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Weirdness in the Google Search Results

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by PotPieGirl on December 7, 2011 · 51 comments

So today I was searching on Google when I suddenly got a very strange search result page. I feel I was in a “sandbox” testing ground (read how Google Makes Algo Changes for more explanation on that), but I’m telling ya – if this weird search result page I saw is any sign of what’s to come – well, it’s not gonna be good. Let me show you a screenshot of what I saw – and you tell ME what YOU think about it.

Ready for this?

Take a look:

Do YOU see what I saw?

Yes only EIGHT natural organic results (ie, the free results)… and ELEVEN AdWords PPC ads (ie, the stuff that makes Google money).

What happened to TEN organic results?

We have all watched as Google has slowly moved the organic rankings further and further down a results page and we dealt with Google-owned properties getting great rankings, but now they are testing LESS organic results for a search result?

Sooooo….is Google headed towards becoming a completely PAID index someday?

Kind of a crazy thought, isn’t it? ….but is it?

That’s a little scary. What do you think?

Now just to note: I have not been able to recreate this search result any time I’ve tried – that’s why I feel it was me being diverted to the Google Sandbox testing index that one time.

In other news…

I have added a “Tools” page here to PotPieGirl.com. If you look all the way at the top, you will now see a link to the tools page.

On the tools page I have 2 free-to-use tools that you are free to use whenever you want to. If you like them and find them useful, please share that page with others – I’d really appreciate it.

There is also code to use in case you’d like to embed either/or of the tools on your own site for your use and for your readers.

That’s it from me -

Have a great day!


hyderali December 7, 2011 at 6:41 am

That’s very less you’ve seen, if you’ll go through this post from Aaron Wall you’ll come to know that google is killing all the organic listing. They are soon to be the “money-maker-search-engine”.

Rach72 December 7, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Funny thing is, that that post is two years old! So does this mean that Google are chasing their tail too trying to please the reader while making money and blocking free results?


Keith December 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm

1 result was the images, you could say related searches was another. Really there are 9 results here instead of 8, not that far off IMO. Still I agree with everyone about the PPC comments.

Hendrik December 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Yap, indeed and not only with the amount of displayed entries but also by CTR-strong verticals.

kevin December 7, 2011 at 6:44 am

I don’t think the 11 PPC is so unusual :) google max is 8 on the side and 3 on top.

but I’m pretty certain for speed, google caches results and I believe they will DROP certain results that have been flagged for various reasons. It’s possible that as soon as the result set came up short, it was detected and cache was dropped and updated.

I believe amazon pulls up 13 for the first page and hides the last 3. Then the ‘next’ page you’ll see 3 right away, while the rest are loading. Makes the experience seem faster.

PotPieGirl December 7, 2011 at 7:44 am

Hey Kevin -

No, the eleven ppc ads are not abnormal – but only 8 organic results IS abnormal.

I’m sure it’s possible that it was detected, dropped, and updated, but I feel it was an search result test.

Just my 2 cents =)


James Hussey December 7, 2011 at 7:13 am

Well if brand = quality in their eyes…then it “makes sense” that paid spots would dominate. Not defending the practice, but so goes the logic.

Thankfully they don’t own traffic though (Pat Flynn anyone?).

Gary December 7, 2011 at 8:31 am

I’ve noticed lately (based in UK) google are often showing 2 or 3 adwords ppc ads at the bottom of each results page as well as the top and right hand side – seems like another way they are looking to squeeze the organic results?

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:27 am

I’ve seen that too, Gary….

Ron's Copywriting Blog December 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Even in India, the PPC results can be found at the bottom of the SERP. So, perhaps it is seeping through to everywhere, who knows?

Mister_Papagiorgio December 7, 2011 at 11:42 am

I love how everyone gets all in a tizzy about this stuff. It’s mostly conjecture unless you have access to the full g algo.

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:28 am

It’s the favorite past time for Google Geeks like me…lol!


