by visiting such a website, you're still giving that website eyeballs, you're still passing links around to your friends, you're still rewarding them for their behavior. It's like hiding the cookie jar from a fat kid, then congratulating him for being fat.

Installing ad-blockers is also immoral, just as software piracy is. I've seen arguments of people that don't think so, but it's hard to justify the piracy of Photoshop when there are free or cheaper alternatives available, it's hard to justify the piracy of MS Office when LibreOffice is available and it's hard to justify using Google Search with ad-blockers when there are alternatives like DDG.

If you don't like the ads served, just don't freaking use the service/website in question. It's amazing how self-entitled some people are.

> If you don't like the ads served, just don't freaking use the service/website in question.

I have zero responsibility in the website business model. I don't want to see ads either on TV or on the web, I use the available tools. I've used ad blockers proxies since 1998 or so.

When some websites (reddit, osnews) ask nicely to deactivate adblock to support them, I do. When they whine about how that's their business model (like ars technica), I don't.

Oh BTW software piracy isn't immoral. It's maybe wrong, but morality has nothing to do with it. After all Photoshop and MS Office success rely at least for a part on software piracy. Furthermore, from your point of view Gutenberg was wrong because of all those poor scribes he put out of jobs by going against their century-proven business model. Does not make much sense, doesn't it?

I also hate ads on TV. That's why I don't watch TV anymore. Except for HBO which is not ad-supported.

This is not about responsibility towards a business model, it's more about rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. As a consumer, you definitely don't want bad treatment.

    After all Photoshop and MS Office success rely at
    least for a part on software piracy
That's true, but look at the other side of the coin as well ... because of software piracy, alternatives don't have a chance to penetrate a market that's monopolized. It also keeps Microsoft and Adobe lazy. No competition means no incentive to improve and no incentive to lower the prices.

Companies like Adobe and Microsoft have pockets deep enough to ensure that piracy is kept under control. But the story is very different for small companies or independent developers that just want to make a living. Also piracy doesn't work in the same way for games, or other products that people aren't using on a daily basis.

That's why I consider piracy immoral - it kills small software developers, it perpetuates the monopoly of big companies and is simply unfair to the people that worked on that software, pushing them towards more control, flawed technologies (DRM) and server-side subscriptions (in which case users don't really own anything anymore, not even their own data).

Notice that I don't like software piracy either, and I don't pirate myself: I use almosts exclusively free software (yes, I'm one of these guys :) and I buy my music, movies and the very few proprietary programs I use (like some games).

However, it seems to me that software piracy is a given of the media; there is no solution to it. Remember the 1976 Bill Gates' open letter to pirates? It's like drug prohibition: there is one supposed "right" state of the affairs which is unattainable, but for some reason the pragmatic approach is taboo.

I suppose software piracy is actually closer to the "tragedy of the commons" mechanisms than actual theft.

Yeah, I agree, piracy is not theft, but new business models are needed.

For the record, I also pirate movies and music from time to time, because I live in Romania and getting certain music and movies is difficult - most content available in the US is either not available in my country, or is made available with a significant delay. I don't have access to services like Netflix, the content on iTunes is a fraction of what's available in the US, the local bands still sell packaged CDs and we don't have a local Amazon/iTunes, etc...

Fortunately for HBO Romania, they are airing shows as soon as they are available. I also go out to movie theaters, but I only go to movies that are worth it. I'm not going to go out for a subpar movie, but I would pay $2 for viewing it in my home, if only such a thing was possible as soon as they are released.

Basically these media companies are shooting themselves in the foot by restricting the availability of content. Too bad that we don't have a "piracy subscription" to be paid monthly, because I would gladly pay it.

You're absolutely right, people don't go to search engines to look at ads: they go to search engines to find the most relevant answers to their queries. In many commercial query cases, the most relevant/useful links could be paid search links that an interested advertiser thinks is super-relevant to your query, enough so to actually put down money to pay for you to click over and see their site.

"Most everyone knows that half.." - I think that statements needs to be qualified because as far as I have observed, only tech people approach targeted Google ads with this much skepticism that 50% of ads are scams and 50% are dubious.

I have never clicked a google ad, except accidentally, and I've been using Google since close to the beginning.

I find that difficult to believe unless you are determined to disregard them. Especially when searching for a product to purchase, the best companies will advertise and often show a deal not obviously available in the search results.

Are you sure about that? If I search for "plumber philadelphia", I'm looking at organic and paid sections of the results page. The results in the paid sections tend to be pretty solid. They are local plumbers taking the time out and spending their ad budget online. To me that's a plus, along with a solid website.

Your description matches my perception of facebook ads, but not google ads. When I go to a search engine looking to spend money, I actually do expect ads and evaluate them first. Despite having the technical know-how to install an ad blocker, I haven't done so.

(Your statements imply majority or near-consensus opinions; I see no evidence to support these assertions.)

