Search is supposed to be the heart of Google, right? But an entrepreneur has pointed out that the search engine’s site design doesn’t cater much to showing organic search results these days.
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.