James | Photo Scanner December 16, 2011 at 3:51 am

It’s all conjecture I agree. But, all SEO were based on these conjectures. Some worked, others didn’t. It’s just a matter of picking the ones that proved correct. As to this post’s subject, my ‘conjecture’ is Google indeed is heading that way. Paid ads will dominate and soon all organic search results will be relegated to the 2nd or 3rd pages. That way, Google gets more advertisers and thus, more revenue.

Bernard December 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

You wrote :” That’s a little scary. What do you think?..”

My first comment is : Jennifer.. are you serious ? ;) “scary” ? I mean…are you sure you are talking about this big mogul making money called google ? c’mon.. This company is not here to give “free”. It is herre just to rake money ena eliminate little affiliates tempting some money.
We don’t have to be amazed or scary… It is the beginning of the end for them. Remember the beginnings. A clean interface and only the need results with maybe some little ads.. and each day, they invade us with ads now.
Remember Yahoo ? It was also a search engine some times ago… and then ads and more ads…

Unless the spam team from google understand that they are pushing the results at the limits with so many ads… and they will go back…maybe..but hey ! they have shareholders to satisfy !

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:29 am

They absolutely DO have shareholders to satisfy – and I’m sure it’s quite a balancing act!


Jenni December 9, 2011 at 9:21 am

You need to read the book “The Google Story”. It explains how Google’s advertising model was developed purposely to be completely different from Yahoo, AOL etc. And let’s face it, their model has stood the test of time and Yahoo and AOL only continue to decline. Google isn’t stupid. They know too many/too obvious ads will drive people away. And Google’s ads are useful, quality, relevant ads. Searchers’ quality remains the same, it’s the sites that don’t have the budget for PPC that are screwed by this.

Jason December 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm

It does make you wonder where things are headed. I remember when text ads were heralded as the greatest thing since sliced bread (compared to huge banners all over), but over time, we’ve all grown used to skipping right over them.

As more people begin to understand and use PPC, what reason do the search engines have for using organic results anymore? Knowing that their AdWords clients have all uber-optimized landing pages for specific terms that fit into their terms of service seems like it could compel them to do away with organics altogether.

Time will tell.

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:29 am

Time will tell, Jason – you’re right. Google has changed and evolved a LOT over the years, that’s for sure!


Tim Nagle December 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Interesting post. If Google is committed to returning the most relevant results for a query, it’s not going to achieve that with paid results. Having said that, you may have indeed stumbled across sandbox play.

Long term, I think Google realizes their best business model is getting their contextual ads (AdSense) in as much web content as it can, including emails, videos, RSS feeds, blog post, social sites, etc.

Sunshine December 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm

This is why I’ve gone loco, I mean local.

I know many affiliates who are all up in arms about this stuff. I’ve seen results, especially local service type organic results with only 3 organic results with 8 Google places results above those 3 measly organic results. So imagine for local businesses these type of search engine results has got to be even more horrific. Which is a better selling point for my Google Places and Local directory services.

I’m placing all of my future internet marketing efforts into local services and locally sold products who offer affiliate programs.

Too much Google watching can become all too time consuming. I’ll let you and the other Google watchers do it for me.

Keep up the good work:)

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:31 am

“Gone loco” – LOL!!!! Too funny, Sunshine!


PS – Google fascinates me – I can’t help but watch!

Wendy Rahilly December 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Hey Jennifer,

I agree. It is a bit scary. I’m so disappointed. It use to be so easy to get decent rankings. Now it seems you have to practically pull your hair out to even get indexed. I totally understand that it takes hard work and effort to achieve good rankings, and I don’t mind that at all. But c’mon…if Google is seriously thinking about going solely ppc, I don’t think they is a win-win situation for anyone.

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:32 am

I don’t know if they are or not – and it’s smart for them to always be testing and tweaking – but if they ARE headed that direction…uh boy!


Vegau December 7, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Funny how Google says it wants to organize all of the world’s information, yet they continue to move more and more towards favoring PPC results.