Correct. a search might show an ad which is highly relevant, but in most cases, the same link also appears in the search result, and I always click the one in the search result. Sometimes I am wondering if I should click the ad instead to let Google earn some money, but I am afraid the link contains strange parameters that would send information which I'm not willing to share.

>>If you're shopping for something, the paid and Google shopping results are often more relevant than the organic results since a lot of them incorporate real time price feeds or promotion codes.<<

In many cases such feed prices are inaccurate. I have used Google shopping many times looking for the advertised price only to find it's "out of stock" or the promotion had ended by the time you click the link. People do the same crap to the other shopping search engines too.

>Advertisers do not bid on keywords that deliver no economic value so it's in their best interest to only show up when they are the most relevant to your query.<

In some case the economic value isn't in the best interest of users. A lot of spam targets installing malware, invading privacy, or similar. Further, there are ads which advise you to "buy x thousand links for cheap" or similar, which at their core suggest you violate Google's search guidelines. And Google had like 50,000 advertisers pushing counterfeit goods at one point (according to Google) and that issue got cleaned up only after Google was hit with a sting operation where they were caught selling ads for steroids for a person posing as a Mexican drug lord. Apparently the drug lord had a high quality score at the time. ;)

> when in study after study, at least on Adwords and SEM, paid results often boost relevance vs. a page only of organic results.

Can you point to some of those studies ?

At Blekko.com we've looked into this, more of an a/b test driven model rather than a definitive survey, but one challenge is this, you send two pages to an unbiased observer (which is code for someone who didn't do the search, they are just looking at the search query and the results page and deciding which is 'better') the results will favor ads, but the meta issue is that the ads are curated, not algorithmic.

Specifically some person said "If someone searches for 'x,y, z' put my Ad up there" which is still much more accurate than an algorithm trying to guess. We do a game on our search page where if you put /monte at the end of your query we'll throw up the Google results, the Bing results, and the Blekko results. Then you get to pick the one that you, the searcher, thought was the best answer. We've found that well curated categories do really well in this comparison. Ads are simply a market motivated curation of Google's results.

The studies were not public and were part of research projects and relevance insights I had access to in prior positions.

This is a failure on Google's part, perhaps their most dangerous weakness.

Why is having a business model that generates billions of dollars in revenue annually, employs tens of thousands of people, and still allows you to maintain dominance considered a failure?

The ads platform is self-optimizing, punishing advertisers with poor ads, low relevance, and poor brand perception. This results in ads that are from more trustworthy sellers and whom generate real customer interaction to justify buying those ads. To me, this system encourages higher relevance in commerce queries because those who deliver the best user experiences after you leave Google are the ones that can afford to bid to the top of the ads marketplace.

As you said, people dismiss them. That's a failure.

It's a failure to deliver value to the searcher and a failure to deliver value to the advertiser.

The idea is fine, but if in practice people just ignore the ads...

Google is making great money from search-based ads, of course, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a massive inefficiency created by a large number of users ignoring a large number of ads.

The obvious opportunity for a competitor is to correct that inefficiency and deliver more value for searchers and advertisers.

Great question, I think should have qualified my earlier comment that "people" was in reference to those of us involved in tech/startups. I haven't seen the recent studies but a lot of people click on paid ads, even more surprising is that a lot of people don't even know the difference or care about the difference.

I don't know if I would call it a failure for the advertiser since compared to other forms of advertising, you only pay when users engage with your ad. Impressions are free for the advertisers if users see but don't click. For Google, I do agree that it's a qualified failure in that some people want to block these results or ignore them but I think they've been taking steps to fix this by making ads less static and more dynamic like with their shopping results or with their hotel/airfare products.

FWIW, if I'm doing an obviously commercial query - usually comparison shopping or looking for local businesses or professional services - I click on the ads all the time. It's like having hand-curated search results where each curator has an incentive to put their best foot forwards.

It's hand-curated where the curator has a strong bias. That's not really curation.

I'm very rarely looking for a search result that takes me to a place to spend money.

Even with commercial queries, I'm usually looking for a review of some sort first, and only then am I looking for the opportunity to buy.

The curator always has a bias, usually a strong bias. At least when it's labeled as an Ad, you know the bias exists and can account for it by visiting multiple sites. The only way to solve bias issues is to get many contrasting viewpoints so you can decide for yourself what the reality is.

I usually have both the query and query + [reviews] open in separate tabs. Either that, or just the reviews query, because that usually surfaces enough ads that I can click through all the major players myself.

I'm rarely looking for a search result that takes me to a place to spend money either, but when I'm not I usually don't get ads either. Check out [jquery touch] or [haskell ffi] or even [gabby douglas] and [us open]. No ads on any of them.

People dismiss TV ads. Are they failures? No, the point of ads is not that 100% pay attention to them. The point is that there is that 0.01% of people who are going to look at it, and at a large enough scale it become worth it. That is why TV advertising and online advertising has not died.

It also doesn't mean that there is a massive inefficiency created by a large number of users ignoring a large number of ads.

