Experimental Google’s SERPs create monopolies

Google’s latest experiment stops businesses competing for high value search terms

Anyone with their eyes open in the last six months will have noticed a raft of changes in Google Australia SERPs – a completely refreshed interface; more and varied colour schemes; moving maps; AdWords ads displaying at the bottom; travel check-ins displaying along the left-hand side. These changes are designed to enhance the user experience and deliver more relevant answers to search queries faster than before. However, one of these changes – multiple site links for brand related searches – appears to offer little by way of choice for some highly competitive search terms.

Then last week, Seomoz.org chief Rand Fishkin identified passion and authenticity as potential ranking signals – something other than algorithms at play in determining search results. Upon reflection we’ve have evidence of this too, as you can see below. Sites that would not necessarily be considered well optimised are sitting at position #2 and #3, out-ranking sites that are obviously targeting the stated keyword.

On a side note something else we’ve noticed lately is the floating map displaying at the end of the screen rather than the top – it’s still hovering over certain ads which can’t be good for Google or the PPC (pay-per-click) advertiser!



What has this got to do with Google creating a monopoly?

Nothing! It’s just another observation we have had on these experimental SERPs. What does create a monopoly are the 12-pack (and even 6-pack) of site link listings for brand-related searches.

Following up on a site links test trialed by Google recently in the US and the UK, we are now seeing something similar in search results in Google Australia. These brand-related site link changes are great if you are the brand receiving the benefit – especially if you have a brand that is also a competitive keyword as detailed below for both ‘budget car insurance’ and ‘budget car hire’.

Budget brands are monopolising certain budget keywords

As you can see above, only one other car hire company displays in the coveted ‘above the fold’ section, pretty much giving budget free reign on this competitive key phrase. ‘Budget car insurance’ has similar results, with NO other businesses visible above the fold in organic listings:

In both of these instances, ‘Budget’ is the brand but the domain URL is not an exact match of the keyword. As a consequence of this change other businesses in these highly competitive industries are being restricted from legitimately competing for ‘budget’ as a frequently used price sensitive keyword.

Where is the ‘value’ in these multi-link site link SERP results?

There may be an argument that this is affects a small number of industries but it’s an issue nonetheless. Consider ‘chartered accountants’ for instance – accounting companies looking to compete for that keyword are restricted as the industry body holds the top of SERPs.


It’s not exactly unfair as all Australian Chartered Accountants are registered with this body anyway, but it slows the search for ‘chartered accountants’ and certainly doesn’t contribute to faster and more relevant search results. Also, accountancy companies who have actively engaged in SEO to generate business are punished and restricted access to the majority of traffic for their most important keyword.

We’ve seen similar results for printing and other industries and for a company like Flight Centre – ‘flight centre’ doesn’t trigger these multiple site link results, but ‘flight center’ does.

Google are effectively creating a monopoly for businesses with ‘keyword’ brands. Surely this can’t last?  If this takes hold as part of normal search results are we likely to see a company called ‘SEO Company’ dominate the search results for ‘seo company’ – regardless of their service? Would a company called ‘Budget Flights’ out rank Jetstar and occupy the top half of the SERP for that given search term?

What it is likely to do in these instances is this – increase the click through rates for Google ads above the fold, which may be part of Google’s thinking in this experiment.

It will be interesting to watch how this unfolds in the coming days, weeks and months. From what we have seen in the UK and the US thus far, this has already been a hot topic for debate in the world of search engine optimisation. We expect that Australia will be no different. Is there any point in trying to duke it out with these guys for a keyword where they control the first half of the page, or should you switch your strategy and resources to a different keyword?

Keep tuned to roi.com.au’s blog for all of the latest developments and contact us for effective SEO services in Australia.

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