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:32 am

Gotta pay the bills, right ;)


Ruby December 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Thanks for sharing this post. It really makes you think about how things will turn out in the long run and its scary.

Don't Trust Matt Cutts December 7, 2011 at 8:15 pm

even if Google had 30 organic listings in front it does not matter, most will click on the top ads that are identical to listings (minus a faint slight yellow background that can easily be missed.)

Google is going full steam on all directions, grabbing as much as they can. In my niche, jewelry, 90% of page one ‘organic’ results also have ads!!! Coincidence you say ? Google is not on our side or user’s side but on their pocket’s side.

Rach72 December 7, 2011 at 11:24 pm

It does depend on the search you are doing though – I would imagine that most people typing in iPhone gloves ARE actually looking for places to BUY iPhone gloves – hence the PPC ads. (we also get another 3 PPC ads at the bottom of the page – so organic results numbered about 5.

But if you were to type in a more general search phrase – like ‘children’s MP3 players’, hardly any PPC ads appear and the organic search results are more comparison orientated – even down to the substitution of the word ‘children’s’ with ‘kids’ – exactly what an inquiring consumer would want.

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:34 am

Yes, I agree.. it is a commercial intent query, BUT wouldn’t that be the perfect place for Google shopping results?


Kiki Johnson December 7, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Yikes, I find a little unnerving. It’s tough enough trying to keep up with Google, never mind anticipating what they have in store for us next. Hopefully, we’ll all be able to survive this ever changing business we’ve signed up for ;)

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:34 am

We’ve survived this long – we’ll be fine.


Anthony December 8, 2011 at 1:14 am

Thanks for the article! I wrote a piece in early October and screen-grabbed a few SERPs google was testing. There were several version of the SERP that I was able to find (all local results). Check out and compare what you saw against what I saw: http://www.ppcassociates.com/blog/analytics/google-testing-new-serp-layout-organic-results-quashed-in-favor-of-google-properties/

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 1:37 am

Interesting, Anthony… Thanks for sharing!


Bill December 8, 2011 at 3:08 am

Isn’t it possible that Google could be an affiliate for some of those ads as well? I mean, your Iphone Gloves example, brought back some Amazon results. Couldn’t that link be cookied so Google makes a commission as well through sales? I never hear that talked about, and if I was Google, why wouldn’t I have some affiliate links. They have the coner on traffic, can sell advertising, and could have affiliate ads as well. I know I would do both if I had that much traffic coming across my table lol.

PotPieGirl December 8, 2011 at 3:52 am

Now THAT would be a whole ‘nother can of worms, wouldn’t it?

Hogward December 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I am so disappointed about this 8 organic search results. And at the same time due to Google instant search it pushes the users to use the instant search results so that the exact search query match with the PPC results. These all show that Google is slowly giving more preference for its revenue through PPC.

A. Marc December 8, 2011 at 5:43 pm

At the end of the day it’s a business.

If Google keeps going over board with lousy search results thus purposely pointing searchers to ads then folks will catch on to that fairly quick and STOP using it becasue they know the results are not real like the USED to be.

Facebook favors Bing (don’t have to say what a powerhouse FB is – once they go public, Google shareholders will sell to buy FB stock, mmmmmaybe?) and if Google keeps on over-doing it like this they will end up on an episode of “American Greed” with Stacy Keach!

DWaters December 8, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Hi Jennifer, Thanks for the Tools page. I was actually about to go looking for a good way to check my site’s key word ranking when I got an email from you to check your recent post. However I have been using they Ranking Checker the last few days and I did find an inconsistency. The tool only shows my site on page 8 for a certain keyword (and it is my Privacy Policy page at that). When i check I am on page one but more importantly I had a third party check those keywords and he also found that URL on page one. I refreshed, incase it was a cached page, and got the same result. I am not sure what any of this means. I am sure I will continue to use the tool and I do appreciate it. Thanks – DW

Parvesh Sareen December 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Google will soon be paid overall and we should be paying for the search too ;).. As most of internet business , google has acquired and this day will not be too far that every service of google will be limited to millionaires or billionaires who can pay them willfully.
Well that was a joke , but never know it can be reality someday.