I'm not sure how you came to this conclusion, or what constitutes a large number. I'm not saying your wrong exactly, but it sounds like some pretty significant assumptions are being made in your statement. Proof?

I was actually under the impression that most people find the ads relevant more often that not. However, I can't remember where I read that so I won't stand behind it.

Pardon, but how do you propose that a competitor convince people who ignore ads to stop ignoring them?

That's the $100 billion dollar question.

Someone will do it better than Google is doing it now. It might be Google that improves it, it might not.

I've been using Adblock+ for the last 6+ years. Granted the 13.8m users [1] are a drop in the bucket compared to googles non Adblock+ viewers. I was a little shocked to see this post as it is much different than what I see.

For the search "saas help desk" (https://www.google.ca/#hl=en&q=saas+help+desk)

I see: http://imgur.com/xMB6t

They see: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-5Vq-qWuUPZE/UER9ChRkKQI/AAAAAAAAAd...

[1] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/adblock-plus/

Also about 14m users [1] of Ad Blockers for Chrome. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, I wonder how it will play out in a few years if more and more people default to no ads.

[1] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/popular

I expect eventually all ads will be routed through the domain of the site you are visiting, making domain blacklisting programs like AdBlock irrelevant.

They have much better granularity than simple domain blacklisting. Take a look at a filter list.


wow -- just installed Adblock+. the experience was a lot like finally progressing far enough in my career to not have to wear a tie; i feel freed from bondage...

I was wondering what the author was going on about until I remembered Ad-block. It's still a very clean interface and the distinction between ads and search results is pretty clear. Doing a quick informal search, the terms that the author chose seems to be a large outlier in terms of numbers of ads.

They are being good guys about it; they could easily block all "Ad-Blockers" and ask you to disable the adblocker to continue (as some sites already do).

Actually, there's no way to really block ad-block.

It wouldn't be too hard to make an ad-blocker that used CSS and Javascript to do all of the blocking during page render. It'd be an inefficient use of bandwidth and rendering time, but it'd be able to block 100% of ads and undetectable from the web server.

In fact, before Opera had a built-in ad-blocker, I think there was an ad-block extension built on its "User Javascript" and custom CSS abilities.


  function verifyAds() {
    if (!adContentsVisible()) {
    setTimeout(verifyAds, 1000);    

Huh? Extension can override JavaScript on the page, too, you know:

window.adContentsVisible = function () { return true; }

  (function() {  
    // local scope, can't override
My point is that I agree with grandparent, that they just allow ads to be shown, and it's not technically impossible to reload ads, or prevent page contents view, if no ads visible.

The plugin can absolutely mock the ad element(s) and make them seem to be visible.

only because sites generally don't do so; if necessary, extensions could get much more aggressive with website scripts, current user script limitations aside.

If it's client-side, it can be defeated. Let's not enter into an arms race of larger and more bandwidth-intensive checkers/blockers to try to get the upper hand. If someone ad blocks, they're not likely in your target demographic anyway.

"During page render".

Render the page, identify the regions of the resulting bitmap which are ads, and blank them out. The browser can always just lie at the end, even after running all of the JavaScript and marking all of the DOM elements to visible.

Also, it is possible to block 3rd party ads without touching the browser by going straight into the underlying IP routing tables.

I use http://someonewhocares.org/hosts/ as my hosts file, and it works great. It doesn't remove the placeholder for the ad, but it does stop it from downloading.

Yes, but it's easy for a browser to just override your verifyAds function.

If they find a way to force the visibility of ads, we still could move them to the bottom of the page.


    function adContentsVisible() { return true }

not if it's defined in local context.

I can modify my browser's javascript interpreter if I need to.

Mobile Safari successfully refrains from adblocking.

You underestimate the ingenuity of geeks. If Google decided to prevent people from using Ad-blockers, 24 hours later a new Ad-blocker would be released to get around it, or the existing ones would be updated.

Except such an arms race is highly asymmetric in Google's favour.

Google can have a team of 10 working full time racing Ad-Blocker's volunteers.

Google can ask for ever more aggressive permissions from web masters, Ad-Blockers must play nice with browsers' plugin api.

Google can hire away the most productive Ad-Blocker developers.

Google can ban ad-blockers from chrome's plugin repository and halve the ad-blocker userbase overnight.

Google has the warchest for a multi year engagement. Most plugin authors cannot last a single year fighting full time.

If Google went total war then ad-blockers would disappear within a year. It would be a massive PR hit, maybe even a legal issue. The risks make it all a numbers game, but there does exist a point where Google can no longer ignore ad-blockers. Thus ad-block users must be careful and not become too numerous.

I don't buy that for a second. Where is the asymmetry on Google's end? Google has to stop adblockers everywhere, meanwhile, adblockers only need to have a lucky strategy once, and social distribution spreads it everywhere. It's exactly the opposite of what you assert.

