Google News: Why Your Position #1 Rankings may not be Enough

by / Friday, 20 July 2012 / Published in Google

As if Penguin, Panda and over-optimization penalties weren’t enough…

It seems as if Google ads are taking the once glorified organic positions and edging them out of the running.

New research shows that users who are inputting keywords with high commercial intent, click on ads twice as much as the organic listings for the same keywords.

Wordstream released an interesting infographic about the war between Google ads and organic listings.

According to Wordstream founder and CEO, Larry Kim, “…we did some research to see how those changes impacts where users click on Google search results. The results were astonishing: Clicks from paid search now outnumber clicks from organic (un-paid) search listings by nearly 2:1 for high commercial intent keyword searches in the USA.”

Here is a snippet of the Wordstream infographic:

When analyzing search from high intent keywords (high intention to buy), 64.6% of the clicks went to sponsored ads as opposed to 34.5% going to organic results.

We have already witnessed Google’s new quest to oust over-optimization and spam, which are good things, but the search engine is also making organic rankings harder and harder to accomplish.

Is Google crowding out organic listings with its paid listings?

Here are some stats found by Wordstream:

  • Organic results account for just 14.8% of the above-the-fold pixels
  • On average, the top 3 spots (ads) take 41.1 % of the clicks on a specific page analyzed
  • Sponsored ads on high commercial intent keywords take up 85.2% of the above-the-fold pixels.
  • On average, the top organic listing gets just 8.9% of the clicks

If you are active in SEO lingo, you will recognize the reference to “above the fold,” which refers to the listings you visibly see without the need to scroll down the page.

I ran an Ecommerce store starting in 2007, and at the time my team and I would routinely check the websites above the fold on page 1 to see how they were ranking. We would watch the top five results religiously because they were visible above the fold in the organic listings. If I do a search for the same keywords now, this is what I see:

The top five organic listings above the fold in 2007 have now been reduced to one or two depending on your screen size.

In 2007,  20-30% of the clicks for a keyword went to the website in position #1 and approximately 8% went to the website in position #10. According to the Wordstream analysis, this number has now dropped to 9% for position #1.

The top listing is currently receiving the exact number of clicks position #10 did years ago.

You may have also noticed the reduced amount of whitespace between organic listing and paid search and a greater amount of whitespace also between the top of the ads and the search query box.

Here is a screenshot of a Google search provided by from 2007 for the keyword “rack door”. Notice the distance between the ads and organic listings. Also, observe how close the search box and the results are without much white space between them.

Below is a recent screenshot for the same phrase “rack door” performed yesterday. There is a significant amount of whitespace added below the search query box which pushes everything down the page—hence the organic results are further down. Also, notice the reduced whitespace between the ads and organic listings. The advertisements are encroaching upon the once-coveted organic listing area.

It also appears that Google has been trying to unify the appearance of the ads with organic listings so searchers will not know the difference between them. According to Wordstream, in a survey, 45.5% of people couldn’t identify paid ads on the search engine results page if there wasn’t a right column.

What do you think?

Though Google is on an all-out quest to banish spam (which is a good thing), we have heard from many of you who are unsatisfied with recent algorithm changes. And with Google making it harder for searchers to even notice organic rankings, to many, SEO has become somewhat of a “jaded” industry.

So for all my readers out there, I would like to ask a few questions…

How have you dealt with the Google changes? Have you jumped ship altogether? Do you get most of your traffic from ads (PPC)?

Here are some opinions that are floating around the web:

“Google is slowly edging out free listings and forcing marketers to pay”
“Google can do whatever it wants. It’s a business and trying to make more money like anyone else”
“People shouldn’t rely strictly on Google traffic; diversification is the name of the game.”
“All of these changes will spell Google’s

Which opinion do you agree/disagree with?