Paul December 14, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I would argue that Google’s ability to deliver a highly-relevant search experience to the average surfer will be severely compromised by an over-abundance of ads, or by giving precedence to sites that earn Google money (but only if those sites aren’t particularly relevant to the search query).

Not providing the most relevant results would threaten the core of their business – which isn’t advertisers, but the surfers who visit to search. Without them, there is no business. While the big “G” has held the top spot for some time now, it’s not like visitors don’t have a credible search alternative in Bing. I’m sure Google knows that if they alienate their viewers, they can watch their business spiral down the drain.

So I expect the move to more paid listings to proceed cautiously indeed – same with the precedence given to sites affiliated with Google. As long as those sites really do fill the needs of a searcher performing a keyword search, it’s unlikely to cause any problems for the big G.

Grinder December 15, 2011 at 4:09 am

My business is based solely on organic results, so this does have me very worried. However, I am at least thankful Yahoo and Bing are treating me well. I hope google doesn’t ultimately forget what made them special.

Matt Hempsell December 18, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I doubt Google will go all paid as the users will cotton on and realize the results are stacked.
But i think they might reduce the number of organic results which is bad for anyone near the bottom of page 1.

Peter Lawlor December 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Good observation Jen. I’d be very surprised if Google ever did away with their organic search results. I run websites for many local businesses (used to own a local business myself) and I know that many consumers don’t click Adwords and instead only click organic search results. I’m an organic search results person as well when I have my consumer hat on.

Organic and PPC dovetail perfectly with eachother. I understand Google may test different variations in number of listings. That’s probably a good idea on their part. I suspect at the end of the day there will be a balance or close balance between Adwords and organic listings.

Genevieve December 21, 2011 at 8:59 am

Hi PotPieGirl!
How are you doing these days? I feel as though I haven’t gotten an update in quite a long time.
I’m curious about your rank-checking tool; do you collect data about my searches, urls, and keywords?

Googler December 26, 2011 at 3:03 am

“and I know that many consumers don’t click Adwords and instead only click organic search results. I’m an organic search results person as well when I have my consumer hat on.”

We realize that and that is precisely why we’re working hard on main ads seamlessly blend with the organic results. Most of the time though, ads are far below ads as we follow ads with images, local, news and especially products. Considering that we can check the quality sites of our advertisers we feel more confident about your satisfaction when you click on ads.

Merry Christmas to the SEO community and expect new major changes in January and especially for Panda’s anniversary.

Advancement December 26, 2011 at 9:53 am

Hi everybody! PotPieGirl, thanks for sharing. This development is sad yet logical. It should have happened sooner or later.
Soooo, webmasters, it’s time to focus on managing PCC campaigns:((

Internet Milijunas December 31, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Thanks for sharing a great article.

Local Online Marketing December 31, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I think local search is where Google is headed… more and more searches have maps. Keywords that didn’t bring up a map last month now does.

Rahul January 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Right now i see no sponsored ads for same keyword, y?

shalisha January 6, 2012 at 1:07 am

Hi Jennifer. I love your new look. I trust you because I’ve travelled with you since the beginning. I was wondering, does your ONE WEEK MARKETING still work? What I mean is, most IM tactics get old and are no longer relevant. OWM is 2 years old and some of the sites you direct us to in there are no longer there. So do you have an update on it or do we continue to use the techniques you give us? I really like your model, but I’m not seeing sales yet and I’m wondering if OWM is too old and the internet changes so fast with new methods.

Tom Martin January 6, 2012 at 4:44 am

Google is really weird and now becoming more weird each day. I don’t know how much the price tag is, but you know, I’m not really fond of paid success. They are not just worth it for a long term investment.

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