And at the end of the day, the web page is rendered on hardware (a display) owned by the user. In the very worst case, the final bitmap being displayed could be modified to remove ads; this crude approach could not be stopped short of a totalitarian state (Google isn't quite that strong) or mangling web pages into unreadability (in which case they wouldn't get traffic so ads would be pointless).

But it would never get that far, for the simple reason of accessibility (i.e. for people with disabilities). Accessible websites are machine comprehensible, to a greater or lesser degree. What the machine can comprehend (in form, if not meaning), it can edit.

Imagine the arms race with a super fast 30 minute release cycle. Every 30 minutes a new updates comes, 30 minutes later a new counter measure.

During those 30 minutes of vulnerability Google is losing only the marginal cost of serving an ad-free search, a rounding error.

During the other 30 minutes ad-blockers will lose users. Users of ad-blockers are not fanatics, they have no moral issues with ads. They are normal people who are using ad-blockers because it improves their browsing experience. So what happens when these ad-blockers temporarily ruin the browsing experience? They'll temporarily turn off said ad-blocker. By the 87th time what percentage will have given up on ad-blockers for good? If that percentage is anything greater than 0% then Google is winning.

The race is not like the DRM arms race, it is more akin to the virus arms race. Users want to run untrusted code and said untrusted code wants to do something the users do not want it to do.

I doubt Google would be willing to do 30 minute release cycles. Like any large piece of code search needs to be tested before it is released, the tests alone probably take 30 minutes to run. Google probably could not update their code more frequently than once a day. Risking breaking the search webpage is too high of a cost. On the other end ad blockers don't have to worry about lossing millions of dollars a second if they introduce a bug so they can respond much quicker.

People wouldn't use a product that changed that quickly. People complain enough as it is.

All those arguments sounds similar to arguments about why the RIAA would have easily stamped out file sharing.

I would say that the arms race is highly asymmetrical against Google. Building ad-blocking technology isn't that hard, so the labor force force is significantly larger than Google could ever afford to combat.

Google is smart to not take on this battle. Only a small percentage of user's install ad-blocking software, and those users would not likely click on ads anyway. Now, if only Google could teach the RIAA of its ways.

If listening to music necessarily required that you download a new 'app' for every play, then the RIAA could shut down piracy pretty easily.

Bluray security is pretty close to that. Somehow I still keep seeing bluray rips on the internet.

That's because the content doesn't necessarily require you to download a new app every play - the content is the same every play, and any software/license download is just a nuisance.

Google search results are different every time, and the freshness of a result is essential to its utility. If you always needed "today's version of The Movie" then piracy would be much easier to thwart.

Google makes money from people clicking on ads. I'd wager that people who install adblock, don't tend to click on ads, especially if you force them to disable it.

There is another factor that people are ignoring for all the talk of technical possibilities...

Those who are minded to go out of their way to install something that blocks ads probably aren't very likely to click ads anyway.

They are also probably technology 'leaders' who help sites to bring in all the regular folk who do click the ads.

Google is probably the least likely company to lose users this way, but they have another factor that they want a good reputation with that community because they want to hire lots of them.

If google becomes too annoying people will leave. There are alternatives.

I think it's more a matter of simple customer segmentation (same principle behind outlet malls: charge price-insensitive customers a premium, without losing the price-sensitive but hassle-insensitive customers who are willing to schlep to the outlet mall for a discount.)

AdBlock allows Google customers to self-segment the same way. Win-win.

In the image where you show the 18.5% organic footprint vs 81.5% ad footprint, you are lumping in a lot of page real estate used for navigation and search tools. The entire left hand side is not add related.

I'd be a more accurate/fairer way to represent the info by providing 3 categories: organic, ads, navigation/misc. If you did this, you'd provably see a closer to 40/60 split, still in favor of ads. Similar to what you showed in your screenshot from the past.

He didn't go to Google looking for navigation, he went looking for the results of his search.

So the way he discusses the real estate devoted to fulfilling his purpose is quite reasonable.

Until people show me that paid results aren't relevant (hint: they usually are), then most of the real estate is fulfilling his purpose.

Also, if Google decided to some how change to using 2 columns of organic search so they could squeeze 16 results into a single page, you'd hear just as much, if not more, complaining.

Except you use the navigation to improve your search. No one wants a page completely full of organic results.

Exactly - I use the "search within date range" functionality a lot. No, I don't want to type out that in the search box the entire time - esp. when the default facets (1 day, 1 month, 1 year back) are so convenient.

What I want, ideally, is exactly a page of organic results that fulfills my search query with perfect relevance.

Ideally, in the perfect world, I don't need the navigation, page 2, or even a place to refine my search. Ideally, I don't need any of that.

If we're talking about what I want, that's it.

Surely the ideal would be a single result with exactly the information you need. But because the search query is seldom perfect, it's good to have several results - and by extension, some paid results too.

In a perfect world, you don't even want page 1 -- why show ten results when you really only want one?

