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If you concede that many/most people aren't aware that the links in the yellow box atop search results are paid results, then Google is essentially selling the first three spots in its search rankings right now and has been for some time.

The organic results are still the organic results. Sometimes the ad links are the things the user is looking for -- and that's great for everybody -- but when they aren't, the organic results are still there to give the users what they want.

If you open up all the results to bidding, you can end up pushing the most user-demanded results entirely to the side whenever there are enough advertisers willing to pay money to fill up the entire page, which creates a much more substantial negative impact on the user experience.

Depending on the angle of my laptop screen, I can't always see the yellow. Over the years they've kept making the color lighter and lighter.

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