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Are Organic Search Results Filler for Ads?

Posted by fusionbox on Dec. 12, 2011, 5 p.m.

SEO Book has some of my favorite blog posts. They are aggressive, fearless and they even make a really good point from time to time. This one is about an outright attack on SEO by Google advertising. The author argues that advertising is overtaking organic space for generic product terms like "hd monitor" in Google's SERP.


I would argue that someone who searches for exact match = "hd monitor" probably wants to find somewhere that they can buy one. I searched for "sony hd monitor" and got three header ads and four organic results for Sony.com (the second being to the Sony.com store) and then a Google shopping 5-pack that may or may not even make it above the fold, depending on your monitor and settings. It is important to note, however, that Google AdWords ad extensions only allow four organic listings before the 5-pack, and all of the listings are the brand website in the query.

Google Results

Searching for a non retail-product related keyword (cat pictures, credit union, cain train) you still get normal looking universal Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

So maybe the question is something like: Is it ethical for Google to show retail ads above the fold for generic, product-related keywords?

I personally don't see a giant problem with this. If I want to buy a new HD Monitor, the first thing I will do is go to Google and type "hd monitor" and click through the different SERP listings to find the monitor I want at the best deal possible. If I want to troubleshoot my hd monitor, upgrade my video or something like that, I will use more specific, long-tail terms relating to the issue I am having. I think most people would.

That said, the author mentions a case of Google.es serving ads for their AdWords product that translate to “Forget about SEO. To be visible in Google today, try Adwords”. While the author at SEO Book sees this as Google telling us they "...now decide that nobody should run a SEO company...", it can also be said that Google is simply doing competitive advertising on their own platform for their own product.

I relate this situation somewhat similarly to a retail brand with an affiliate program. If sales on a brand's website turn a 30% higher profit than its affiliate sales, for example, the webmaster will try to steer customers to his or her site and not to the affiliates....that's just business.

The bottom line is that filling the the first page of the search results with paid results for generic product terms limits the SEO effectiveness of those terms. It is true that good SEO is still the most cost-effective search marketing channel. Optimizing your site for higher organic search results improves the quality of your site overall. A well optimized site will have some pretty specific characteristics. It will be:

  • Topical
  • Relevant
  • Compelling
  • Authoritative
  • Quick to load
  • Easy-to-navigate
  • Easy-to-share via social media applications

Search engines are not looking exclusively at keyword density and inbound links. The new era of search engine optimization requires website owners to be cognitive of a live user's overall experience instead of trying to game the machine. SEO is not going away for one simple reason: A search engine's ranking algorithm uses a set of standards to offer search results that are the most relevant to what you might be looking for. The Denver Search Engine Optimizers at Fusionbox spend our careers trying to figure out what the algorithm likes best and help communicate that with throughout the design, development and marketing process. This is built on the assumption that what is best for Google is also best for your potential customers, and best for your brand. If there was no search engine optimization then webmasters would be playing fast and loose with websites and search algorithms would have a more difficult time determining a site's value and authority.

At the end of the day, SEO may no longer exist in a vacuum. Digital marketing must be done by a skilled team, through multiple channels including organic search, pay-per-click advertising and social media, or you are not getting the efficiency that you could be getting from your online marketing budget. The digital marketing landscape is changing as fast as ever. You can be confident that the Denver Search Marketing team at Fusionbox knows how to use these changes to your advantage.

Does your marketing crew have what it takes to stay on top of the most up-to-the-minute digital trends, as well as the time-tested fundamentals? If you are interested in learning more or working with us, please contact Fusionbox. We'd love to hear from you.