And behold, that perfect world exists now: "I'm Feeling Lucky".

You joke, but yes, that's exactly what I want. Why would I not want exactly what I'm looking for delivered directly to me?

Also, "I'm Feeling Lucky" isn't an option for me, not in the version of Chrome I have anyway. Even if I explicitly load the www.google.com which shows the feeling lucky button, as soon as I type 1 letter in the box the screen changes to an interactive search, which no longer has the lucky button.

You can disable Instant Search by going to http://www.google.com/preferences and selecting "Never show Instant results.".

Or, you could set "I'm Feeling Lucky" to be Chrome's default search: http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!msg/chrome/pDpfTIoSa... . Basically, you add "btnl=I%27m+Feeling+Lucky" to the Google search URL.

I do.

Well, except perhaps my query at the top so I can refine it if necessary.

So turn on adblock or get one of the scripts that strips down the UI. Mountains of testing have shown that you're in the severe minority here.

I do use scripts for that. I was just providing a counter point to the parent's "No one wants". "Most people don't want" would be more accurate.

So you would prefer something like the this:


It seems like poor UX to me. It's a little ugly how line length isn't constrained and you're unable to do anything but type a query into the box. Special queries would require memorizing commands or just doing without.

I'd prefer a multi-column layout, 'cause you're right that long lines are hard to read.

I don't use that many special queries, except sometimes "site:", and frankly if I have to type (or paste) the entire domain anyway, "site:" is way less effort than switching to a different text field, even if it were one of the defaults.

I'd be OK having a "More Options" link or something for the rare case when I want to search for images by color or whatever.

Having said that, I'm aware this is very much a personal opinion. Google can design their site for the majority. I don't mind.

I kinda like the collapsable sidebar present in Google Maps. However, I rarely miss the extra space taken up by the current sidebar on the main search results page.

I looked for "81" in the page and found nothing. Apparently, he never said that 81.5% of the area is made up of ads. He may have edited it but I think his criticism was towards the unused space for results, not especially towards the ads.

And if that is the case, I must concur. I fail to understand why Google added a large side bar instead of adding more top bars in the unused space next to the logo (perhaps right under the search text box). The designers at Google may disagree but the Jitbit guy sure has a point.

There is a graphic that shows 18.5% for the organic and 81.5% for the ads/rest of the area.

The main reason I disagree with the conclusion is that the area used by Google, or any other company for that matter, for navigation/other tools is hardly equivalent to space used for ads.

That in no way is intended to say that the space is used "efficiently".

This observation made the rounds at Google a few months ago. Note also it depends on the topic of your search. 3 ads in the yellow box are reserved for highly monetized queries - "flowers" or "car insurance" for example.

Queries about programming topics - "sinatra post parameters" is one I tried a few minutes ago - usually don't have ads.

are the "highly monetized queries" queries also the most common queries?

They can be -- but not necessarily. It has a lot to do with conversions. Someone searching "car insurance" or "cheap flights" is most likely on the hunt for something they are willing to pay for; while someone searching "football scores" is most likely just looking for free information.

Of course this doesn't even scratch the surface of running a site for ad revenue that provides free information to common search questions, e.g., "how do I change the oil in my car"

Ads are actually more likely to provide the answer to your question, or the solution to your task, when you're searching for something to buy. Which may weigh into why Google puts so many of them on the page.

It's one of the things that prevents me from ad-blocking sites like Google. Some of the time I will actively be searching for the ads, and avoid the natural results, because the natural results for some product searches can be extremely spammy with "review" sites and comparison shopping sites with horrible user experiences dominating the results, while the paid results are usually decent retailers or distributors.

Wow I just searched NCAA rankings and saw no ads.

> Is Google becoming a Yahoo?

I suspect that all ad-revenue sites are subject to the same economic pressures. Almost all such companies eventually succumb to these pressures.

All such companies will tend to cater to the lowest common denominator. They will tend to put their own interests (that of showing ads and increasing ad effectiveness) over the interests of users.

Perhaps there is an opportunity for a paid integrated search/email/calendar/reminders/maps/events application? You pay them $5 or $10 per month, and they do their best to create the best possible experience for you. Apple and Microsoft are well positioned to become this company as well, as is Google.

Wouldn't it be ironic if Yahoo! became this company?

The failure of A/B testing. More ads => more revenue. People won't abandon the site immediately just because a new ad or two showed up, like a slow boiling pot, so short term effects are always positive.

Just like the sesame-seed hamburger bun: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2007/09/11.html

(Though, personally, in this case, I don't think Google's getting enough credit. The added space for search tools is designed to make search better for most users, and probably do, even if most of us don't need them.)

> Perhaps there is an opportunity for a paid integrated search/email/calendar/reminders/maps/events application? You pay them $5 or $10 per month, and they do their best to create the best possible experience for you.

You've just described Google Apps for Business (well, except for search).

Some results are even worse. There were keywords where you could see only 7 organic results.

