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After publisher backlash, Google initiates redesign to highlight organic results

What's New in Publishing 14 Jan 2020 11:59

Over time, organic results have been getting pushed down in Google search pages, with sponsored results and ads featuring prominently in the prime real estate, along with various other Google elements like featured snippets, images, shopping results and more.

In addition to that, gradually sponsored results and ads have become almost indistinguishable from organic result links, losing distinguishing characteristics like background color shading, right-hand placement, clear labeling, etc.

Publishers and small businesses, not to put too fine a point on it, weren’t exactly thrilled with these developments. Rand Fishkin, Founder of SparkToro, demonstrated how even publishers who rank at the very top in organic search results can get pushed down into obscurity.

Google’s “becoming a walled garden”

As an inevitable consequence, publishers’ Google traffic opportunity has gone south, by up to 70%.

The largest source of traffic on the web — free and paid — is becoming a walled garden,” said Fishkin, “intent on not only keeping people on its own properties, but competing directly with those that helped it become a dominant, monopoly power.”

Eventually, Basecamp had to pay Google to get featured as the #1 result for their own brand name. “When Google puts 4 paid ads ahead of the first organic result for your own brand name, you’re forced to pay up if you want to be found,” he said. “It’s a shakedown. It’s ransom.”

“Before, the search results were blue and the source — a publisher’s site, for example — would appear below in a smaller, green font,” explained TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez. “Now, it’s the publisher who gets top billing.

The format puts a site’s brand front and center,” says Google, “helping searchers better understand where information is coming from, more easily scan results & decide what to explore.”

You may see changes in traffic because of the favicons at the top and the new interface,” says Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land’s News Editor. “You should track these clickthrough rate changes but do not make any rash decisions on this change too quickly. 

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