Aaron Harris, the cofounder of Tutorspree, explained in a blog post that he looked at “the amount of real estate given to true organic results,” by searching “auto mechanic” on Google, from his office in New York City. Harris analyzed what showed up on his Google search results page and estimated the how many pixels each part of the page occupied. Organic search results are results that naturally show up based on the search terms, rather than advertisements.
He estimated only 13% of the screen actually showed organic search results. The focus was on the initial top of the screen that displays without scrolling, which is sometimes called “above the fold” in design. Harris wrote that the rest of his 13-inch MacBook Air screen was taken up by Google products: 29% was Adwords, 14% was the navigation bar and 7% was a Google Map with local results.
In his blog post, Harris shared his thoughts on what he found:
Google is building a new version of the search engine that made it great. This time, however, it is a search engine exclusive to the garden of Google products. If you compete with Google in any way, you’re in its crosshairs. Your chances of ranking high enough to garner traffic are virtually nil and getting smaller.
In another test with search term, “Italian Restaurant,” Harris estimated only 7% of screen space were organic results. On mobile, he found it was worse when searching for “Italian Food”: 0% were organic results, until he went down four full page scrolls.
I conducted my own non-scientific version of this Google search test from the Mashable office in San Francisco, using the Firefox browser on a 15-inch MacBook Pro. As a control for laptop search, I tested the same search terms: “auto mechanic” (pictured in the screenshot below). I estimated that 13.5% were organic search results (102,000 out of 756,000 square pixels in the screenshot below), which is similar to what Harris found in New York.
What Harris pointed out reiterates that Google is far beyond its search engine roots. The site’s design above-the-fold may skew toward Google’s own interests. In the first six months of 2012, the tech giant raked in more advertising revenue than all print publications in the United States combined.
Huge companies with poorly optimized sites are given preference over smaller ones due to web site traffic and brick and mortar locations alone.
These companies then appear above the fold . When someone clicks on the link – this, to Google, verifies their place at #1, and gives yet more ‘credibility’ to those businesses. It’s a vicious circle that’s hurting millions of small businesses.
No matter how well your site is designed or optimized, you’ll never break into that top page because a company that has locations in LA, Chicago, New York and Sheboygan will always rank above a company just located in Sheboygan.
Just out of curiosity I gave this a try. Auto mechanic: I am glad I already have a good one. The top two results (on the two sections of ads) were too far away, one was in L.A. which is 60 miles from here. I didn’t see one I would want on the first two pages. Italian restaurant: Romano’s was the top sponsored listing. That was a very acceptable choice.
I have to scroll down just to see the first paragraph of this article and pass all the ads on top… oh the irony. Designing above the fold doesn’t have as much weight as it did in times past. Technology, hardware are getting smarter and as new generations of users become more and more web saavy, this article has less clout. Why even bother designing with infinite scrolling then? This just seems nitpicky imo.
This article is very misleading. Take a look at the two examples provided, and think about what they mean.
If someone looks up “auto mechanic” what are they looking for? Auto mechanics. Very likely within close proximity to where they live, which is exactly what the ads are: auto mechanics in their area. They are just as much a legitimate search result as the “real” search results, because they are exactly what the person is looking for! I would also consider the map to be part of the search result, because again, for “auto mechanics” I’d be interested in local shops, which is what the map is showing.
The exact same thing applies for “Italian restaurant.” If I’m looking that up, it means I’m looking for local Italian restaurants. The two examples given in this article are the exact same thing: a search for local stores. How about a search for something different? If you look up, for example, “Chinese History” you get nothing but “real” results and a very-useful Wikipedia-sourced frame on the right with some quick information and stats.
Of course, if the author had shown a search for anything other than local shops, his already flawed argument would have collapsed in on itself and this article would have no reason to exist.
You know, I am astonished sometimes at just how thoughtful Google Search results are. Type in a disease and above all the many results for that search you will find a special section that includes all the important information such as symptoms which is generally what you are liking for and saves you time. Type in the name of someone famous and a special Wikipedia block shows at the top to save you the effort. You’re in a place (city, state, restaurant, etc) and a special contact information, mapping and informational block appears. These aren’t traditional search results and they do take up space above all the search results but they are value added and often save you time from clicking through. Thank you Good Guy Google!
This article was a waste of time. It didn’t even tell us if he found what he was searching for. “Italian food” is so ambiguous that you arent going to get amazing results. Google has to split it up to restaurants, shops and then other results. Google has changed to offer information rather than simply a series of links. It’s much easier to get the answer you want, which is what Google aim to do.
This is just a way to complain about Google for no reason.
It’s like this, if you really want to get an answer for your search you use Google, if you are more interested in the photo of the day and reward points you use Bing. I would like to point out through that Microsoft pays Mashable for favorable articles about them and their products and negative articles about their competitors. This is kind of obvious in the rebranding Mashable has undertaken recently that includes a sort of Metro styling with Windows Phone and Windows 8 style “tile” icons. With that in mind, I usually just toss their anti-Google, pro-Microsoft articles out the window. Another important point to keep in mind, every year Microsoft does a Bing vs Google blind Search contest and every year it starts out the same, Microsoft fans vote first and Bing wins, then everyone else joins the contest and Microsoft never posts the results that Google always wins on search results. Let’s not forget how Microsoft was caught scraping the Google Search results at one time to get Bing’s results until they got caught. Let’s also not forget that in the past year Microsoft was looking for a buyer for Bing because it just wasn’t profitable enough. They tried paying to have Bing Search added to The Amazing Spider-Man last year, anything they can do to pick up its popularity, even fake studies that make their competitors look bad. Keep all of that in mind. As for those that believe “Google tracks you but Bing doesn’t” man, you are so naive, I have got a bridge I would like to sell you 🙂
I use Bing most of the time.
But I did a search here from HongKong, similar to the author in this post. The organic results were almost 50% and rest of the page 50% 😀
If i am understanding this status right (cant read whole article cus im on mobile and it sucks), then what you’re saying is only 13% of what appears on the screen is search results and the rest is white space and all that, then this is the dumbest thing i have ever read and the biggest waste of timeline space ever.
Interesting perspective. How many of you have switched to Bing for a change? And has the result been better?
@Apps Mav I have, I also use bing for image search now, mainly due to the ability to choose image size etc, which google removed.
I just searched “Bacon” 100% of what was returned to me was pertinent to my search. 50% of the screen was dedicated to the USDA/FDA information about Bacon along with a description of what bacon is.