The rest was AdWords.

To make things worse, Google adds more and more "product search" results (paid placement).

With each day, there's less and less traffic for those people who don't pay Google. I suspect that the paid placement trend will increase until it is possible.

To make things worse, Google not only decreases the SERP "real estate". They also introduce frequent algorithm updates which tend to drop down websites which earn on search-engine traffic. Leaving those which may have lesser quality but don't earn on their traffic ( no monetization ). And if you do it to a million websites, you will gain quite a lot of new AdWords buyers. Some of them have to try your PPC ads. Let's say that 10% of them will try to get traffic out of PPC - now you've got yourself 100.000 paying customers.

It's obvious they want to force people both to buy and to click ads. They don't gain anything by sending free traffic to other affiliate websites ( which will then convert to sales/leads ).

The question is: Where do you draw a line between a search engine and an "ad engine"?

To many people, especially those less tech-savy, Google = Internet.

I personally think, it's pretty bad for the overall state of e-economy to have this one big mogul who administers the majority of targetted traffic. He wants his share of the pie from everyone. If you are too small to pay, fuck you. They don't need you. The consumer won't notice you are not in the search results, there are 50 other websites happy to take your place. Either you are at the top or you don't exist.

It'd be great if there would be something like Google but with a more "socialistic" approach. Instead of having a few websites occupying the top place, provide the traffic to other, smaller players. So the e-economy can expand more.

> Instead of having a few websites occupying the top place, provide the traffic to other, smaller players. So the e-economy can expand more.

How would you do that? Throw in some random numbers to shuffle the search results?

The percentage of space occupied by ads varies depending on the search.

35% ads only 1% of the time isn't nearly so bad as 35% ads all the time. And the auctions help guarantee that ad-crowding happens most often when searchers are actually well served by advertisements.

People searching for "saas help desk" probably want to find people to sell them support, rather than just info about saas. Searching for just "saas" alone reduces ad volume. Searching for "origin of saas" reduces ad levels further. Wikipedia is the top entry, and we're down to one lonely ad at the bottom of the page.

Similar divergences occur with "linux" and "linux support."

I'm not convinced fewer ads would be better. Imagine asking a friend for help with your broken machine, and he hands you the short biography of Linus Torvalds.

When you want pure information (for me, most of the time) ads drift out of the picture. When you want to buy something, they're more prominent, just as you probably want them to be.

N.B. - There is a hell of a lot of whitespace on a 1920x1080 monitor though.

Not to be a shill for Duck Duck Go, but the amount of search information displayed is refreshingly dense:



I made duckduckgo.com my home page several months ago after I saw http://donttrack.us/, and it has been working fine. The presentation is nicer than google. I have AdBlock enabled, so I don't see the ads on either site.

I like the infinite scroll on duckduckgo; I have AutoPager plugin on chrome to get something similar with google.


How is DDG any better really?

I'm not bombarded by fifteen different ads, who are all trying to pretend like search results?

The results are hit or miss...I probably !g about half my queries. But the other half are entirely pleasant experiences and I'm hopeful DDG continues to get better.

The ads on the Google result page are probably better links than most of the organic results. People who pay for traffic usually make the payoff worthwhile.

Nonsense. All three ads on the Google page are to thin domains with little more than a contact form to harvest your info and spam you to death.

First time I have seen mapquest used anywhere other than mapquest.com.

To be fair you should factor whitespace out when you're calculating the area.

In the recent screen capture all the whitespace is added to the non-search results.

In the not-so-recent results there is a fair amount of whitespace added to the search results (as well as non-search).

I noticed this as well. The older search results have the same width as the new results.

It's also interesting to note that the old results page is displaying multiple results for single domains using result nesting, while the new results page displays only one listing for each domain. The end result is that the same number of 'effective search results' are displayed on the page for both versions.

The gradual transformation of white space into content is a natural evolution in the life of any web product. While the feature set is simple, the design can be sparse. Mature products benefit from rich feature sets, with the drawback of having to sacrifice the sparse visual design that may have initially distinguished them from the competition.

I honestly thought about cutting all the white space completely, but then after having a chat with our designer... He said that every page is visually divided into blocks (even if there are no explicit visual borders of these blocks), subjectively, of course. This, the "F-pattern" and "left-to-right" orientation for the most of us brought us to an agreement that the last screen was ok... The subjective "blocks" are somewhat like this.

But I agree, I shouldve been more precise

That makes some sense; sort of defining what the whitespace is "devoted" to.

Aaron Wall has documented the decline of organic search very well over the years. Worth checking out: http://www.seobook.com/the-sales-engine

I've had trouble staying focused when using Google a while back and decided to write a Chrome extension for improving the Google Search experience. Here's the URL for those interested: http://restfulpanda.com/post/25658805059/cleaning-google


Turns this: http://f.cl.ly/items/2y1F0d2d0a2K3L1n0Q2m/1.png

Into this: http://f.cl.ly/items/2P3B2c0X0V0Q3U0h3e3A/2.png

A big improvement, but as with ad blockers, you still have search results crammed into a fairly narrow box. Obviously, you won't be able to get Google to show longer titles and descriptions, but you should be able to widen the box so that the two-line descriptions end up on one line, which would fit more results on each page.

I just wish you could get it to expand rightwards and get the longer descriptions back, the amount of space they've wasted to 'integrate' G+ really annoys me.

Arguably, from a design perspective, a wider column of text is harder to read than a narrower column of text. I personally find Google to be more legible than it was before at 53% result space. That's just me, though.

I'm not sure it is just you. Shorter columns are easier to read, which means it serves users even better; our eyes don't have to track a massive row of characters to see what the search result is.

Is that actually so different from the way things used to be? If you run the example 2008 query, "open source social networking," the number of ads hasn't changed.

It seems like most of this complaint should be directed at the navigation sidebar to the left. I'd imagine Google tested the sidebar ad nauseam, though, and is leaving it there for a reason (probably increased engagement in other search products and more readily exposes advanced refinements).

Ironically (or not) jitbit.com is a similar percentage of content above the fold, with almost identical content width.

I say 'or not', because there are well established readability reasons for having a narrow content width. Would many people genuinely prefer the google of the 2008 screenshot? The days of sites with full page width text are largely gone, and for good reason.

I'm sure google would also suggest that the ads are content.

Can we please change the headline to something a bit less invalid and full of sensationalism? This is a perfect example of distorting statistics to serve ones purpose.

* Author has a small screen.

* Author compares results space vs everything else, and then calls it "ads"

On my 1920x1200 screen, overall ad space and results space actually take up the same amount of space. There's a ton of UI and white-space though. While Google could arguably make better use of their empty space, suggesting the remainder is entirely ads is absurd.

Screenshot with results in red and ads in blue: http://i.imgur.com/YTspx.png

> * Author has a small screen.

Author has a big screen. His screenshot shows five results above the fold. I can barely see two on my 1280x800.

The argument works both ways.

The CRT I threw out years ago was 1280x1024. It wasn't big then, and a smaller screen isn't big now.

Even if you're on something like an iPad you still have 1024 vertical and end up with plenty of content. Only netbooks and/or low-quality screens have this issue.

1280x960 is not a "big screen" by any modern definition.

Two minor nits about Google search:

(1) the bias toward current results seems overweighted. Maybe I'm the only one this annoys. I use the custom date settings more than any other feature on Google, maybe it could always be exposed.

(2) I wish there wasn't two buttons that say "News" that do different things while they have more sets of buttons in identically analogous places that say "Images" and "Maps" yet for some reason both buttons do exactly the same thing.

Yeah, I can never remember which "News" keeps my current search and which doesn't.

Related, I noticed a few days ago that google.com, which was once the most minimalistic page possible, was cluttered by (1) an ad for chrome on top, and (2) an ad for the Google tablet on the bottom. It felt messy.

Times have definitely changed.

I believe the number of ads displayed varies based on the perceived usefulness of the ads in answering the user's query. The ad space above the organic search results shouldn't be lost space.

Note: I work at Google but not on web search, ads, or UI design. This is just based on my personal observations.

If you scroll down the percentage of the search results significantly increases :) I found this article quite dumb, honestly. If you make stats, make it on the whole experience, not just the first seconds using Google...

I was reminded today of the kind of tricky things google gets up to when I went to the download page for "Win32 Disk Imager" on Softpedia (as linked to by the Raspberry Pi's Download page).


Check it out for yourself. You see that big, prominant "Download Now" button - that's an ad served by googleadservices.com.

I don't know how they get away with crap like this, it surely must be against their own ad policy.

It is against policy:


I'll ping folks internally. If you look at the button with Developer Tools, it's one single giant image that's an ad for Download Manager. The advertiser stuck a Download button on it and is presumably running ads on sites where you download things.

Question for people more familiar with google ads that me:

I quite often type in a search term for something that I imagine must be a very common search term and I don't get any adverts whatsoever.

Does this mean that nobody has bid on this keyword (because it's too expensive?) or are some search terms simply not allowed to be advertised on?

Some terms don't display advertisements - if the combination of relevance and google's profit potential on a specific query is not above a certain level (which is always changing I'm sure based on yield management and user data tests), then no ads will display for that query.

Most navigational queries fall into this class.

By definition if no one has bid on the keyword, you can easily win the auction by bidding the minimum amount. It is likely that the terms you were searching for are not ideal targets for effective ads. Can you give an example of such query?

I can't remember which terms I searched when I discovered this, but I tried it just now.

"computer networking" yields 1 ad. "networking" yields no ads.

It seems to me that linear vertical space matters more than area. It still is small, but not as small. Showing ranked search results in multiple columns makes no sense, and screens have gone from 4:3 to 16:9,, so you would expect the extra area to be used for something other than search results.

When you have enough vertical space, Google will screw your results with botched site crowding. See http://www.seroundtable.com/google-same-result-same-page-152...

I've had worse, because I wanted to have 100 results in a page.

Google would apply a Panda-induced penalty to any website that followed a similar content strategy.


It's good to be the king.

The author is only analyzing content above the fold. There's no conclusion to draw from this, other than that Google used to cram more content above the fold, like all other sites.

bing seems to be doing better in this regard.

ok granted it is doing better by allocating more space to the search results. But how about the search result quality? How's it doing there?

I can't believe Google removed the ability to scroll down.

I almost pathologically click on the ads. If I hold down CTRL and click I am giving back more than is enough to receive such an amazing, life changing?, history changing?, service. Here's that click.

The room that is taken up by the left and right columns also are welcome. I sometimes find exactly what I am looking for in the right column. I actually wish Google gave more information and less site links as results.

Maybe it's just me, but all that wasted empty whitespace bothers me. I think it may have gotten worse when google did their big UI overhaul.

I think some screen real-estate could be saved by simply tightening the padding. I see a lot of areas that are blank. It would be really nice if the content was allowed to take some of this dead space.

Use Adblock Plus. Problem solved. Google SERP is 100% relevant for me. It's just results, white space and a little bit of UI.

If you think advertising is going away or getting scaled back any time soon, you're fooling yourself. Just block them and stop thinking about it. Now if only they could invent Adblock for Reality....

At first I thought "well, if you're using an ad blocker, it's different", but in Google's case, you just end up with white space instead of ads because the search results are still crammed into a 42em wide box. I wonder if there's a user script or chrome plugin to fix that.

This seems to me to be a similar kind of evaluation that Google would do on its own work. Nice angle.

Considering the present standards of organic ranking an aware user(searcher) will look for natural results more, than paid ones. So it is better to let organic results take more space on Google search pages than inorganic ads.

What I use:

GoogleMonkeyR - a Greasemonkey that breaks SERP ads and instant search and allows you to format them to your liking.


I think a big difference also is that Google's landing is clean, this is the results page. Yahoo's landing page is cluttered but their results page I would say is comparable.

Could somebody do this for other sites?

This is something Aaron Wall has been trying to expose for the past 3-4 years over at SEOBook.com (why oh why are these SO few comments compared to SEOMoz everytime I visit there? this guy is NEVER afraid to speak the truth), and it's just 1 of many disturbing trends happening. Google's mission is simple: they want you to rely less on organic search and more on Adwords for your traffic.

Nowadays, you can't even see what keywords are driving traffic to your site if users are logged in (50% of queries or so). Plus it's hard to even correlated your SEO efforts with rankings because Google does stuff like drop your rankings randomly so you don't know what works.

> Plus it's hard to even correlated your SEO efforts with rankings because Google does stuff like drop your rankings randomly

And therefore they would have to increase your rankings randomly as well?

I always forget that Google does ads on search page, after I installed the amazing AdBlock extension on Chrome.

I don't see Google, Facebook Ads and many more, AdBlock knows what.

I had to disable ad block to see the same screen and wow what a difference. No wonder Google still looks clean to me - I'm not even seeing their ads.

There was also a big change in May 2010


2011 / May2010 / pre-May2010

(thumbnails are from searchpreview extension)

The search in our isn't considered 'search'?!

google have ads above fold, but matt cutts not tell us anything about it. And how it improving user experience. Google now cares only about adwords money, not about quality of their main product - organic search results. All that stories about best possibly user experience it just tries to hide that fact.

For a query like "credit card", those non-organic results seem much more, if not just as, relevant than the organic results. Why do people assume that if it's an ad that it must be non-relevant? Advertisers wouldn't be advertising on these keywords unless they were converting a good percentage of users ... that means a good percentage of users are finding those links relevant.

I don't use AdBlock, don't really see the reason to as I find most of the search ads to be relevant whenever I'm searching for a term that actually shows search ads (which isn't really that often). Hate for search ads just because they are ads is kind of an odd imo ...

"For a query like "credit card", those non-organic results seem much more, if not just as, relevant than the organic results"

That's almost certainly on purpose to get better ad click ratio. Google manually inspects all major keywords, you can bet "credit cards," "mortgage" and "insurance" are tweaked and tweaked to Google's specification. Showing "bofa.com" when searching for mortgage isn't that useful to the average user, so people click on ads.

to me this is like tv shows. it use to be about 50 min of show, 10 min of commercials

now its about 42 min show, 18 min commercials

maybe google is just 82% advertising.

Actually, doesn't the amount of advertising change based on the actual query used?

that's actually a really interesting point and something which i had never really considered. googling 'computational linguistics' (for me anyhow) renders exactly zero ads, while googling 'computers' gives me almost an entire screenful.

This shouldn't be an issue to programmers. With Greasemonkey or Scriptish it's trivial to write a script to clean up the page so that you only see the results.

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